Speaker – Margaret Elphinstone, 5th November 2014

Margaret Elphinstone 051114 01

On Wednesday night we heard from Margaret Elphinstone, one of our most respected authors and one of the most inspiring voices in modern writing. A writer whose prose is thoughtful and cerebral. We heard about research, historical writing, ‘voices’, and why some writers prefer not to think about the real world too much.

Travel is so often central to Elphinstone’s work and thus it made sense that travel was also central to much of her research, from living in North America, to back packing and roughing it in Scandinavia, sleeping on the floor of a primary school.

We heard about the inspiration for some of her work. In her 2009 novel, The Gathering Night, Elphinstone imagines the lives of the hunter-gatherers who lived during the ice age taking the event of a tsunami as catalyst. The Independent said of the Gathering Night, was an example of Elphinstone’s passion for ‘chronicling environmental themes and pitting human will against chance… the trials and tribulations of these humans co-existing in the same holistic world with animals, rivers, mountains…’

Her novels include A Sparrow’s Flight, Islanders, The Sea Road, Hy Brasil, and Voyageurs.

The Edinburgh history of Scottish Literature says of her, ‘Elphinstone’s characters often travel over huge distances: her world is one of expanding vision, an attempt to connect to a half-understood natural world…’

She is the winner of, amongst others, the 1990 Scottish Arts Council Writer’s Bursary and the 2001 Scottish Arts Council Spring Book Award for Hy Brasil.

She has been professor of writing at the University of Strathclyde and she certainly had a lot to teach us.


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