James Kelman, the Scottish Booker Prize-winning author, has launched a furious attack on the way literary fiction is regarded in his homeland – criticising the praise lavished on “mediocre” detective writers and apparently even JK Rowling.
Kelman, appearing at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, said that if the Nobel prize for literature was awarded from Scotland, instead of Sweden, it would be given to “a writer of f****** detective fiction” or work about “some upper middle-class young magician” instead of literary fiction.
He added: “Our tradition is actually an intellectual tradition, and an intellectual tradition that is not scared to be radical, and if that radical nature takes us into particular political positions then we should take them.
“And these positions have meant that we have not allowed ourselves to look at our own tradition, so that our own radical tradition is a mystery to us, that we don’t know about our historical links with people who we should be proud of – we should be proud that James Connolly the Irish socialist leader is an Edinburgh man, why are we not proud of that? One of the greatest twentieth century socialists was murdered by the British Army in 1916 – why do we not admit what happened with John Maclean, somebody who was murdered, who was poisoned by the State. Why is he not a hero?
“How can you give all this to somebody like Burns and not give a thought to all the other great Scottish writers.”