Published: 01/08/2014 12:56 - Updated: 01/08/2014 16:00

Why Sebastian Barry is brilliant for bookfest

Sebastian Barry. Picture: Irish Times
Sebastian Barry. Picture: Irish Times


See clips of Sebastian reading and talking about his books below

THERE are many reasons why Inverness Book Festival director Robert Davidson is excited to have Irish writer Sebastian Barry as one of the events’s guests later this month.

Robert said: "By all accounts he is a wonderful speaker who, this year in Inverness will be met by a wonderful interviewer in the distinguished journalist Jackie McGlone!"

But for anyone who doesn’t already know that Sebastian has topped the list of must-see authors to see live, Robert also highlights how good a writer he is – with award-winning novels tackling big subjects, as well as plays and poetry in his back catalogue.

Robert explained why Sebastian was on his "must-get" list of writers to bring to Inverness Book Festival which returns on August 19.

"I wanted to advance Inverness Book Festival and widen its scope," he explained.

"It has been my thinking for some time that we would wish to present a major international, English language author, who is not Scottish, to speak to and meet the highly-literate and informed reading public which undoubtedly exists within our catchment.

"To ignore this challenge is to risk confirming our location as a backwater!"

The reputation of writer Sebastian Barry made him a perfect choice for the book festival.

Robert said: "Sebastian Barry fits the bill handsomely and I am grateful to both him and his publisher Faber and Faber for their belief and support.

"Sebastian is one of the most significant novelists working in these islands. In addition to this he is an accomplished playwright and poet. That said, it is as a novelist that he is best known outside of Ireland.

"It is Ireland, indeed, that is his main subject, but this allows for his subject to also be ours in that our fate is shared whether we identify ourselves as Scottish, British, Irish, Anglo-Irish, Scots Irish (Scotch Irish in America), Welsh, or whatever.

"His novel A Long, Long Way treats Irish participation in the First World War while – eventually successful – rebellion went on at home. And it also tackles divided loyalties and the destiny of division in the life of the individual.

"The Secret Scripture of 2008 is probably his best-known and most loved book.

"It’s the story of a hundred-year-old woman who has been incarcerated in a mental hospital for 50 years after having a baby out of wedlock and her baby ‘disappeared’ in the Ireland of the 1920s.

"It speaks of dependency and love and the passage of time, and is lyrical, tender, intelligent and shocking as well as intensely relevant in the world of today.

"His most recent novel is The Temporary Gentleman, published just this year, which returns to the subject of war and loyalty.

"In The Guardian, Claire Kilroy wrote that ‘Barry is drawn to complicated subjects. He has not shied away from illuminating the ugly side of Irish nationalism, the hypocrisy of religious divides – but is there anything more complex than a family? And is there anything more impossible to pin down?’

"Sebastian Barry’s fiction has won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, The Costa Book of the Year, the Cezam Prix Litteraire Inter CE, and twice shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize."

Robert also revealed his continuing mission to raise the profile of the festival – and fight for the reputation of the readership in the Highlands.

He said: "Over the years, successive directors of the festival have done well to bring big names, such as Roy Hattersley last year.

"But a question remains in many whom I will reluctantly label ‘Establishment’ on whether our area is inhabited by a knowledgeable and sophisticated reading public.

"I am in no doubt that this is the case!

"Assuming a great festival experience for us all, which I do, my belief is that I – or my successor – can build on success to make Inverness Book Festival a still more attractive and significant event."

Full details about Inverness Book Festival are on the website:


1 Sebastian reads from his novel On Canaan's Side and 2 below: a short film made when he won The 2008 Costa Book Of The Year award with The Secret Scripture:

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