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Distinguishing Features of Iain Crichton Smith's Gaelic writing.

This article takes the opportunity to tackle some crucial questions in relation to Iain Crichton Smith as a Gaelic writer that will have far-reaching implications for our ongoing understanding of contemporary Gaelic literature in general. It addresses the question of how his writing in Gaelic differs from his writing in English and begins the task of analysing what that means for Gaelic as a literary and cultural medium. In doing this, the chapter has a relationship with my 2016 paper 'The Gaelic Writer, Iain Crichton Smith ...' However, the current article moves away from considerations of Smith's identity as a writer and looks in more detail at features of the writing itself. Where differences are identified, the chapter discusses what this might signify. We consider here whether it is possible to discern any sense of unity or coherence in Smith's Gaelic writing that could be contrasted, in further research, with equivalents in his English writing. We also consider the range and styles of writing he employed in Gaelic over the decades of his career, which will help us to reach some conclusions about the depth and reach of his impact as a Gaelic writer. This is important at this point, because the Gaelic literary canon is currently undergoing a major paradigm shift in all sorts of ways, and it behoves us to take stock of the situation and assess what we mean when we talk about Gaelic writing. Smith is particularly interesting from this point of view, precisely because he has not always been unproblematically reckoned a Gaelic writer and he, thus, serves as a mirror we can hold up to the rest of Gaelic literature when we ask questions about its distinctiveness and vibrancy (Watson 2016).

It is worth noting, before we go any further, that Smith produced a very wide range of different kinds of writing in Gaelic, just as he did in English. A most useful and easy-to-access document of this is Grant F. Wilson's A Bibliography of Iain Crichton Smith (1990), which gives meticulous levels of detail about Smith's publications in both languages right up to the point when the book was published: since Smith published significantly less Gaelic than English after the Bibliography was published, it is arguably even more useful as a resource when dealing with his Gaelic writing. Even a quick glance through the pages of Wilson's Bibliography will reveal that the range of works Smith published in Gaelic included: poetry, both in collections and in many magazines and periodicals; stories, again both in collections and in other outlets; novels for adults and novels for children or teenagers; plays for production and plays that were published; radio plays and scripts; translations; and many reviews. In fact, of all the many kinds of writing that he produced in English, the only thing almost missing from his repertoire in Gaelic was discursive writing, beyond these short reviews. He did publish a very small number of short essays in Gaelic, primarily in Gairm magazine, but never anywhere close to the numbers of English essays. It is worth pointing out that some of the essays referenced in Wilson's book are wrongly attributed. (1) There remain a small number of essays we can say with confidence were written by our Smith (no more than five). As editor of Gairm, Derick Thomson would, on a fairly regular basis, make specific requests of him, asking him to fill certain gaps in the magazine at the time (see NLS Acc. 12600 and 13496). Of course, Thomson was well aware that Smith had a remarkable ability to turn his hand quickly to any kind of writing that he might choose. And, from the letters Thomson sent him, it does appear that Smith was always happy to try to oblige him. So, it may be that this tiny handful of essays represents an effort to help out a friend rather than any burning desire he had to express certain opinions. And certainly, when you contrast the output with what he produced in English, it does appear that he had, early on, chosen English as the medium for his discursive work. This would make sense in biographical terms, as well, since he became an English teacher and was used to engaging in academic reading and discussion of English literature through the medium of English. We can see him engage with many of the more philosophical and psychological themes and issues in creative writing in Gaelic, but almost never in discursive writing.

A notable Gaelic discursive piece, however, is Smith's 1962 essay titled simply 'Kierkegaard'(Mac a'Ghobhainn 1962/3). In the essay, Smith gives a general introduction to the eponymous Danish philosopher and to his ideas, before using this as a platform to effectively explain to us why he wrote the Gaelic story 'Abraham is Isaac', which appeared in the collection An Dubh is An Gorm (1963) and which will be discussed further later in this article. The essay describes Kierkegaard as the writer who can teach us the most about twentieth-century thinking. It is very clear from the enthusiastic, panegyric tone that Smith deeply admired Kierkegaard's work. There is a suggestion that he also envied the philosopher his ability to cut himself off from everyday human needs in order to concentrate on his writing: Smith spends some time explaining how Kierkegaard broke off his engagement in order to dedicate himself to his philosophy. As a theme, this kind of radical decision is made by characters from time to time in Smith's creative writing: we often see these characters, usually writers, attempting to remove themselves from mundane needs and desires in order to dedicate themselves to art and creativity. It appears especially in the poetry: the isolated artist, cut off from the world, tries to exist in the purity of his art. Of course, in Smith's writing, this attempt always ends badly.

Apart from 'Kierkegaard', most of Smith's discursive writing was otherwise limited to reviews. Although he wrote, therefore, almost no essays in Gaelic, he did write many times in English about Gaelic and especially about Gaelic literature, and I have the sense that he was particularly eager to identify features of note in contemporary writing (see, especially, the essays in Towards the Human, Smith 1986a). It would appear that he was trying to ground and contextualise the writing he was seeing, and understand why Gaelic writing had suddenly taken such a new and, to him, exciting turn. A clear message he gives us in these essays is that he welcomes the melding of the older features of Gaelic literature with some of the influences coming in from other literatures. He was interested in innovation, and we can see him, as a creative writer, experimenting with exactly this. As a Gaelic writer, we can thus say that Smith was an innovator; as an English writer, probably less so, albeit with occasional exceptions.

In editing Smith's stories and poems for two collected volumes, I noted features that I felt were similar to aspects of his English writing and features that seemed to me to differ. The differences could be stark--themes that were of major importance in one language and relatively unimportant in the other--but more often these differences were subtle. For instance, throughout his writing, Smith had a propensity to use song lyrics as a grounding or rooting device. The difference between this usage in the two languages is that the lyrics that crop up in English stories and poems tend to come from contemporary music that he would have been hearing on the radio. (2) In the Gaelic, almost without exception, the lyrics that appear are from the kinds of songs he would have heard in the community where he grew up. What I would tentatively suggest is that this means that a very similar-looking device is actually doing a slightly different thing in the two languages: in the Gaelic, the song lyrics not only contextualise the writing as if part of a tradition, but also claim a space in that tradition and thus work towards slightly re-shaping it. This is an observation that we could fruitfully explore further in relation to other writers in the future.

It has not gone unnoticed that much of Smith's fiction in English is not, in fact, rooted in a particular place, with some obvious exceptions. If we pick up many of his stories or novels, the characters often have names that could be regarded as generically British, and many of them have relatively middle-class educational backgrounds and sensibilities. This is something that is commonly handled very differently in his Gaelic fiction. A great many of the Gaelic stories are overtly set in the Highlands and feature Gaels as their main characters, and they often have clearly Gaelic names. An interesting counterpoint to this, however, is the short novel Na Speuclairean Dubha (1989). The novel is set around Oban and it would appear that (at least some) characters speak Gaelic and show a broad awareness of Gaelic culture. But the main character's name is Trevor Bailey and we know that he is a writer who has moved into the area from elsewhere. Besides this one text, though, the Gaelic fiction seems more inclined to be set in the Gaidhealtachd, to feature characters who are apparently speaking Gaelic or are what we could describe as Gaels, and to address what we might think of as postcolonial/post(-)colonial issues or issues that arise from a postcolonial/post(-)colonial environment, understood here in a broad and non-technical sense, but discussed at greater length in other articles (Watson 2016, forthcoming a, b).

Let us turn briefly now to some of the features of Smith's writing in Gaelic that we could consider to be innovative as suggested above. Our focus here is on the poetry and prose fiction, but there is now discussion emerging by other scholars of his dramatic writing (such as Macleod 2016) and it will be useful in future to examine whether any conclusions made here are also borne out by analysis of the drama. Smith was one of the first, and certainly one of the most successful, to attempt science fiction (or, indeed, any kind of genre writing) in Gaelic. There are several such stories that appeared across a wide span of his career, including very notably the children's novel Iain a-measgnan Reultan. One (1969): one of the shorter science-fiction stories is discussed later in this paper. Another innovation of Smith's was to lift and adapt stories from the Bible and use these to get, as he put it himself, 'towards the human'--in other words, to investigate thoughts, feelings, doubts, etc. in the context of extremely well-known narratives. Again, one such story is discussed later in this article. In both English and Gaelic, Smith wrote often about travel, but the Gaelic stories and poems have a stronger tendency to display a fascination with the Highland diaspora, to invoke the Clearances or to be concerned with connections with the Gaidhealtachd. None of the travel stories is discussed here, but I have dealt with these in Watson 2016 and elsewhere.

Among other recurring features in Smith's writing, an interesting one is the Second World War, a conflict that was raging through his formative years. The Second World War appears often in Gaelic verse, both in the sung and recited verse and also in the literary poetry. It is comparatively more rare in the prose fiction. In contrast with many of his peers, Smith wrote about it in both poetry and prose, but the distinctive feature of his take on the war was that he predominantly viewed it through the eyes and ears of a young boy. Much of Smith's war is a small, personal, confusing experience, observed from a distance via one or other of those portals on the world previously mentioned: the radio and cinema. In a lot of his poetry, and some of the stories, the focal person is sitting listening to the radio and trying to piece together what it all means. (3) And thus the story or poem comes to be about the effect of the war on the Gaidhealtachd, on the local community, on the people who went to war and returned, or on the people who were left behind. The story -Burn' (Mac a' Ghobhainn 1960) is one obvious counter-example to this, but it is perhaps the only one in which the action is set directly in the war zone and features soldiers facing off against each other: and even there the focus is on the thoughts, feelings and internal reactions of the main character, who is confronted with the harsh reality of what failure to communicate can lead to in a conflict situation. In stories like 'Sniffy' (Mac a' Ghobhainn 1983) and 'Maighstir Trill' (Mac a' Ghobhainn 1970), the title characters have returned to everyday life many years before but have been haunted ever since by what they saw in the war.

Outside of Smith's writing, it is common in twentieth-century Gaelic stories for there to be a main character who leaves the Gaidhealtachd either by choice or, more commonly, under duress. This character travels to Africa, Australia, New Zealand or Canada and has a variety of adventures (most of which take place off-stage), and then returns to the Gaidhealtachd, affected but not broken by the wide world. The idea of the 'turas dhachaigh' (journey home) is therefore of central importance in the fiction, most especially in the first half of the century, and then on a recurring basis throughout. We see it often in Smith's Gaelic work, both earnestly and also ironically, where he demonstrates an element of self-awareness on behalf of the Gaelic literary community. Smith's tendency to do this, skirting at times the edges of lampooning aspects of Gaelic culture, was perhaps not always entirely welcome, although evidently not as challenging or subversive as the ways in which his elder peer Sorley Maclean revolutionised Gaelic literature. (4)

In 1999, Ronald Black furnished us with a resource of immense importance when his anthology of 20th century Gaelic poetry was published. An Tuil is a vast volume, and its introductory essay, by Black, is appropriately substantial. One of the tasks Black takes on in the introduction is a comparison between what he calls the 'tradition' and what he calls 'innovative' poetry. His comparison includes a tabular representation of the contrasting features he sees in the work of these two groups of poets. In Black's schema, he suggests that features of the modern poetry include: 'free verse', the distinction of being a 'written' poetry rather than a 'sung' verse, and 'some artistic snobbery'. There are some useful things that we could say about all of these points in a more extensive article, and the table itself should prove to be a fascinating starting point for a larger-scale investigation into the comparative features of these different styles of poetry, but here we can note just a couple of things in the context of Smith. For instance, Black's observation that the 'innovative' poets exhibit 'some artistic snobbery' is an intriguing one when we look at Iain Crichton Smith's writing. In both languages, Smith demonstrates considerable sensitivity towards this issue and towards the general matter of intellectual elitism. We see some intriguing contrasts related to this in a number of poems, such as 'An Fheadhainn Gun Thalant', which appeared in Nu h-Eilthirich in 1983. The poem opens 'Ciamar as urrainn dhaibh a bhith beo /an fheadh-ainn gun thalant', 'How can they live / those ones with no talent' (for all references to the poems, see Watson 2013). At first, we might fear that this is going to be an insufferably arrogant poem. But, with Smith, we should generally suspect that there will be a twist and, of course, there is. At first, he paints a number of little vignettes of what life could be like for people who are not gifted with talents. The poem hints that these are, specifically, artistic talents, as we see in the lines 'Dh'fhaodainn a bhith ainmeil / le guitar fllUranach', 'I could be famous / with a flowery guitar'. The following line invites us to question any assumptions we have made up to here, however. It carries on, 'le lamhan mealltach'. This is a fascinating phrase, that seems simple on the surface but positively buzzes with nuances. We can take it to mean 'with alluring hands', suggesting maybe that the hands are crafty and clever. But 'mealltach' most commonly means something like 'deceiving', 'deceptive' or 'deceitful'. The poem goes on to contrast these 'lamhan mealltach' with the achievements of the ones with no talent: they built the pyramids, cut the gemstones, and painted the castles on windy days. In other words, their lack of talent should not be equated with an inability to achieve the greatest of things. There is also the hint that the credit for the great achievements does not necessarily go to the people who carried them out.

The word 'talant' appears in two other Gaelic poems by Smith, the very short 'Oran Foghair', which appeared in Biobuill is Sanasan-Reice in 1965, and 'Cha leig mi mo shoraidh leat a shaoghail', which appeared in Gairm magazine in 1966. 'Oran Foghair' affords us an interesting point of comparison with the famous Sorley MacLean poem 'An Roghainn' (see Whyte and Dymock 2011, p. 125). In that poem, MacLean describes walking along beside his reason ('tuigse'), receiving some shocking news from 'her' and reacting to that news with despair. In Smith's poem, on the other hand, 'Oran Foghair', it is not his reason but his talent that walks along beside him, covering street after street. Smith and his talent seem to have a much more laid-back relationship than MacLean and his reason. They seem, to some extent, just to be spending time together, wandering the streets, taking in the sights. Given these points of self-awareness, it is difficult to attribute 'artistic snobbery' to Smith, considering how clear it is that he was uneasy about the whole issue of artistic talent and writing.

Something Black does not list in the schema in An Tuil, but goes on to discuss later in the Introduction, is the way the innovative poets reacted to the religion of their first environment. In that discussion, he borrows some words from Meg Bateman, who wrote:
   It became a characteristic innovative trend to point out that
   Calvinism is an alien aberration in Gaelic culture, to the extent
   that [...] rejection of established religion [...] became
   'almost... an orthodoxy amongst Gaelic literati'. (Black 1999, p.

This is a point we can interrogate with some interest when it comes to Smith, a writer perhaps most famous for his novel Consider the Lilies (1968), which looks askance at the actions of its fictional Calvinist minister and elder characters. Since his Gaelic writing appears largely to ground itself somewhat more commonly in his Gaidhealtachd origin place, might we expect to see more of these harsh portrayals of Calvinism or established religion in the Gaelic work than in the English? I argued in the introduction to Smith's collected Gaelic poems that there is, in fact, a good deal less of that sort of thing than we might expect, given the reputation he had as an innovating poet and in light of Meg Bateman's comment just quoted (Watson 2012). Since I have already made the point elsewhere in relation to poetry, we might ask the same question here of the prose fiction. Smith wrote four short novels for adults. In two of them, Murchadh (1979-80) and Na Speuclairean Dubha (1989), religion does not play any major role. In An t-Aonaran (1976), religion is more overtly present, but even there it could not be said to be important, either positively or negatively. The main character is an atheist, who is relatively comfortable in his atheism but also seems to suffer from a metaphysical angst that could conceivably be attributed partly to his lack of religion. The local minister appears briefly as a minor character, admitting that he is suffering a crisis of faith. However, the point of this scene is not to explore the issue of religious faith, but rather to gesture once more to the importance of faith or ideology as a grounding mechanism in one's personal identity. The minister's crisis of faith is juxtaposed with the main protagonist's own crisis of self-belief. What both the atheist main character and the minister minor character lack in An t-Aonaran is the ability to communicate effectively with those around them: a lack that the book hints might be related to their education but not to their personal religious standpoints.

A more overt exploration of the notions of faith and religious dogma occurs in the short novel Am Miseanaraidh (2005), which, perhaps significantly, was published posthumously, having been written many years prior to Smith's death. There is a clear parallel between the minister in Am Miseanaraidh and his colleague in An t-Aonaran, in that both of them are suffering from a crisis that impacts on their ability to articulate themselves. Again, though, in Am Miseanaraidh, the main character Domhnall Dubh's crisis is not so much a crisis of faith as it is a crisis of control. Like many characters in Smith's writing, Domhnall Dubh hides behind his role, defining his identity by the trappings of his station. His clothes and collar symbolise his perception of himself. In the opening part of the novel, we learn that his affliction is the result of his inability to control the people around him, despite all efforts. When he gives up on them and moves to Africa, his attitude is the same: he wants to impose control, both on the environment and on the people of the community. I wrote once that 'the portrayal of religion' in Am Miseanaraidh 'is not altogether positive', and I followed this up by suggesting that Domhnall Dubh's faith repeatedly lets him down (Watson 2011, p. 168). It is important to point out, though, that this goes beyond any sense of religious faith: it is very much an existential crisis that vexes Domhnall Dubh in the novel. He is obsessed with symbols and categorisation, and it is his inflexible nature that ultimately causes him to break under the pressure of his situation.

The Smith story most closely related to Am Miseanaraidh appeared in the book Dubh is An Gorm, the same collection that featured 'Abraham is Isaac'. The story in question is 'A' Bhan-Shoisgeulaiche'. What I suggest about 'A' Bhan-Shoisgeulaiche' is that it might be fruitful to study it with a post-colonial theoretical approach. Although, like Am Miseanaraidh, it is, on the surface, a story about converting people in Africa to Christianity, that is not really the point of 'A' Bhan-Shoisgeulaiche' at all. In the first place, the story is about imperialism and power relationships. Equally important is again the failure of communication, which is one of the pivotal recurring themes in Smith's writing. Only through dramatic irony does the reader begin to realise that the failure of communication is the main theme of the story. Dramatic irony is itself a much-favoured technique of Smith's. The entire story 'Abraham is Isaac' depends on the device for its impact.

I have mentioned 'Abraham is Isaac' more than once already in this article, so it would be appropriate to engage with it further at this stage. As soon as we read the title, we are immediately reminded of the Bible story. And, of course, we may also be reminded of the Kierkegaard version of the story. The Smith version is in dialogue with both of these earlier versions. On the surface, it might well appear that 'Abraham is Isaac' is anti-Christian, but that is an oversimplification of what is going on in the story. 'Abraham is Isaac' is substantially longer than the Bible story, and Smith uses that additional length to explore the events it depicts from a human perspective. He adds significantly more detail, and especially detail in the form of thoughts and emotion. However, Smith also removes things that do appear in the Bible story. By removing the voice of God, and the angel who intervenes at the end of the story to save Isaac, Smith invites us to consider the difference between knowledge and faith and the complexity of human reactions to the differences. Again, though, one of the major themes of the story is failure of communication. Throughout the story, the only 'speech' is Abraham's internal monologues. He keeps wondering what the other characters are thinking or what they will say about this or that, but he never actually asks them.

The story 'An Rionnag' appeared in the 1973 collection An t-Adhar Ameireaganach. 'An Rionnag', 'the star', is a story about aliens from outer space organising some kind of invasion of the Earth. The Nativity story takes place within the narrative, but from the aliens1 perspective, and we realise that this is part of their mission in the universe. They derive enjoyment and at the same time exercise control over lesser intelligent species by furnishing them with what the stoiy calls 'faoinsgeul bhoidheach', 'beautiful myths'. In the story, the commander betrays his lieutenant BELSABAB and rigs the spacecraft to blow up spectacularly. On the Earth below, the shepherds look up and see this huge explosion and this becomes part of the story. Later, we see some of the aliens speeding in their ship, the Judas Z, towards a planet they have decided to destroy because its people are too wicked. They attribute their actions to the will of God. The final scene of the story shows the Ard-riaghladair, or high ruler, having fun at the expense of all the peoples of the universe, literally sitting pulling strings and calling to mind King Lear's famous line 'As flies to wanton boys are we to the gods, they kill us for their sport'.

Considerably more mundane, but none the less interesting for it, is 'An Duine Dubh Anns a Chubainn', which was one of only four stories to appear in Smith's 1970 collection Maighisteirean is Ministeirean. From the title, we know that the story involves a minister who happens to be a black man. The minister himself never actually takes part in events. Instead, the story's focus is on a conversation between two members of the congregation, one Cairstiona and a Mairi, both of whom we can deduce to be relatively elderly. Cairstiona can no longer attend the church service due to health problems, but her friend Mairi always visits her afterwards to report back on how the services went. On this particular day, Mairi is astonished that the new minister is a black man. The two women talk at cross purposes about the sermon, with Cairstiona trying to find out what the minister had to say and about his delivery, while Mairi finds it impossible to talk about anything other than the colour of his skin. Mairi first decides the minister was like an ape and then changes her mind and decides he was like the devil, before deciding he was more like a monkey. Meanwhile, the reader has privileged access to Cairstiona's thoughts as she lets Mairi's complaints wash over her. Cairstiona, we learn, spends her days bored and in pain. While she, too, finds the appointment of a black minister something of a surprise, she decides that this is just God's way of providing the two old women with something to talk about:
   Thug Dia dhuinn a mhac, 's am ministear dubh a chionn's gum biodh
   rudeigin againn air am bruidhneadh sinn gus nach basaicheadh sinn
   leis an sgios. (74)

   (God gave us his son, and the black minister so that we would have
   something to talk about and not die with boredom.)

Smith is evidently using the fragmented conversation of the two old women to create entertainment and it would be easy to interpret this story as critical of or negative about religion or Christianity or at least community-based religious dogma. It might make more sense, however, to see it as a story about the ignoble way people, any people, can react to unexpected and unwelcome change in their lives. The fact that the story is about a minister and members of a congregation is much less crucial here than the fact that it is a story about two people who are struggling to adapt and reacting in unpleasant ways as a manifestation of that struggle.

In this article, I have discussed some of the features of Iain Crichton Smith's Gaelic writing and have attempted to isolate those features which differ in some way or another from his English writing. On the one hand, this serves to illustrate further the point I made in Watson 2016 that Smith effectively had two literary identities; on the other hand, it affords us an opportunity to begin to consider the significance of the differences. Being productive in more than one language is not unique and, in many societies in the world, it is even perfectly ordinary. However, in the Gaelic world in the twentieth century, it was still unusual, despite the fact that Gaeldom became an entirely bilingual society during that time. In Watson 2016, I discuss Smith's (English) poem in which he views the choice of language from the perspective of other writers who are bilingual ('For Poets Writing in English over in Ireland', Smith 1985, pp. 116-17). In that poem, he makes it clear that he feels that there was a choice to make, between English and Gaelic, and that he himself somehow avoided the choice, where other writers more confidently opted for one language or the other. Once again, that poem takes us 'towards the human' perspective in terms of the choice; however, it does not give us much insight into the precise nature of the choice. If we adopt the point of view that each language exists as part of a distinct culture, and that that culture manifests itself in some ways within the literature of the language, then we must expect the writing to exhibit notably distinct features even within the oeuvre of a single writer. What the current investigation has shown is that that is indeed the case, and that even where there is an element of overlap, or else what we could describe as cross-fertilisation or hybridisation, there are still marked differences in the ways that the specific features are handled and deployed. Identifying this gives us the opportunity to go on and study in greater depth in future the features we can attribute to Gaelicness, and we can do this with more confidence having extracted the knowledge from the study of a bilingual writer.

University of Aberdeen


Black, Ronald (1999). An Tuil. Edinburgh: Birlinn.

Mac a' Ghobhainn, Iain [referred to throughout the article by his English name, Iain Crichton Smith] (1960). 'Burn' in Burn is Aran. Glasgow: Gairm.

Mac a' Ghobhainn, Iain (1960). Burn is Aran. Glasgow: Gairm.

Mac a' Ghobhainn, Iain (1962/63). 'Kierkegaard'. Gairm 11: pp. 103-08.

Mac a' Ghobhainn, Iain (1963). An Dubh is An Gorm. Glasgow: Clo Chailleann.

Mac a' Ghobhainn, Iain (1965). Biobuill is Sanasan-reice. Glasgow: Gairm.

Mac a' Ghobhainn, Iain (1970). Iain a-measg nan Reultan. Glasgow: Gairm.

Mac a' Ghobhainn, Iain (1970). 'Maighstir Trill' in Maighisteirean is Ministeirean. Inverness: Club Leabhar.

Mac a' Ghobhainn, Iain (1970). Maighisteirean is Ministeirean. Inverness: Club Leabhar.

Mac a' Ghobhainn, Iain (1973). An t-Adhar Ameireaganach is sgeulachdan eile. Inverness: Club Leabhar Ltd.

Mac a' Ghobhainn, Iain (1976). An t-Aonaran. Glasgow: Department of Celtic, Glasgow University.

Mac a' Ghobhainn, Iain (1983). 'Sniffy'. The Scotsman 22.10.83.

Mac a' Ghobhainn, Iain (1983). Na h-Eilthirich. Glasgow: Department of Celtic, Glasgow University.

Mac a' Ghobhainn, Iain (1989). Na Speuclairean Dubha. Glasgow: Gairm.

Mac a' Ghobhainn, Iain (2005). Am Miseanaraidh. Inverness: CLAR.

Macleod, Michelle (2016). 'The closed room: expressions of existentialism and absurdity in Gaelic drama.' International Journal of Scottish Theatre and Screen. Vol. 9, pp. 89-112.

Smith, Iain Crichton (1968). Consider the Lilies. London: Victor Gollancz Ltd.

Smith, Iain Crichton (1985). Selected Poems. Manchester: Carcanet.

Smith, Iain Crichton (1986a). Towards the Human. Edinburgh: Saltire Society.

Smith, Iain Crichton (1986b). A Life. Manchester: Carcanet.

Smith, Iain Crichton (1989). 'The Double Man' in Draper (ed.), The Literature of Region and Nation, Basingstoke: Macmillan.

Watson, Moray. (2011). An Introduction to Gaelic Fiction. Edinburgh: EUP.

Watson, Moray (ed.)(2013). Iain Mac a'Ghobhainn: A 'Bhardachd Ghaidhlig. Stornoway: Acair.

Watson, Moray (2016). 'The Gaelic Writer, Iain Crichton Smith ...', in Rannsachadh na Gaidhlig 8, ed. by Wilson McLeod, Anja Gunderloch and Rob Dunbar, Edinburgh: Dunedin Academic Press: pp. 135-156.

Watson, Moray (forthcoming a). 'After the Trill Has Gone'. In Education Out: the Literature of these Islands, ed. by M. Watson and M. Macleod. Aberdeen: Aberdeen University Press.

Watson, Moray (forthcoming b). 'Mar a Leughar Litreachas na Gaidhlig'. In Education Out: the Literature of these Islands, ed. by M. Watson and M. Macleod. Aberdeen: Aberdeen University Press.

Whyte, Christopher and Dymock, Emma (eds.) (2011). Caoir Gheal Leumraich, Sorley MacLean, Somhairle MacGill-Eain: Collected poems. Edinburgh: Polygon.

Wilson, Grant F. (1990). A Bibliography of Iain Crichton Smith. Aberdeen: Aberdeen University Press.


(1) Among the pieces listed as essays, 'Ciamar a tha e beo?' from Gairm 125 (Geamhradh 1983-84) is, in fact, a short story. Another piece, a travel writing memoire in Gairm 51 (Samhradh 1965), was written by another prolific Iain (A.) Mac a' Ghobhainn.

(2) See Watson 2013, p. 23, for a further discussion of this. For instance, on p. 28 in the slim volume, A Life (Smith 1986b), he references the song 'Careless Love', several versions of which were popular in the 1950s, and the blues standard 'Irene, Goodnight'. An exception to this different usage is 'Auld Lang Syne', which is referenced a number of times in his work.

(3) Among others, see 'An Deidh an Dealbh Dunkirk Fhaicinn' (Watson 2013, p. 42), '1941-42'(p. 72), 'Bhaan reidioanns a' chornair le cUirtear oirre' (p. 215).

(4) Smith himself commented on this more than once, and did so at length in his contribution to the first Literature of Region and Nation volume, in which he wrote: 'We are here involved in the question of available audiences. For a Gaelic poet the audiences are as follows: first of all, those who read Gaelic in the Gaelic area; secondly, universities where there are Gaelic departments with scholars who can place such a poet in the Gaelic tradition; thirdly, intellectuals who speak English only and who achieve access through translations. For an avant garde poet such as Sorley Maclean, and one who was extending the limits of Gaelic poetry both thematically and formally, his audience is on the whole reduced to two types, the university one and the English-speaking one. Thus he is in a peculiar position--as I, too, am, as far as my Gaelic work is concerned--in that those who study him are the intellectuals outside the Gaelic area, some speaking Gaelic and some not. There is one other audience that I should perhaps have mentioned, and that is the city-based people who have, usually for economic reasons, exiled themselves from the Highlands. [...] Such people will not welcome avant garde poetry.' (Smith 1989, p. 137)
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Author:Watson, Moray
Publication:Scottish Language
Date:Jan 1, 2018
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