Alasdair Gray has won the inaugural Saltire Society Lifetime Achievement Award for his contribution to Scottish literature.
Gray, 84, is best known for his debut novel, Lanark, set in Glasgow and published by Canongate in 1981. Comprising four books, it took Gray 30 years to write and won him the Satire Society Book of the Year award in 1982. Since then he has written, designed and illustrated seven novels, including the 1992-published novel Poor Things that in the same year won the Whitbread Novel Award and the Guardian Fiction Prize.
Before the publication of Lanark, Gray was best known for his painting, the judges said. “A seminal piece, Lanark is often referred to as the Glasgow Ulysses. This however was not a one-off masterpiece. For over 40 years, Alasdair Gray’s plentiful and diverse work has influenced writers and the literary scene worldwide.”
Gray said, in a message read out during the ceremony: “At the end of next month I will be 85 years old. I think it unlikely that I will write another work of fiction or play, and though I still have several paintings to complete, I doubt if I will sell many more. For this reason I am very grateful for the Saltire Society’s gift.”
Awards spanning six different literary categories were presented on 30th November at a ceremony presided over by BBC presenter Cathy MacDonald. The Saltire Society Scottish Fiction Book of the Year was won by Ewan Morrison for his novel Nina X (Little Brown Group/Fleet Imprint), and The Saltire Society Scottish Non Fiction Book of the Year was won by Melanie Reid for her memoir The World I Fell Out Of (Fourth Estate, Harper Collins). The Saltire Society Scottish Poetry Book of the Year was presented to Janette Ayachi for her collection Hand Over Mouth Music (Pavilion Poetry), The Saltire Scottish History Book of the Year Award, supported by the Scottish Historical Review Trust, was presented to Norman H Reid for Alexander III; 1249-1286, First Among Equals (published by Birlinn) and The Saltire Scottish Research Book of the Year Award, supported by the National Library of Scotland, was won by Working Verse in Victorian Scotland: Poetry, Press, Community by Kirstie Blair (Oxford University Press).
Working Verse in Victorian Scotland: Poetry, Press, Community was selected as The Saltire Society Scottish Book of the Year by a panel of judges from the winners of the five Literary Awards.
“It’s not every day the winner of the research category scoops the overall Saltire prize, which demonstrates just what a compelling and important read Ms Blair’s work is," commented Robin Smith, director of Collections and Research for The National Library of Scotland.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “Scotland’s distinguished literary culture is a notable part of our national identity and the Saltire Literary Awards do an excellent job of recognising our talented writers and authors. I’d like to offer my warmest congratulations to all of the award winners.”
Two publishing Awards were also presented. The Saltire Society Scottish Publisher of the Year was awarded to Inverness-based Sandstone Press, recognised for providing a platform for Scottish subjects and taking risks with translated fiction, resulting in publishing the winner of this year’s Man Booker International Prize. 404 Ink were Highly Commended. The Saltire Society Emerging Publisher of the Year Award, presented in partnership with Publishing Scotland, was awarded jointly to Kay Farrell of Sandstone Press and Alan Windram of Little Door Press. Jamie Norman of Canongate was Highly Commended.
The Saltire Society Scottish Book Cover of the Year – a new Award for 2019 – was won by The Wind That Lays Waste by Selva Almada (translated by Chris Andrews), published by Charco Press and designed by Pablo Font.
The Calum Macdonald Memorial Award for the publisher of an "outstanding example of pamphlet poetry" published during the previous year, administered by the Scottish Poetry Library, was won by Sarah Stewart for Tapsalteerie, Glisk.