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Scottish Arts Council announces Spring book award winners


The Scottish Arts Council today announced the winners of its Spring Book Awards. Five awards of £1,000 each have been made to the following:

  • Alasdair Campbell for The Nessman, the first novel in English by this Gaelic writer
  • Douglas Dunn for The Year's Afternoon, a deeply personal collection of poems
  • Margaret Elphinstone for The Sea Road, a historical novel of the Viking Age
  • Alan Spence for Seasons of the Heart, a haiku collection
  • Christopher Whyte for The Cloud Machinery, a novel set in 18th century Venice.

The Scottish Arts Council Book Awards are currently given in Spring and Autumn of each year in recognition of literary excellence in recently published work by both new and established writers. Preference is given to literary fiction and poetry, though many other types of books are eligible, particularly literary non-fiction, such as biography, history, and essays.

Authors who are Scottish or resident in Scotland are eligible, although books of particular Scottish interest by other authors are also considered. There are no separate categories of award. The task of selecting this year's winners from 43 submissions fell to an independent judging panel chaired by Whitbread award-winning poet, novelist and critic John Burnside.

John Burnside said: ""Whether it is the complexities of the Gaelic inheritance, the legacies of Nordic culture, a fresh and contemporary take on an ancient poetic form, the sophistication of 18th century Venice, or retrospection of a life spent in poetry, all of these books negotiate with the past in ways which profoundly inform the present. Their colourful range and diversity of form, style and subject-matter testify to the remarkable vitality, vision, and confidence of contemporary Scottish writing"".

Alasdair Campbell, The Nessman (Birlinn, £7.99)
Gaelic writer Alasdair Campbell has created an extraordinary portrayal of an individual and a culture in The Nessman, an acutely observed, moving and yet often hilariously funny novel tracing the story of Colin from childhood and adolescence on the isle of Lewis to life as a student on the mainland. Death is at the core of the book - death of a father, of an identity, of a sense of self and of a language. Yet the book is far from depressing. Alasdair Campbell has written widely in Gaelic, both prose and drama. He spent his childhood in Ness at the north of Lewis and currently lives in Harris.

Douglas Dunn, The Year's Afternoon (Faber and Faber, £7.99)
Douglas Dunn is widely regarded as one of the UK's finest poets and in The Year's Afternoon, his eleventh collection of poetry, he is in vintage form. It is a work of stocktaking and rigorous self-questioning, in which he moves effortlessly, as ever, through a range of moods. Douglas Dunn is also the author of two works of fiction and one of drama. He is the recipient of numerous awards for his work, including the Somerset Maugham Award, the Whitbread Book of the Year, the Hawthornden Prize and two Scottish Arts Council Book Awards. He is Professor of English at the University of St Andrews and lives in Fife.

Margaret Elphinstone, The Sea Road (Canongate Books, £9.99)
Margaret Elphinstone relates the hitherto largely untold story of Gudrid of Iceland, the most extensively travelled woman in the world during the Viking Age, in The Sea Road. In this haunting and atmospheric novel, Elphinstone's feel for character, period and landscape is given full rein. Margaret Elphinstone is the author of three novels. She also writes short stories and poetry and has published two books on organic gardening. She lives in Glasgow, and teaches in the Department of English Studies at the University of Strathclyde.

Alan Spence, Seasons of the Heart (Canongate Books, £6.99)
In his first collection of poetry since Glasgow Zen, award-winning novelist, playwright and short story writer Alan Spence employs the haiku form to extraordinary effect in Seasons of the Heart to invoke the turning of the seasons in a cycle of moments that are both everyday and timeless. Awards for his work include the People's Prize, the Macallan Scotland on Sunday Prize, the McVitie Prize (Scottish Writer of the Year) and two Scottish Arts Council Book Awards. Glasgow-born, he is based in Edinburgh and is currently writer-in-residence at the University of Aberdeen.

Christopher Whyte, The Cloud Machinery (Victor Gollancz, £16.99)
In The Cloud Machinery, Christopher Whyte weaves a glittering tale of 18th century intrigue and murder around the reopening of the theatre at St Hyginus, Venice's smallest parish, which reads like a work by Hoffman set to music by Mozart. Underneath the brilliant surface, however, lie disturbing psychological undertones that make it thoroughly contemporary. This is Christopher Whyte's fourth novel. He received a Scottish Arts Council Book Award for The Warlock of Strathearn. He was born in Glasgow and worked in Rome from 1973 to 1985, when he returned to live in Scotland. He currently lives in Edinburgh."

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Issued by: Scottish Arts Council

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