Readerz.Net / ジェイムズ・ケルマン
James Kelman (born 9 June 1946) is a Scottish novelist, short story writer, playwright and essayist. His novel A Disaffection was shortlisted for the Booker Prize and won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Fiction in 1989. Kelman won the 1994 Booker Prize with How Late It Was, How Late. In 1998 Kelman was awarded the Glenfiddich Spirit of Scotland Award. His 2008 novel Kieron Smith, Boy won both of Scotland's principal literary awards: the Saltire Society's Book of the Year and the Scottish Arts Council Book of the Year.
Life and work
Born in Glasgow, Kelman says:
During the 1970s he published a first collection of short stories. He became involved in Philip Hobsbaum's creative writing group in Glasgow along with Tom Leonard, Alasdair Gray, Liz Lochhead, Aonghas MacNeacail and Jeff Torrington and his short stories began to appear in magazines. These stories introduced a distinctive style, expressing first person internal monologues in a pared-down prose using Glaswegian speech patterns, though avoiding for the most part the quasi-phonetic rendition of Tom Leonard. Kelman's developing style has been influential on the succeeding generation of Scottish novelists, including Irvine Welsh, Alan Warner and Janice Galloway. In 1998, Kelman received the Stakis Prize for "Scottish Writer of the Year" for his collection of short stories The Good Times.
Kelman's Booker Prize win was, at the time, controversial due to what some saw as the book's casual use of bad language: one of the judges, Rabbi Julia Neuberger, denounced the awarding of the prize to Kelman's book as "a disgrace". Kelman has since said that his Booker Prize win, specifically the negative publicity and attacks made as a result, made publishers more reluctant to handle his work.
The debate surrounding the use of this "offensive" language has been picked up by Kelman himself, who argues that the "Standard English" of traditional English novels is unrealistic. In his essay "The Importance of Glasgow in my Work", he compares the presentation of working class and Scottish characters with those of the traditional "upper class" English protagonist:
Political views and activism
Kelman's work has been described as flowing "not only from being an engaged writer, but a cultural and political activist". At the time of Glasgow's Year as City of Culture he was prominent in the Workers' City group, critical of the celebrations. The name was chosen as to draw attention to the renaming of part of the city centre as the Merchant City, which they described as promoting the "fallacy that Glasgow somehow exists because of (...) 18th century entrepreneurs and far-sighted politicians. (The merchants) were men who trafficked in degradation, causing untold misery, death and starvation to thousands" The Workers' City group campaigned against what was seen as the victimisation of People's Palace curator Elspeth King and a Council attempt to sell off one third of Glasgow Green. Their activities drew the ire of Labour Party councillors and commentators, Kelman, and his colleagues Hugh Savage and Farquhar McLay, being described as "an 'embarrassment' to the city's 'cultural workforce'".
Kelman was involved in the Edinburgh Unemployed Workers Centre giving a speech at its opening and has expressed support for the Autonomous Centre of Edinburgh (ACE), its successor organisation.
Kelman has been a prominent campaigner, notably in issues of social justice and traditional left-wing causes, although he is resolutely not a party man, and remains at his heart a libertarian socialist anarchist, saying "the parliamentary opposition parties are essential to the political apparatus of this country which is designed to arrest justice". He lives in Glasgow with his wife and children, though has also lived in London, Manchester, the Channel Islands, Australia and America.
In his introduction to Born up a Close: Memoirs of a Brigton Boy (2006), an edition of Glaswegian political campaigner Hugh Savage's writings, Kelman sums up his understanding of the history of national and class conflict as follows:
Despite reservations about nationalism, Kelman has voiced his support for Scottish independence, stating "Any form of nationalism is dangerous, and should be treated with caution. I cannot accept nationalism and I am not a Scottish Nationalist. But once that is said, I favour a Yes or No decision on independence and I shall vote Yes to independence." In 2012 a film was made based on the short story "Greyhound For Breakfast". He has voiced criticism of Scottish arts funding council Creative Scotland.
Book-length critical works on Kelman