An Introduction to Gaelic Fiction

An Introduction to Gaelic Fiction

An Introduction to Gaelic Fiction

An Introduction to Gaelic Fiction


The first guide to Gaelic fiction - covering the full expanse of the canon Tracing the history of Gaelic fiction over the last century, Moray Watson looks at the work of well-known authors such as Iain Moireach, Tormod Caimbeul and Iain Mac a' Ghobhainn, as well as lesser-known authors, and focuses on the major developments that have led to the recent flourishing in Gaelic fiction publishing. Watson examines novels and novellas from Dun-Aluinn to Dileas Donn and Shrapnel, alongside short story collections, uncollected fiction and short fiction from magazines such as Gairm. The final chapters focus on the current state of criticism of Gaelic fiction and discuss the most recent initiatives that have sustained the viability of fiction in the Gaelic language. Key Features
• The only introduction to Gaelic fiction available
• Analyses all novels and novellas, all short story collections, and much of the uncollected fiction
• Places Gaelic fiction within a wider context
• Examines the critical approaches taken to the fiction so far and introduces research areas that must be explored


In an important paper that appears in Aiste, the new journal on Gaelic literature, Derick Thomson writes:‘We could do with a detailed critical account of the history of Gaelic fiction in the twentieth century’ (Thomson 2007: 7). in fact, there is really no account of the history of Gaelic fiction in the twentieth century, critical, detailed or otherwise, aside from a portion of one article published over thirty years ago (MacLeod 1977). Although that article is an important cornerstone of modern Gaelic literary studies, the part dealing with Gaelic fiction in the twentieth century is rather short, and so it amounts to little more than a brief overview. Its author, Donald John MacLeod, also wrote a comprehensive bibliography of Gaelic publications in the century, which was connected with his PhD thesis on Gaelic prose writing in the century. It seems that Thomson was influential in guiding MacLeod towards this work, and that he might well have gone on to produce the kind of detailed critical history that Thomson was still requesting in 2007. However, MacLeod left academia before much more of his extensive knowledge could find its way into print, and the ever-busy Thomson never undertook the task for himself. More than three decades later, the present book attempts to go some way towards filling the gap that Thomson has identified.

In 2006, William Gillies published a paper titled‘On the Study of Gaelic Literature’ (Gillies 2006), in which he surveyed the state of Gaelic literary criticism. Even as recently as 2006, Gillies felt justified in using the word literature as a synonym for poetry: that is to say, he found so little to say about the criticism of Gaelic prose fiction or drama (or other conceivable forms) that he had no need to be more specific with the terminology of his title. As he explained it himself:

My title uses the word‘literature’, but I shall be talking almost
exclusively about poetry, because most of it is poetry (Gillies 2006: 3)

It is fair to say that the bulk of literary items that have been produced in the Gaelic language are poems or songs. However, as the present book shows, there is no shortage of prose literature in Gaelic, and the same might be said of drama, although that form is outside the scope of this survey. What is more telling is the lack of writing about fiction. It is not so much, then . . .

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