Iain Crichton Smith: Critical Essays

Iain Crichton Smith: Critical Essays

Iain Crichton Smith: Critical Essays

Iain Crichton Smith: Critical Essays

Excerpt

This is the first collection of essays to address itself to Iain Crichton Smith's work. His formal and generic variety of production, to say nothing of its sheer volume -- he is a popular novelist, a celebrated writer of short fiction, a radio dramatist, a literary critic and a poet of distinction -- makes him a particularly interesting writer to come to terms with. As versatile in Gaelic as in English, the cultural pressures and determinations with which he articulates lend to his books peculiar and sometimes disturbing intensities and make of a writer born on the island of Lewis a representative figure of late twentieth-century angst. It is one of Crichton Smith's achievements to bring an island sensibility to the attention of the English-speaking world, thereby exposing the extraordinary divisions and self-divisions which the processes of cultural colonisation entail.

As he forges continuities with the Scottish diaspora, particularly its Canadian dimensions, he brings to light ways in which Scotland's compromised identity as a post-colonial society connects with international discourses of subjectivity and selfhood. In a world increasingly characterised by shifting frontiers and radical reformulations of hitherto assumed securities of ethnic and political definition, Crichton Smith speaks to us on several levels. The Hamlet-figure who stalks his poetry is one index of the complex imaginative responses he has developed to explore his own position as a native Gael increasingly prominent in anglophone literature. Feelings of betrayal and self-betrayal derive in part from an awareness of complicity in systems of cultural power which undermine native senses of origination. Similarly, the image of the island, another recurring trope in Crichton Smith's work, generates a pattern of complicated self-definition which is simultaneously a marker of existential and ontological uncertainty. So it seemed appropriate to . . .

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