7th February 1935

Lewis Grassic Gibbon, author of Scotland’s favourite novel, dies

Lewis Grassic Gibbon (real name James Leslie Mitchell) was born in Aberdeenshire and, in the early 1930s, wrote a trio of books under the collective title, A Scot’s Quair.

The first of the three books was Sunset Song, which was voted Scotland’s favourite novel as part of the BBC’s Love to Read campaign. Iain Banks’ The Wasp Factory came second, in a list that also included work from John Buchan, Irvine Welsh, Muriel Spark, Ian Rankin, JK Rowling and Alasdair Gray.

Best Scottish book of all time

Speaking in a BBC Scotland programme in which the nation’s top-10 novels were revealed, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said that Sunset Song, “resonated with me firstly because it is a wonderful story, beautifully written, but it also said something about the history of the country I grew up in and it resonated with me very strongly as a young Scottish woman, and I think its themes are timeless to this day.”

Sunset Song has been filmed several times, including as a series by the BBC in 1971, and as a film for cinema release in 2015. The novel was also voted Best Scottish Book of All Time at the 2005 Edinburgh International Book Festival. According to The Herald of 28 August that year, the book “won almost a 10th of the 5000 votes, which were submitted by email and text message”.

Grassic Gibbon’s unique voice

Writing in The Guardian on 24 November 2015, James Naughtie said that Gibbon “developed – maybe invented is not too strong – a kind of word music of his own, without becoming as iconoclastic as Hugh MacDiarmid, who was writing poetry at the same time, in which he tried to re-invent a whole lowland Scots language that was consciously set up in opposition to English (which I once heard him describe as ‘a linguistic disease’, though admittedly he was drunk at the time). Grassic Gibbon’s prose, sometimes glorious, is stamped with individuality: he never seems to be imitating anyone else’s style, but going his own way.”

Sadly, Gibbon died just three years after publishing Sunset Song, and one year after completing the Scot’s Quair trilogy, from the effects of a perforated ulcer. The last book in the trilogy, Grey Granite, was published posthumously.



Other events that occured in February

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