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Harry McGrath

Harry McGrath

Harry McGrath is a former Coordinator of the Centre for Scottish Studies at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada. He returned to Scotland in 2007. He is Chair of the DotScot registry which was set up to establish a top level internet domain for Scotland, the Edinburgh based Special Adviser to Simon Fraser University's Scottish Studies and advises Scottish Development International on its work in Canada. He writes the only column in Canada regularly dedicated to Scottish affairs and is a book reviewer for the Herald, Sunday Herald and SRB.

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A play dealing with the consequences of war and the nature of love – which charts the story of a young farmer’s wife forced to flee her home during a conflict – has won the James Tait Black Prize for Drama.

Cannibalsis British playwright Rory Mullarkey’s first full-length play and the second work to win the drama category for Britain’s oldest literary awards.

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Booker Prize winning  author Margaret Atwood has been awarded an honorary degree  from the University of Edinburgh. 

The award-winning  writer was one of four prominent Canadians from the fields of  literature, politics, law and business to be honoured by the University at a  ceremony in Toronto on Friday.  Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, Beverley McLachlin; former Chairman of the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning,  General  John De Chastelain; and investment banker Garret Herman also received honorary  degrees. 

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Scottish Book Trust has announced that applications for the New Writers Awards 2015 are now open, providing a unique opportunity for 10 unpublished writers who live in Scotland to pursue a career as a published author.

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The Bus Party

 

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An international line-up of respected novelists forms the shortlist for Britain's oldest literary awards, the James Tait Black Awards. 

Novels based around an 18th century English village; a family's response to a terminal illness; a young woman's obsession with motorcycles; and the daily toil of a shepherdess are contenders for this year's James Tait Black Prizes.

Works by American authors Kent Haruf and Rachel Kushner join the latest books by acclaimed British writer Jim Crace and Australian novelist Evie Wyld in the shortlist for the £10,000 fiction prize.  

Contenders for the £10,000 biography prize include fascinating accounts of Joe Ranz and fellow members of the 1936 Olympic rowing team, Empress Dowager Cixi, who ruled China for almost half a century until 1908, Booker prize-winning novelist and biographer Penelope Fitzgerald; and an account of the biographer's aunt, a young woman in Nazi-occupied France.

Two prizes are awarded annually by the University of Edinburgh for books published during the previous year - one for the best work of fiction and the other for the best biography. The 
winners will be announced at the Edinburgh International Book Festival in August. 

The four novels competing for the fiction prize are: Harvest by Jim Crace ; Benediction by Kent Haruf ; The Flamethrowers by Rachel Kushner; All the Birds, Singing by Evie Wyld.

The shortlisted works for the biography section are: The Boys in the Boat: An Epic True-Life Journey to the Heart of Hitler's Berlin by Daniel James Brown ; Empress Dowager Cixi: The Concubine who Launched Modern China by Jung Chang ; Penelope Fitzgerald: A life by Hermione Lee; Priscilla: The Hidden Life of an Englishwoman in Wartime France by Nicholas Shakespeare. 

The nominations have been chosen from more than 350 books worldwide by English Literature academics and 25 postgraduate students at the University.  

The James Tait Black Awards, awarded annually by the University of Edinburgh's School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures, were founded in 1919 by Janet Coats, the widow of publisher James Tait Black, to commemorate her husband's love of good books. 

Fiction judge Dr Lee Spinks of the School of Languages, Literatures and Cultures said: 
"This is an exceptional short-list, showcasing four original prose stylists, each with a distinctive gift for narrative suspense and revelation.  Any one of these four novels would be a worthy recipient of the James Tait Black Award for Fiction."

Biography judge Professor Jonathan Wild of the School of Language, Literatures and Cultures said: "These biographies represent the cream of a truly remarkable year for writing in this field."

The prizes are the only major British book awards judged by literature scholars and students. The James Tait Black prize for drama, announced earlier this month, was launched last year. 
Past winners of the fiction awards include figures of global literary distinction, such as DH Lawrence, Graham Greene, Evelyn Waugh, Muriel Spark, Angela Carter, Cormac McCarthy, Martin Amis and Ian McEwan.

Last year, Oban-born author Alan Warner was the winner of the fiction prize for his book The Deadman's Pedal. 

Tanya Harrod, co-editor of the Journal of Modern Craft, was the recipient of the biography prize for her book The last Sane Man: Michael Cardew, Modern Pots, Colonialism and the Counterculture.  

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FORWARD-WINNER EMILY BERRY SHORTLISTS 11 FOR THE £1,400 MELITA HUME POETRY PRIZE 2014

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Gain a rare insight into the life and lore of one of the 20th century's most distinguished English-language publishers, John Calder, when his achievements are celebrated at the Traverse Theatre this April. 

John Calder, still writing at the age of 87 now divides his time between Edinburgh and Paris. A champion of radical and hugely influential writers such as Beckett, Miller, Burroughs, Marguerite Duras and Alexander Trocchi among many others, John was also a founding member of the Traverse Theatre in 1963. 

The two-day festival (18-19 April) is a powerful and not-to-be-missed celebration for lovers of Samuel Beckett, admirers of John Calder or fans of Barry McGovern and Hebrides Ensemble. 

On Friday 18th April, at the opening night concert, Scotland's premier chamber music ensemble, Hebrides Ensemble, perform Arnold Schöenberg's Pierrot Lunaire with brilliant young mezzo soprano Anna Huntley. For many years in the 1960s and 1970s John Calder presented Ledlanet Nights, regular festivals of opera, classical and folk music, theatre and literature. One of the outstanding performances marked the Scottish premiere of Pierrot Lunaire in 1964, performed by Pamela Smith with members of the Scottish Baroque Ensemble. This performance celebrates the many unforgettable festivals at Ledlanet and will be introduced by reminiscences from Patricia Hay and John Lawson Graham, two of Scotland's most distinguished singers. 

On Saturday, 19th April, the festival presents a once-in-a-lifetime chance to witness John Calder in conversation with Alan Taylor (Founder of the Scottish Review of Books and Deputy Editor of The Herald). This will encompass a wide ranging discussion on Calder's life and work, writers, publishing, music, progressive art, freedom of speech and the avant garde. 

The third event in the line-up, A Life in Books , showcases John Calder and Derek Watson reading a selection of prose and poetry from the authors Calder published during his renowned career. 

Rounding off the festival, Ireland's greatest Beckett interpreter, Barry McGovern, fresh from his acclaimed performances of I'll Go On at the 2013 Edinburgh International Festival returns to Edinburgh for this special night to perform an homage to Beckett, Calder's greatest writer and great friend, in Barry McGovern Read Beckett. 

To end the celebration join John and friends at a glamorous fun-filled party in the Traverse Theatre Bar on Saturday night

For full details on the four events browse our website now to learn more. Tickets go on sale at 12pm on Friday, 21 March from the Traverse Box Office. 

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Miha Mazzini’s novel Crumbs was first published in Slovenia in 1987 and ‘sold 54,000 copies in a language spoken by fewer than two million people’. According to Mazzini, the royalties that accrued to him from that initial publication just about bought a dinner for his family and a couple of friends.

Crumbs is set in an unidentified town in Slovenia prior to the breakup of Yugoslavia. The main source of employment is the local foundry. Those who don’t already work there live in a ramshackle settlement on the edge of town hoping for a job and the flat that comes with it. The town and the foundry are enclosed by mountains. It’s a hothouse in every sense.

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The Scottish Poetry Library announced that poet Michael Pedersen has been selected to receive a Rising Star Award from the John Mather Charitable Trust.  

Pedersen, whose book 'Play With Me' was published by Birlinn in July 2013, is a poet, playwright and performer who has been involved in collaborations with an impressive list of artists, film-makers and musicians. Having travelled the world and taught in Cambodia for a year, Pedersen writes verse that gives a vivid idea of what it is to be young, socially aware and irrepressibly optimistic in the melting pot of the twenty-first century.

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Harry and Puma at East Preston Cemetery, Edinburgh

 

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Benefit Reading for the Philippines Thursday 19th December, 2013

Tom Leonard

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Translation Transformed conference in Moffat, south Scotland 20-22 Sept 2013

By Elizabeth Roberts, 

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I will wear your tartan
With the pride and strength
Of my history and tribe.
I will weave in its pattern
The breadth and length
Of five rivers that subscribed
To my wealth, which I will now
Lend to your tartan
and make it mine.

‘Tartan and Turban’ by Bashabi Fraser

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In October, the Scottish Poetry Library will launch Lugs Tae Arthurs Seat, Scotland’s smallest festival. It will feature live music by Wounded Knee, poetry, food and the great outdoors, and will take place at the top of Arthurs Seat.

Every year the Edinburgh Festival gets bigger, but this October, the Scottish Poetry Library continues to reinvent the poetry reading with Lugs Tae Arthurs Seat. Over the past year, the SPL has organised events pairing poetry with perfume at Edinburgh’s Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh and a webcast that linked a reading by Kathleen Jamie in Edinburgh and Jen Hadfield in Shetland.

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September, 2013 – The Scottish Poetry Library marks National Poetry Day (October 3rd) with readings by a double bill of poets from New Zealand.

National Poetry Day 2013 will culminate in a joint reading by C.K. Stead and Kapka Kassabova. Celebrated author of poetry, novels and memoir, C.K. Stead has published over 40 books and has as many awards to match. Stead is joined by poet, novelist and tango enthusiast Kapka Kassabova, who was born in Bulgaria, began her writing career in New Zealand, and lives in the Scottish Highlands. Poetry doesn’t recognise boundaries and although the day is billed as National Poetry Day, the appearance of two NZ poets at the SPL testifies to poetry’s ability to travel beyond borders.

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Such are the wonders of modern technology, that I was able to use my phone to read Gavin Hewitt’s latest BBC post on Europe outside the Baillie Gifford Theatre before listening to the man himself inside it. The BBC post concerns the recent .3% growth in the Eurozone with Hewitt briefly breaking it down by country – Germany and France strengthening/Greece, Italy, Spain still struggling. From this he draws a fairly obvious conclusion: ‘Confidence in the Euro and the wider European project depends on being able to deliver jobs’.

As it turns out, close-structure, balance and fairly obvious conclusions are Hewitt hallmarks. His lecture began with the issue of youth unemployment in Europe and a series of dire, country-by-country, statistics. He then returned to the early days of Euro-profligacy to remind us of the great building boom in Spain (which resulted, for instance in the building of airports that had no airplanes); Ireland throwing up houses with 300,000 of them never occupied; Greece following the Onassis advice ‘If you borrow, borrow big’. Hewitt examined the origins of the EU project: its attempt to balance German power, the fudging of its own deficit rules to ensure that Italy and Greece got in, the romance of the project against the practical problems of making it work. Eventually, the lecture melded seamlessly with the BBC post and the discovery of ‘some green shoots’. Hewitt concluded that ‘Europe is in a period of profound change and upheaval’ which didn’t have anyone jumping out of their seats.

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Recently the latest edition of one of Scotland’s bright new literary magazines dropped through the letterbox. Its arrival is something I look forward to. The magazine is not light reading - 170 pages dense with new poetry and short fiction, lots of black on white, writers of all ages and at all stages – but is well worth the effort if you want to know who is doing what in contemporary Scottish literature.

Eventually I will work my way through all of it and find (if past editions are anything to go by) good writers, promising writers, and a few whose work I’ll pass over rather quickly. I always begin my exploration, however, in medias res because that’s where the book reviews are. These pages would catch the eye anyway as they are the only part of the magazine that is in colour: a rather fetching and (as it turns out) appropriate sky blue in this edition.

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Donald Smith, Margaret Mackay, Ted Cowan

 

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Jenny Lindsay reading Sandie Craigie

photo: Ryan McGoverne 

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