Born in Glasgow
in 1946 James Kelman is one of Scotland's most significant writers.
Described as "Scotland's answer to Kafka, Joyce and Kierkegaard" and "The twentieth century Kafka" his writing is in the Glasgow voice, a voice echoed by Irvine Welsh, yet Kelman approaches from the simple, the working mans dilemmas, attitudes and struggles. He takes the ordinary, such as the act of going to work, and spins meaning and depth from it in a prose that is disturbing and beautiful.
His portrayal of Glasgows people talks of the betting shop, the pub and the days work or the lack thereof. It talks of money and of not having any, the struggles to live in such poverty. But the struggles in Kelman stories tell us more about the inside workings of the characters minds than they do about the events themselves. This is his real mastery, the intricacy with which he enters the characters head and portrays their thoughts is something that just has to be read.
His Booker prize winning novel How Late it Was, How Late tells the story of Sammy, blinded by a brutal beating he received from the Police and trying to make his way through the rough brutality of Glasgow poverty. A controversial book, MP's in Britain tried to have it banned, its taking of the Booker Prize caused a stir in the literary establishment.
Kelman puts it well himself, though
When I first started writing I wanted to write stories about my own culture and I took it for granted that was what a writer was supposed to do. And it IS what a writer is supposed to do. The trouble is, when you come from our kind of hierarchal kind of society then you don't have the kind of freedoms you'd expect. If you want to be an artist you can be, but the reality is something different. Once you begin, you find out that's not quite the case. I'm only allowed to be a writer if I'm willing to give up my culture, give up my wee voice, give up the songs of my grandparents because it's all inferior - it's supposedly all childish nonsense and now I'm expected to talk like the fucking king ... (quote from an interview with Jayne Margetts)
Books by Kelman
Disaffection (shortlisted for Booker Prize 1989)
The Good Times
Greyhound for Breakfast
Hardie and Baird and Other Plays
How Late it Was, How Late (Booker Prize winner 1994)
Not Not While the Giro and Other Stories
Old Pub Near the Angel
Some Recent Attacks: Essays Cultural and Political (non-fiction)