Thirty beautiful short stories written for Christmas sit within the pages of this book. George Mackay Brown (1921-1996) from Orkney, wrote these tales during the 1970’s and 80’s, and yet they somehow sit outside of time. As William S. Peterson says in the introduction: “Some of them are set in the ancient or medieval world; others seem to be taking place in the early twentieth century. Always, however, he insists upon collapsing the dissecting between the present and a shadowy past…”. Sometimes Christmas is obvious, while at others there is just a whisper as they sit within the Advent season, but these stories hold tradition, myth, childhood, family, and what it is to be human during this time of year. The wood and lino cuts are an additional treat. A story that is a particular favourite of mine is Dialogue at the Year’s End which sent a shiver of goosebumps cascading down my arms with the kiss of a fairytale, and brought a tear to my eye. Christmas Stories is the most lovely festive treasure, and would make a lovely stocking filler as it brings alive the human spirit and joy of Christmas.
In this new Selected Poems, Kathleen Jamie explores the multi-faceted world of George Mackay Brown's Orkney, the poet's lifelong home and inspiration. George Mackay Brown's concerns were the ancestral world, the communalities of work, the fables and religious stories which he saw as underpinning mortal lives. Brown believed from the outset that poets had a social role and his true task was to fulfil that role. This is not the attitude of a shrinking violet, tentatively exploring his 'voice'. Art was sprung from the community, and his role as poet to know that community, to sing its stories. But there was also room for introspection; the poet's task was simultaneously to 'interrogate silence'.
First published in 1969, An Orkney Tapestry, George Mackay Brown's seminal work, is a unique look at Orkney through the eye of a poet. Originally commissioned by his publisher as an introduction to the Orkney Islands, Brown approached the writing from a unique perspective and went on to produce a rich fusion of ballad, folk tale, short story, drama and environmental writing. The book, written at an early stage in the author's career, explores themes that appear in his later work and was a landmark in Brown's development as a writer. Above all, it is a celebration of Orkney's people, language and history. This edition reproduces Sylvia Wishart's beautiful illustrations, commissioned for the original hardback. Made available again for the first time in over 40 years, this new edition sits alongside Nan Shepherd's The Living Mountain as an important precursor of environmental writing by the likes of Kathleen Jamie, Robert Macfarlane, Malachy Tallack and, most recently, Amy Liptrot.
George Mackay Brown was a master of the short story form and produced a steady stream of short fiction collections, starting with A Calendar of Love (1967) and include A Time to Keep (1969) and Hawkfall (1974), as well as his poetry collections and novels. In this selection, edited and introduced by Malachy Tallack, we explore the author's Orkney and the ups and downs of the crofters and fishermen there. These magical stories, drawn from ancient lore and modern life, strip life down to the essentials.
Bestowed at birth with two gifts, an ivory flute and a bag of silver and gold coins, a young girl wanders through time. She is destined to pursue the dragon of war and before he consumes the world in flames, subdue him not with violence but music. Moving across the battlefields from East to West, the girl bears witness to the suffering and brutality of war throughout history ...
These two long stories are set, like most of George Mackay Brown's work, in Orkney and in a period, the last quarter of the nineteenth century, when the pattern of island life, little changed since Viking times, was beginning to be threatened. The Golden Bird tells the story of the slow decline of an island community: a scattered village dependant on the sea for its livelihood and at risk from it, a place subject to the peculiar tensions of isolation and the unsettling influence of new values. The Life and Death of John Voe looks at the life of a typical young Orkney man: after whaling and sailing and gold-mining he comes home to devote the rest of his days to a beautiful country girl. These stories are the creation of a very rich imagination, of a practised and skillful writer, but they also have the power and simplicity of the traditional ballad. They will delight Mackay Brown's fans.
George's memory is inseparable from Orkney, where he was born the youngest child of a poor family and which he rarely left. His mother was a beautiful woman who spoke only Gaelic and his father was a wit, mimic and singer, who also doubled as postman and tailor. Tuberculosis framed George's early life and kept him in a kind of limbo. He discovered alcohol which gave him insights into the workings of the mind. While attending the University of Edinburgh he came into contact with Goodsir Smith, MacDiarmid and Norman MacCaig - and Stella Cartwright with whom perhaps all of them were in love. By the time of his death in 1996 he was recognised as one of the great writers of his time and country.
In this novel set on the fictitious island of Norday in the Orkneys, George Mackay Brown beckons us into the imaginary world of the young Thorfinn Ragnarson, the son of a crofter. In his day-dreams he relives the history of this island people, travelling back in time to join Viking adventurers at the court of the Byzantine Emperor in Constantinople, then accompanying a Falstaffian knight to the battle of Bannockburn.Thorfinn wakes to the twentieth century and a community whose way of life, steeped in legend and tradition, has remained unchanged for centuries. But as the boy grows up - and falls in love with a vivacious and mysterious stranger - the transforming effect of modern civilization brings momentous and irreversible changes to the island. During the Second World War Thorfinn finds himself in a German prisoner-of-war camp, and it is here that he discovers his gifts as a writer. Long afterwards he returns, now a successful novelist, to a deserted and battle-scarred island. Searching for the peace and freedom of mind he had in abundance as a child, he finds instead something he didn't even know he was looking for.George Mackay Brown intertwines myth and reality to create a novel of deceptive simplicity. The story of Thorfinn and the island of Norday is a universal and profound one, rooted in the timeless landscape of the Orkneys, the inspiration of all his writing.
The author's beloved Orkney is brought vividly to life in this classic collection, peopled with crofters, fishermen, ferrymen and tinkers. History plays a part too, for Norse and Scottish legend are revived in tales of witch trials, priest hunts and Viking raids, all endowed with the stark beauty of George Mackay Brown's masterful storytelling.
The second collection of stories published by George Mackay Brown, this volume includes 12 stories arising from both ancient and modern life on the island of Orkney.
A country boy creeps unwillingly to school on a lark-filled summer morning. Norse crusaders, preparing to sail on Earl Rognvald's crusade in 1151 break into the burial chamber at Maeshowe seeking treasure, and cut runes in its massive stones. And the famous Iceland poet Thorbjorn leaves his farm to join the group of poets whose lyrics stud like gems that famous pilgrimage. The ancient northern ceremonies of solstice and equinox, Easter and Yule, are brought to vivid life in the poems collected in this book, and so also are some of the holidays of the Christian calender. The cycle of seasons is more noticeable in the north, especially perhaps winter, the time of story-telling and music. There are tributes to the great poet of winter, Robert Burns, and a celebration of the Irish veteran of the Peninsular War who founded a tavern in Orkney in 1821. The life of an islander is 'sweetly compacted' in The Laird and the Three Women.
In these six stories George Mackay Brown leads us back along the sweep of Orkney's past and beyond even that to the remoteness of fable. He reveals the timelessness of the lived moment and the constants of island life in the harvest of sea and land and the compulsions of voyage and homecoming.
These unknown and sometimes unexpected poems by the Orcadian master have all his characteristic simplicity and power.In these poems readers will find new ideas previously unexplored, but they will also find those qualities that made George Mackay Brown different from anyone else.
Many of the places, people, legends and seasons that formed Brown's vision and work are presented here, with poems appearing among the prose. Included are memoirs of his parents, friends and passing strangers with legends and stories of the places.
This profound and poetic novel has been described as George Mackay Brown's most innovative work. He recounts the tale of the murder of the Earl of Orkney in the 12th century and links it to the story of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German theologian imprisoned and executed by the Nazis during World War Two. A fascinating meditation on the eternal questions of guilt, goodness and sacrifice from one of Scotland's greatest writers.