The tenth Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction has been awarded to Robin Robertson.
Robertson becomes both the first Scot and the first poet to win the £25,000 Prize. His 200+ page book The Long Take is written in a combination of verse and prose, echoing the format often used by Sir Walter Scott himself in his long historical narrative poems. The book tells the story of a D-Day survivor, a Nova Scotian, wandering the American cities – New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles – in the period immediately after the Second World War, searching for self and suffering from what would now be recognised as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. He is as much a victim of battle as those who fell. He too cannot return home.
John Banville reviewed the book recently for the Guardian:
‘The Long Take is a masterly work of art, exciting, colourful, fast-paced – the old-time movie reviewer’s vocabulary is apt to the case – and almost unbearably moving. Walker is a wonderful invention, a decent man carrying the canker of a past sin for which he cannot forgive himself. What Siodmak says of Walker can also be said of Robertson, that he has “what we call / deep focus. Long eyes for seeing.”
The Prize was presented by writer Alexander McCall Smith and Prize sponsor, the Duke of Buccleuch, at the Baillie Gifford Borders Book Festival on Saturday 15thJune. Robin Robertson said that, like Walter Scott, he had started as a poet and then moved into narrative fiction ‘by accident’, as The Long Take started as a poem but became something longer. Read examples of Robertson’s poetry here on the Scottish Review of Books website.
The Judges said:
“The Long Take recounts the inner journey of Canadian veteran Walker as he travels from New York to Los Angeles and San Francisco attempting to rebuild his life after living through the horrors of war in Europe. In poetry of the utmost beauty, Robin Robertson interweaves themes from the great age of black and white films, the destruction of communities as cities destroy the old to build the new, the horrors of McCarthyism and the terrible psychological wounds left by war.
“Robertson shows us things we’d rather not see and asks us to face things we’d rather not face. But with the pulsing narrative drive of classic film noir, the vision of a poet, and the craft of a novelist, The Long Take courageously and magnificently boosts the Walter Scott Prize into its next decade.”
The remaining shortlisted authors were
- Andrew Miller
- Samantha Harvey
- Michael Ondaatje
- Peter Carey
- Cressida Connolly
The Prizegiving was preceded by the world premiere of an operetta, Dandie Dinmont, specially commissioned from writer Alexander McCall Smith to celebrate ten years of the Prize.