Post-War Scottish Fiction – Mac Colla,
Linklater, Jenkins, Spark and Kennaway
It is always convenient to categorise literary history into periods, movements or groups. Scottish literature has been no exception if, for example, we bear in mind the amount of attention paid to the first twentieth-century Literary Renaissance. The claim has also been made that we have a second Literary Renaissance gathering talents who appeared in the 1980s and after, now the modern voices of Scotland. In between lies the uncertain ground of the mid-twentieth century, a period which may have been neglected and which is even perhaps in the awkward situation of having to lay a claim for better recognition. This seems true of the fiction of the period, sometimes overshadowed by achievements in other fields, such as poetry or drama. With the exception of Muriel Spark, the authors included in this chapter have received little sustained critical attention. One of them at least has often been presented as a neglected writer, Robin Jenkins.
This chapter is concerned with writers whose production either started in the 1950s and 1960s, or began in the 1930s before extending into the postwar period. This period witnessed many challenges to accepted social and literary norms all over Europe, for example in the form of the nouveau roman in France or the ‘Angry Young Men’ in England. However, when attention is paid to individual works, it is not easy to find unity in literary periods which extend over several decades. Two of the authors treated in this chapter, Fionn Mac Colla (1906–75) and Eric Linklater (1899–1974) might be described as survivors from the first Literary Renaissance, whereas the other three can be associated more clearly with the literature of the second half of the twentieth century: Robin Jenkins (1912–2005), Muriel Spark (1918–2006) and James Kennaway (1928–68). Some of them had exceptionally long careers. All together they offer a wide range of experience and approach that bears witness to the variety and vitality of Scottish fiction over a period covering a large part of the century. Considering their output and their careers’ length, it is impossible to do justice to them in any single chapter. This chapter’s ambition will be limited to underlining some of the main directions which the Scottish novel took over that period.