Distinguishing Features of Iain Crichton Smith's Gaelic writing

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Author: Moray Watson
Date: Annual 2018
From: Scottish Language(Vol. 37)
Publisher: Association for Scottish Literary Studies
Document Type: Article
Length: 5,769 words

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This article takes the opportunity to tackle some crucial questions in relation to Iain Crichton Smith as a Gaelic writer that will have far-reaching implications for our ongoing understanding of contemporary Gaelic literature in general. It addresses the question of how his writing in Gaelic differs from his writing in English and begins the task of analysing what that means for Gaelic as a literary and cultural medium. In doing this, the chapter has a relationship with my 2016 paper 'The Gaelic Writer, Iain Crichton Smith ...' However, the current article moves away from considerations of Smith's identity as a writer and looks in more detail at features of the writing itself. Where differences are identified, the chapter discusses what this might signify. We consider here whether it is possible to discern any sense of unity or coherence in Smith's Gaelic writing that could be contrasted, in further research, with equivalents in his English writing. We also consider the range and styles of writing he employed in Gaelic over the decades of his career, which will help us to reach some conclusions about the depth and reach of his impact as a Gaelic writer. This is important at this point, because the Gaelic literary canon is currently undergoing a major paradigm shift in all sorts of ways, and it behoves us to take stock of the situation and assess what we mean when we talk about Gaelic writing. Smith is particularly interesting from this point of view, precisely because he has not always been unproblematically reckoned a Gaelic writer and he, thus, serves as a mirror we can hold up to the rest of Gaelic literature when we ask questions about its distinctiveness and vibrancy (Watson 2016).

It is worth noting, before we go any further, that Smith produced a very wide range of different kinds of writing in Gaelic, just as he did in English. A most useful and easy-to-access document of this is Grant F. Wilson's A Bibliography of Iain Crichton Smith (1990), which gives meticulous levels of detail about Smith's publications in both languages right up to the point when the book was published: since Smith published significantly less Gaelic than English after the Bibliography was published, it is arguably even more useful as a resource when dealing with his Gaelic writing. Even a quick glance through the pages of Wilson's Bibliography will reveal that the range of works Smith published in Gaelic included: poetry, both in collections and in many magazines and periodicals; stories, again both in collections and in other outlets; novels for adults and novels for children or teenagers; plays for production and plays that were published; radio plays and scripts; translations; and many reviews. In fact, of all the many kinds of writing that he produced in English, the only thing almost missing from his repertoire in Gaelic was discursive writing, beyond these short reviews. He did publish a very small number of short essays in Gaelic, primarily in Gairm magazine, but never...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A587261388