We were delighted to welcome writer James Robertson to Orkney in the year of the centenary of George Mackay Brown’s birth to deliver the fifteenth GMB Memorial Lecture. The Lecture took place on Zoom at 7.30pm on Wednesday 22 September.
James Robertson’s latest novel, News of the Dead, was published by Penguin on 5 August. It has at its core a concern with time, a theme that pervades the works of George Mackay Brown. “I am interested in how the past continues to influence the present and how the present changes the way we think about the past,” Robertson said in an interview for the Guardian following the publication of And the Land Lay Still (2010).
James Robertson was born in Kent in 1958 but from the age of six grew up in Bridge of Allan, Stirlingshire. He studied history at Edinburgh University and then worked in various jobs, including eight years as a bookseller. His first book, Close and Other Stories, was published in 1991, and from 1993 to 1995 he was first holder of the Brownsbank Writing Fellowship, based at Brownsbank Cottage, the former home of Hugh MacDiarmid, in Lanarkshire. He has published many books, including three further collections of short stories and six novels. Joseph Knight (2003) was named both Saltire Book of the Year and Scottish Arts Council Book of the Year in 2003–04. The Testament of Gideon Mack (2006) was long-listed for the Man Booker Prize. And the Land Lay Still (2010) won the Saltire Book of the Year award. His other novels are The Fanatic (2000), The Professor of Truth (2013) and To Be Continued (2016), which was short-listed for the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize for comic writing.
James is a co-founder of and contributing editor to Itchy Coo, which specialises in publishing books in Scots for young readers. He is also a poet and writer of non-fiction. He contributed five essays to Who Built Scotland (2017) and wrote a biography of the musician and songwriter Michael Marra, Arrest This Moment, which also appeared in 2017. He stays in Angus.
https://www.penguin.co.uk/authors/11001/james-robertson.html?tab=penguin-books https://www.scottishpoetrylibrary.org.uk/poet/ https://www.theguardian.com/books/2010/aug/14/james-robertson-land-still-profile
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Featured image: photograph of George Mackay Brown (detail) by Gunnie Moberg courtesy Orkney Library and Archive