Alasdair Gray

Alasdair Gray

Infobox Writer
name = Alasdair Gray
birthdate = Birth date and age|1934|12|28|df=y
birthplace = Glasgow, Scotland
birthname = Alasdair Gray
deathdate =
deathplace =
occupation = Novelist, artist, playwright, academic, teacher, poet
genre = Science fiction, dystopianism, surrealism, realism
movement = Post-modernism
notableworks =
1982, Janine
Poor Things
The Book of Prefaces
influences =
influenced = Anthony Burgess, Iain Banks, Will Self, AL Kennedy

Alasdair Gray (born 28 December 1934) is a Scottish writer and artist. His most acclaimed work is his first novel "Lanark", published in 1981 and written over a period of almost 30 years. It is now regarded as a classic, and was described by "The Guardian" as "one of the landmarks of 20th-century fiction." [ [,,-209,00.html Gray, Alasdair | Authors | Guardian Unlimited Books ] ] His novel "Poor Things" (1992) won the Whitbread Novel Award [ [ National Library of Scotland] ] and the Guardian Fiction Prize. [ [ Guardian Fiction Prize ] ]

Gray's works combine elements of realism, fantasy, and science fiction, plus clever use of typography and his own illustrations. He has also written on politics, in support of socialism and Scottish independence, and on the history of English literature. He has been described by author Will Self as "a creative polymath with an integrated politico-philosophic vision" [Moores ed. "Alasdair Gray: Critical Appreciations and a Bibliography" (2001) p. 4.] and as "a great writer, perhaps the greatest living in this archipelago today" [ [ » Blog Archive » Alisdair Gray: An Introduction ] ] , and by himself as "a fat, spectacled, balding, increasingly old Glasgow pedestrian". [Gray, "The Ends of Our Tethers", Dustjacket (recto).]


Gray was born in Riddrie, east Glasgow. His father had been wounded in the First World War and worked at the time in a factory, while his mother worked in a shop. During the Second World War, Gray was evacuated to Perthshire and then Lanarkshire, experiences which he drew on in his later fiction. The family lived on a council estate, and Gray received his education from a combination of state education, public libraries, and public service broadcasting: "the kind of education British governments now consider useless, especially for British working class children", as he later commented. He studied at Glasgow School of Art from 1952 to 1957, and taught there from 1958 to 1962. It was as a student that he first began what would become the novel "Lanark".

After his graduation, Gray worked as a scene and portrait painter, as well as an independent artist and writer. His first plays were broadcast on radio and television in 1968. Between 1972 and 1974, he participated in a writing group organised by Philip Hobsbaum, where he met James Kelman, Liz Lochhead, and Tom Leonard. From 1977 to 1979, he was Writer in Residence at Glasgow University. In 2001, he became, with Tom Leonard and James Kelman, joint Professor of the Creative Writing programme at Glasgow and Strathclyde Universities.

Gray illustrates his books himself, and has produced many murals as well as paintings. One of his longest-lasting murals can be seen, for free, in the Ubiquitous Chip restaurant in the West End of Glasgow.

In 2001, he stood as the candidate of the Glasgow University Scottish Nationalist Association for the post of Rector of the University of Glasgow, but was eventually narrowly defeated by Greg Hemphill.

He has been married twice: firstly to Inge Sorenson (1961-1970), and since 1991 to Morag McAlpine. He has one son, Andrew, born in 1964. He still lives in the West End of Glasgow.

He produced the ceiling mural for The Auditorium of the Oran Mor on Byres Road in Glasgow, one of the largest pieces of art in Scotland.

Gray's famous quote, "Work as if you live in the early days of a better nation", is engraved in the Canongate Wall of the Scottish Parliament building. His name was infamously misspelled as 'Alastair' on the attribution.


*"Work as if you live in the early days of a better nation." (Various works.)
*"It is plain that the vaster the social unit, the less possible is true democracy." Lanark, p.289
*"Who did the council fight?":"It split in two and fought itself.":"That's suicide!":"No, ordinary behaviour. The efficient half eats the less efficient half and grows stronger. War is just a violent way of doing what half the people do calmly in peacetime: using the other half for food, heat, machinery and sexual pleasure. Man is the pie that bakes and eats himself, and the recipe is separation.":"I refuse to believe men kill each other just to make their enemies rich.":"How can men recognize their real enemies when their family, schools and work teach them to struggle with each other and to believe law and decency come from the teachers?":"My son won't be taught that," said Lanark firmly.:"You have a son?":"Not yet." Lanark, p.411

Literary works


*"Lanark" (1981)
*"1982, Janine" (1984)
*"" (1985)
*"Something Leather" (1990)
*"McGrotty and Ludmilla" (1990)
*"Poor Things" (1992)
*"A History Maker" (1994)
*"Mavis Belfrage" (1996)
*"Old Men In Love" (2007)

hort stories

*"Lean Tales" (1985) (with James Kelman and Agnes Owens)
*"Unlikely Stories, Mostly" (1983)
*"Ten Tales Tall & True" (1993)
*"Mavis Belfrage" (1996)
*"" (2003)


*"Old Negatives" (1989)
*"Sixteen Occasional Poems" (2000)


*"Why Scots Should Rule Scotland " (1992; revised 1997)
*"The Book of Prefaces" (ed.) (2000)
*"" (2001; includes contributions by Gray himself.)
*"How We Should Rule Ourselves (2005)

Dramatic works (incomplete)


*"Dialogue - A Duet (1971)"
*"The Loss Of The Golden Silence (1973)"
*"Homeward Bound - A Trio for Female Chauvinists (1973)"
*"Sam Lang and Miss Watson - A One Act Sexual Comedy In Four Scenes (1973)"
*"McGrotty and Ludmilla" (1986)
*"Working Legs: A Play for Those Without Them" (1997)
*"Goodbye Jimmy" (2006)


*"Dialogue - A Duet (1972)"

* "Today and Yesterday"

*"Martin (Play)"


*"Dialogue - A Duet (1969)"

*"The Loss Of The Golden Silence (1973)"


External links

* [ Official website]


*Bernard Sellin (coord.), "Voices from Modern Scotland: Janice Galloway, Alasdair Gray", CRINI (Centre de Recherche sur les Identités Nationales et l'Interculturalité), Nantes, 2007, 143 p., ISBN 2-916424-10-5.

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