The long term connections with Barga and Scotland continued this afternoon with a presentation in the Palazzo Pancrazi of the Scottish poet and writer, James Robertson with his latest novel, “Solo la terra resiste” – “And the Land Lay Still”
His subject is Scotland, from 1950 to the present day. It gives him a fair bit to play with, from the global (oil, industry, services) to the national (sectarianism, communism, Thatcherism, devolution and destruction) to the direct and personal and behind all of it are the reverberations of deeper themes: war and war’s legacy, the sea, the land, the future.
Split into six parts and featuring a dizzying spread of narratives, it nevertheless coheres into a powerful whole, reading almost like an alternative history of the country told by its everyday people instead of its movers and shakers.
“This is not the story of Scotland, this is a story of Scotland. It happens to be Scotland because that’s where I live and what I know, but it could be anywhere. The same changes have happened all over the world.” – James Robertson
And the Land Lay Still is the fourth novel by James Robertson. For 20 years, after beginning his career with short stories and poetry in both English and Scots at the beginning of the 1990s, the author has been there or thereabouts on the Scottish literary scene.
He’s carved out a place for himself as an important figure in the country’s burgeoning creative self-belief, establishing a small poetry pamphlet press called Kettillonia, and Itchy Coo, an extremely successful publisher of children’s books in the Scots language; as well as holding a number of high-profile posts, most notably the first writer-in-residence of the Scottish parliament.
The award-winning epic novel received near-unanimous critical acclaim in the mainstream British press.
The Daily Mail said that the novel was a “toweringly ambitious book, virtually flawlessly realised, a masterpiece”. For The Independent, the “dizzying grand opus” was “eminently readable” and successful in showcasing “an alternative history of the country told by its everyday people instead of its movers and shakers”.
The Observer said that Robertson had “caught something of the sheer bloody-minded craving for self-sabotage in the Scottish soul so accurately it’s painful”. The Herald was impressed by “a state-of-the-nation novel with a Dickensian scope”.
The Daily Telegraph was impressed by the book’s ability to meld “engrossing individual storylines” with “cultural shifts such as the birth of Scottish nationalism, the death of industry, the sexual revolution and the boom in North Sea oil”. The New Statesman noted that four years’ worth of research had gone into the book and finished its review with the line: “It’s some achievement”.
Writing in The Guardian, the writer Irvine Welsh said of the “highly ambitious” book that it “represents nothing less than a landmark for the novel in Scotland, and underlines the author’s position as one of Britain’s best contemporary novelists”.
Scotland First Minister Alex Salmond selected the novel as his book of the year for 2010, telling the Scotland on Sunday that it was “outstanding”, “important”, and the author’s finest work.
The novel won the 2010 Scottish Book of the Year Award and was long-listed for the 2011 Creative Scotland Book of the Year Awards.
Scrive James Robertson nella postfazione scritta per l’edizione italiana: «Tempo e cambiamento: questo è il tema fondamentale che volevo affrontare scrivendo And the Land Lay Still. Negli anni Ottanta e Novanta sono stato attivamente coinvolto nella campagna per la ricostituzione del parlamento scozzese (dopo un’assenza di circa trecento anni) e ricordo di aver pensato di essere stato parte di una Storia che in futuro sarebbe valsa la pena raccontare nuovamente attraverso il mezzo della narrativa».