This month’s Indelible Ink column, which can only be found over at dearscotland, looks at Alasdair Gray’s Lanark. I describe it as Scotland‘s most impressive novel, and while that doeasn’t necessarlily mean that I think it is the best, there is no arguing that it is one of the most important works in the Scottish Literary canon.
Lanark is the novel that has takenthe greatest influence from, and in turn made the greatest impression on, Scottish literature. It connects the modernism of the early part of the century with the predominately urban sensibilities of the second half, but its influences are many and more varied than that suggests. By setting out his novel as he does Gray sets the reader a challenge right from the beginning, but it is more out of playfulness and love of perspectiverather than an intellectual exercise. This is a novel to enjoy, not one to work at.
Scottish novelists can be accused of being parochial, and this is not about what or where they write about, but is more a state of mind. It is a narrowing of focus that concentrates on the local or national, which is perfectly understandable, and sometimes desirable, but which became the standard for Scottish fiction for many years. The idea of writing an epic novel seemed anathema to modern Scottish writers, yet that is what ‘Lanark’ is. If Alasdair Gray had never written another thing he would still be acclaimed for writing ‘Lanark’.
Next month’s novel: James Robertson is a writer who is probably best known, although not well known enough, for his superb third novel The Testament of Gideon Mack, and in the space of four novels he has proven to be one of Scotland’s most versatile and involving writers.