Michel Faber has won the 2015 Saltire Book of the Year award for The Book of Strange New Things (Canongate).
Faber was selected from six book category winners of the Saltire Society Literary Awards, the strength of which was described as "testament to the quality and scope of Scotland’s rich literary scene", featuring writers such as Fiona Rintoul, Peter Geoghegan and Helen McClory.
Faber came top of the Saltire Scottish Fiction Book of the Year category to win the overall award, fending off competition from a shortlist that included the latest works from 1995 Whitbread award winner Kate Atkinson, Julian Assange's ghost writer Andrew O’Hagan, a previous Saltire Book of Year winner Janice Galloway, Gaelic language writer Norma Nicleoid and Edinburgh writer Irvine Welsh.
He collected both awards and an accompanying cash prize of £8,000 at a special ceremony at the Central Hall in Edinburgh this evening (26th November 2014).
A Dutch-born, Scotland-based writer, who was brought up in Australia, Faber is a past winner of the Saltire First Book of the Year award for his 2000 debut novel Under the Skin (Canongate), which was later adapted into the 2013 feature film starring Scarlett Johansson.
Published by Canongate in October 2014, The Book of Strange New Things imagines a not-so-distant future where a global corporation is able to colonise a planet in a neighbouring galaxy. Its protagonist, Peter, is a Christian pastor sent to carry out missionary work amongst the native aliens on the planet – a situation he becomes increasingly uneasy about, alienating him from his wife as the story progresses. It is described as “a powerful examination of humanity and how a failure to communicate can gradually erode marital intimacy”.
Faber said: “When I emigrated from Australia to a remote part of Scotland in 1993, I never expected that it would be the beginning rather than the end of my literary career. I'm so moved and grateful that this honour has been bestowed on my work. You've made an alien feel very welcome.”
The Saltire Society Literary Awards span seven categories in total, six of which are for books.
Its First Book of the Year Award was given to On the Edges of Vision by Edinburgh-based writer Helen McClory (Queen’s Ferry Press), the Non-Fiction Book of the Year Award was awarded to Adventures in Human Being by physician Gavin Francis (Profile Books); and the Publisher of the Year title was won by Freight Books.
Freight, founded in 2011, was described by the panel as being “clever publishers who produce beautiful books”. The panel added: “Although one of the youngest publishers on this shortlist, Freight Books have become a major player in the Scottish publishing industry, offering a platform for new and emerging writers and well established voices alike.”
Janet Archer, c.e.o of Creative Scotland, said: “The list of winners takes readers on a journey from the diaspora of Scotland to the horrors of the First World War and out to the ends of the universe. The strength of this year’s shortlist is testament to the quality and scope of Scotland’s rich literary scene.”
Tough, Saltire Society, added: “Given the sheer breadth and variety of writing talent on display, this has been a vintage year for the Saltire Literary Awards...Every one of the individual book awards were hotly contested, making the judges’ decision a particularly challenging one. The same was also true of this year’s Publisher of the Year Award.”
The category winners were:
- The Saltire Society Scottish Research Book of the Year, supported by the National Library of Scotland: Clubbing Together: Ethnicity, Civility and Formal Sociability in the Scottish Diaspora to 1930 by Dr. Tanja Bueltmann (Liverpool University Press);
- The Saltire Society Scottish History Book of the Year Award, in partnership with the Scottish Historical Review Trust: A Chasm in Time: Scottish War Art and Artists in the Twentieth Century by Dr. Patricia R. Andrew (Birlinn);
- The Saltire Scottish Poetry Book of the Year Award, supported by the Scottish Poetry Library: The Good Dark by Edinburgh City Libraries’ poet in residence Ryan Van Winkle (Penned in the Margins);
- The Saltire Society Scottish First Book of the Year Award: On the Edges of Vision by Edinburgh-based writer Helen McClory (Queen’s Ferry Press);
- The Saltire Society Scottish Non-Fiction Book of the Year Award: Adventures in Human Being by physician Gavin Francis (Profile Books); and,
- The Saltire Society Publisher of the Year Award: Freight Books.