Alasdair Gray


Book, 19.6 x 12.8 cm, 573 p., language : English, publisher : Canongate Books Ltd, Edinburgh (First published 1981), ISBN : 978-1-84195-907-8.
Materials: Ink, paper

Collection: Collection M HKA, Antwerp (Inv. no. B 2027/33).

Literary synopsis

The outline of the story is less complicated than the eccentric organization of the novel’s component parts might suggest. Chapters 1 through 11, identified as book 3 in the table of contents, follow the adventures of the eponymous hero from the moment of his birth or rebirth in a railway car to the point at which, cured of a mysterious disease, he is told, in chapters 12 through 30 (books 1 and 2), the story of his alter ego, or previous self, Duncan Thaw. Lanark’s story, a quest journey filled with archetypes and symbolic figures and scenes, is picked up again in the final third of the book, where it is at one point interrupted by an epilogue, also identified as a prologue, which provides among other things an index to the multiple plagiarisms embedded in the text. What seems at first to be merely a superficial manipulation of the reader’s attention comes to make sense in the emotional rhythm of the fictive pattern and for the most part adds to the impact of the book.

Relation of the novel to the artist’s practice

"When I felt able to start writing it at the age of nineteen I was in my second year at art school, and knew that the first parts (now Books 1 and 2) would be a portrait of a Glasgow artist as a young man: that this artist would fail in everything, go mad, commit murder and suicide. I intended the story to contain the epic descent to Avernus, with a heavenly glimpse at the end, as an interior tale told to Thaw by a queer stranger at a drunken party - only when the readers finished Thaw's last chapter would then recognize that this mad narrative would now be the future of Thaw after death. In later years, however, the after life world of Unthank/the Institute/Provan became so bulky that I decided it should enclose the Thaw narrative instead of vice versa. All that I originally intended to have in Lanark, is in it, but also much more that I gathered during and between writing."

-Alasdair Gray

Novel's website

Authorship: Artist Author.

Creative Strategy: No Link to Artworks.

Genre: Adventures, Epic.

Publishing: Publishing House.

Theme: Art, Death, Ghosts, Scottish Culture, War.

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