‘The Magnetic North’ was the promotional slogan devised by the publishers Jonathan Cape and Vintage in the 1990s to advertise new Scottish writing — primarily fiction — by Janice Galloway, A.L. Kennedy, Duncan McLean, Tom Leonard, Alan Warner, Irvine Welsh, Alasdair Gray, James Kelman and Agnes Owens. It was the title given to a small, free anthology of their writing in 1995 and I would like to look briefly at some of this work and try to relate it to matters of language, voice and social identity in this final chapter.1


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  1. 1.
    Janice Galloway, A.L. Kennedy, Duncan McLean, Tom Leonard, Alan Warner, Irvine Welsh, Alasdair Gray, James Kelman and Agnes Owens, The Magnetic North (Jonathan Cape/Vintage, n.d. [1990s]).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Michael Long, ‘The Politics of English Modernism: Eliot, Pound, Joyce’, in Visions and Blueprints: Avant-garde Culture and Radical Politics in Early Twentieth-century Europe, ed. Edward Timms and Peter Collier (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1988), p. 108.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    John Berger, ‘That Which Is Held’, in Keeping a Rendezvous (New York: Vintage International, 1992), pp. 25–35 (p. 34).Google Scholar
  4. 5.
    A.L. Kennedy, Night Geometry and the Garscadden Trains (London: Phoenix, 1993), p. 34.Google Scholar
  5. 7.
    George Eliot, Middlemarch (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1979), p. 896.Google Scholar
  6. 8.
    Seamus Heaney, ‘A Torchlight Procession of One: On Hugh MacDiarmid’, in The Redress of Poetry: Oxford Lectures (London: Faber & Faber, 1996), p. 104.Google Scholar
  7. 9.
    Samuel Beckett, Molloy (New York: Grove Press, 1955), p. 120.Google Scholar
  8. 10.
    Tom Leonard, ‘Unrelated Incidents 2’ collected in Intimate Voices: Selected Work 1965–1983 (Newcastle: Galloping Dog Press, 1984), p. 87.Google Scholar
  9. 11.
    Tom Leonard, Reports from the Present: Selected Work 1982–1994 (London: Jonathan Cape, 1995).Google Scholar
  10. 12.
    Edwin Morgan, Demon (Glasgow: Mariscat Press, 1999), p. 5. Demon is collected in Cathures: New Poems 1997–2001 (Manchester: Carcanet Press/Mariscat Press, 2002), pp. 91–115 (p. 93).Google Scholar
  11. Edwin Morgan, A.D. A Trilogy of Plays on the Life of Christ (Manchester: Carcanet Press, 2000), pp. 50, 163.Google Scholar
  12. 13.
    Edwin Morgan, A.D. A Trilogy of Plays on the Life of Christ (Manchester: Carcanet Press, 2000), p. 54.Google Scholar
  13. 14.
    Tacitus, On Britain and Germany, trans. H. Mattingly (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1965), p. 80.Google Scholar
  14. 15.
    Aneirin, The Gododdin, a version by Desmond O’Grady (Dublin: Dolmen Press, 1977), p. 19.Google Scholar
  15. 16.
    Robert Burns, The Letters, selected and arranged by J. Logic Robertson (London: Walter Scott, The Camelot Series, 1887), p. 68.Google Scholar
  16. 17.
    Lady Gregory, Cuchulain of Muirthemne. The Story of the Red Branch of Ulster Arranged and Put into English, with a preface by W.B. Yeats (Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe, 1976), p. 256.Google Scholar
  17. 18.
    John Barbour, The Bruce, ed. W.M. Mackenzie (London: Adam and Charles Black, 1909), p. 7. Book 1, II. 225–228.Google Scholar
  18. 19.
    Elspeth King, ‘Introduction’, in William Hamilton of Gilbertfield, Blind Harry’s Wallace (Edinburgh: Luath Press, 2000), p. xi.Google Scholar
  19. 20.
    Edward McGuire, Calcagus, in Scotland’s Music (2 CD set: Linn CKD 008, 1992).Google Scholar
  20. 21.
    Edna Longley, ‘The Poetics of Celt and Saxon’, in Poetry & Posterity (Tarset, Northumberland: Bloodaxe Books, 2000), pp. 52–89.Google Scholar
  21. 22.
    George MacDonald, The Marquis of Lossie (London: Everett & Co. [n.d.] 1877), Chapter 28, p. 110.Google Scholar
  22. 23.
    Malcolm MacLean and Christopher Carrell, eds, As an Fhearann/from the land: Clearances, Conflict and Crofting: A Century of Images of the Scottish Highlands (Edinburgh: Mainstream; Stornoway: an Lanntair; Glasgow: Third Eye Centre, 1986), p. 72.Google Scholar
  23. 24.
    T.S. Eliot, The Complete Poems and Plays (London: Faber & Faber, 1977), p. 141.Google Scholar
  24. 25.
    Elspeth Reid and Flora Davidson, The Fortunes of Cynicus (Kirriemuir: Forest Lodge, 1995), p. 98.Google Scholar
  25. 26.
    Edward Dorn, ‘Proclamation/15 May 88’, in Abhorrences (Santa Rosa: Black Sparrow Press, 1990), p. 144.Google Scholar
  26. 27.
    Edwin Morgan, ‘Day’s End’, in Virtual and Other Realities (Manchester: Carcanet Press, 1997), p. 98.Google Scholar
  27. 28.
    John Berger, ‘A Story for Aesop’, in Keeping a Rendezvous (New York: Vintage International, 1992), pp. 53–81 (p. 68).Google Scholar
  28. 29.
    Joseph Conrad, ‘Preface to The Nigger of the “Narcissus”’, in The Norton Anthology of English Literature. Sixth Edition. Volume 2, Gen. Ed. M.H. Abrams (New York and London: W.W. Norton & Co., 1993), pp. 1756–1758 (p. 1757).Google Scholar
  29. 30.
    Joseph Conrad, Lord Jim, ed. Cedric Watts and Robert Hampson (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1989), p. 362.Google Scholar
  30. 32.
    In the Cantata Profana, the father fails to teach his sons to earn a living at home. He teaches them to hunt, not to farm. For Bartók, whose very homeland disappeared under new and different maps or masks of nationality, the necessity of separation was acute. He was ‘one of Hungary’s greatest sons’ but the knowledge that he was born in 1881 ‘in Nagyszentmiklos, Torontal county, is of limited help, since no such place is to be found on any modern map of the country’. See Hamish Milne, Bartók (London: Omnibus Press, 1982), p. 7. Later in his life, too, exile was a forced choice. Marshall Walker’s text notes: ‘There’s also the irony of accidental prophecy in the Cantata. In 1940, Bartók became a refugee from a Europe poisoned by hunting and killing. “I’d so much like to go home,” he said. But he was never to pass again through a doorway in his own country ...’ Marshall Walker, Béla Bartók (Radio New Zealand, Concert FM, 2001).Google Scholar

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© Alan Riach 2005

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