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Poetry, fiction, non-fiction feature in the 12 books included on the longlist for the Highland Book Prize

By Margaret Chrystall

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The Highland Society of London and Moniack Mhor Writers’ Centre have announced the longlist for the 2021 Highland Book Prize.

The Highland Book Prize celebrates the finest work that comes from, or is inspired by, the Scottish Highlands. Presented by the Highland Society of London, and facilitated by Moniack Mhor Writers’ Centre, the prize seeks to recognise the rich talent, landscape, and cultural diversity of Scotland’s Highlands and Islands.

The Highland Book Prize longlist.
The Highland Book Prize longlist.

Twelve titles have been selected from more than 70 submissions for this literary award, and include environmental non-fiction, auto-fiction, an exploration of Highland slave history, Gaelic fiction and poetry, and Shetlandic poetry.

Many of the submissions engaged with Highland culture, heritage, or landscape. Submissions were also invited from authors, writing on any subject, who were born or brought up in the Highlands or had settled in the area as their home. Each title was reviewed and scored multiple times by a volunteer panel of 180 readers from around the world.

The 2021 longlisted titles are:

An Seachdamh Tonn | The Seventh Wave, Sandaidh NicDhòmhnaill Jones (Gaelic poetry, Acair)

Ben Dorain: a Conversation with a Mountain, Garry MacKenzie (Poetry, The Irish Pages Press/Cló An Mhíl Bhuí)

Borges and Me: An Encounter, Jay Parini (Autofiction, Canongate)

Deep Wheel Orcadia, Harry Josephine Giles (Poetry, Picador)

Hiort, Iain F Macleod (Gaelic fiction, CLÀR)

In a Veil of Mist, Donald S Murray (Fiction, Saraband)

Islands Of Abandonment: Life In The Post-Human Landscape, Cal Flyn (Non-fiction, William Collins)

Of Stone and Sky, Merryn Glover (Fiction, Birlinn)

Regeneration: The Rescue of a Wild Land, Andrew Painting (Non-fiction, Birlinn)

Slaves And Highlanders: Silenced Histories of Scotland and the Caribbean, David Alston (Non-fiction, Edinburgh University Press)

The Stone Age, Jen Hadfield (Poetry, Picador)

VEEVE, Christine De Luca (Poetry, Mariscat Press).

Each title on the list will now be considered by the judging panel, who will announce the shortlist in March 2022. The winning title will be awarded in May 2022.

Alex Ogilvie is chairman of the panel from previous years. He is joined this year by judges Jenny Niven, freelance producer and director, and chair of Literature Alliance Scotland; Kapka Kassabova, poet and writer of fiction and narrative non-fiction whose book Border (Granta) won the 2017 Highland Book Prize; and Mark Wringe, senior lecturer in Gaelic language and culture at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, University of the Highlands and Islands. Mark will be joined by a shadow Gaelic judge, to be announced soon.

Alex Ogilvie, Highland Society of London trustee, said: “We are delighted to support the 2021 Highland Book Prize and excited by the depth and diversity of this year’s longlist.

“Already celebrating its fifth anniversary, the Highland Book Prize goes from strength to strength in terms of the quality of the longlist title.

“And also in the engagement by authors, publishers, bookshops, and the reading public.”

Jenny Niven said: “It’s always a pleasure to be part of this process as it reveals each time the range and ambition of work being produced.

“I’m very much looking forward to getting under the skin of this fabulous set of books.

“It’s great to see a range – of publishers, from small Scottish presses to the larger international publishing house –and languages, with Gaelic, Shetlandic, and Orcadian titles alongside English.”

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