Scottish Literature 101

Scottish Literature 101

Scotland is home to many authors, and quite a few of them have left a mark on the world's literature. Some created classics, others current bestsellers. When it comes to literature, Scotland has almost everything you could want. We will introduce some of the most influential and successful Scottish authors on this page. The advantage of your interest in Scottish literature: It's all in English, so you don't have to look for translations!

Sir J.M. Barrie

While the name of the author himself is often not recognized, almost everyone knows about Peter Pan. There have been many movies about the boy that never wanted to grow up. They all have one source: The original books (yes, there was more than one) by Sir J.M. Barrie, who lived from 1860 to 1937. He was born an educated in Scotland, but later moved to London in England. But of course that doesn't turn him into any less of a Scotsman. He did also write “Scotland's Lament: A Poem on the Death of Robert Louis Stevenson”, which leads us to the next Scottish writer.

Robert Lewis Stevenson

Robert Lewis Stevenson is the man who wrote “Treasure Island” and also “Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”. Both of them are classics and most people will know the stories either from the books themselves for from one of the many screen adaptations. He was born in 1850, and died at the age of only 44 years. He spent his last years in Samoa, where he was deeply respected and his death was seen as an immense loss by the locals. It is suspected that he died of a cerebral haemorrhage.

Irvine Welsh

His novel “Trainspotting” has been turned into a very successful movie, and if you have the chance, you should read the book as it is quite a good book when it comes to using Scottish dialect and describing life in Scotland. Irvine Welsh was born in 1958, and is still alive and active. He does not only write novels but also screenplays and plays. His most recent novel (2014) is called “The Sex Life of Siamese Twins”. Other titles from this author are “Porno”, “Glue”, “Filth”, and “The Bedroom Secrets of Master Chefs”. As you might assume from reading the titles: This author is a little controversial and might not be everybody's cup of tea.

Muriel Spark

Muriel Spark was born in 1918 and died in 2006. Like Iain Banks, who is the next author on our list, she has been listed as one of the most influential British writers since 1945 (by the Times). Her novels include “Memento Mori”, “The Bachelors”, “The Public Image”, “Loitering with Intent”, “Symposium”, and “Aiding and Abetting”.

Iain Banks

This popular Scottish author who also published Science Fiction under the name Iain M. Banks lived from 1954 to 2013. The times gave him the honor of listing him as one of the most influential British writers since 1945. His works include “Walking on Glass”, “The Crow Road”, and “Quarry” as Iain Banks, and the popular “The Culture” series as Iain M. Banks.

Sir Walter Scott

The Scotsman Sir Walter Scott was born in 1771 and lived until 1832. He was the first novelist to write historical novels, and also one of the first Scottish writers who managed to captivate an international audience with his writing. He published a long series of novels that is now known as “The Waverley” novels. He also wrote poetry, short stories, and even translated a play of Goethe, a famous German writer, to English. But that was not enough, he also published quite a few non-fiction books, and worked as an advocate, judge and administrator.

Ian Rankin

When you look at bestseller lists, you will find the name Ian Rankin at some stage. He is a popular, modern Scottish writer and loved internationally for his Inspector Rebus novels. He was born in 1960, and has no plans of stopping to write any time soon. The first Inspector Rebus novel is “Knots and Crosses”, and was published in 1987. Since then, Ian Rankin has published 19 Inspect Rebus novels and a collection of Inspector Rebus short stories. Other novels he wrote include “Door Open”, “The Flood” (his first novel”, and a few novels written under the name Jack Harvey.

Arthur Conan Doyle

Of course, Arthur Conan Doyle cannot be left out of a list of Scottish writers. He was born in 1859 and died in 1930. His most important contribution to the world of literature was the detective Sherlock Holmes. And as you can see in the many TV shows, movies, plays and novels that are inspired by this character and his lovable sidekick Watson, Arthur Conan Doyle has left quite a mark with his writing. However, his bibliography includes much more than “just” detective stories. He was quite a prolific writer. His Professor Challenger series, which includes books like “The Lost World” (yes, it is the dinosaur novel), were also quite popular. In addition, Arthur Conan Doyle also wrote historical fiction like “The Great Shadow”, and a variety of other novels, e.g. “Beyond the City” and “The Parasite”.

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