Light in the North Welcomes You
Celebrating the life and writing
of Neil M. Gunn
Light in the North
Welcome to the second year of our online 'Light in the North,' which is a celebration of the life and work of one of Scotland's most distinguished writers, Neil Miller Gunn (8th November 1891 - 15th January 1973).
These pages have been created to encourage conversations about him and further reading of his work . Neil M. Gunn was a prolific novelist, critic and dramatist, who emerged as one of the leading lights of the Scottish Literary Renaissance of the 1920s and 1930s. In 1937 he was awarded the prestigious James Tait Black Memorial Prize' for fiction.
Gunn's nephew, Dairmid Gunn, has described Neil Gunn's novels as 'reflecting his constant philosophical quests that invariably depict two worlds – the world of here and now and the world in which the meaning of life and the essence of living are explored'. With over 20 novels to his credit Gunn was arguably the most influential Scottish fiction writer of the 20th century.
This year we have chosen Gunn's 1948 novel, 'The Shadow'. A young Scottish woman, Nan, who has lived through the horrors of the Blitz in London in the Second World War and been seriously depressed by the spiritual bankruptcy of her Marxist lover and his party acquaintances, returns to her native Highlands and the loving care of a gentle and understanding aunt to overcome what can only be described as a nervous breakdown. Her tentative recovery is adversely affected by a local murder and the imagined sinister presence of a dark wood surrounding her aunt's house Her slow recovery is handled with delicacy and empathy by the author.
We have an exciting and diverse line up of contributors this year, that we hope will contextualise The Shadow and other work by Neil Gunn. Dairmid Gunn brings his personal insights about his uncle, The Shadow and the inspiration of Braefarmhouse near Dingwall for the novel's setting. Tom Hubbard offers us an exciting Anthology of Observations and Aphorisms from Neil Gunn’s writing. Kirsty Gunn reflects on the letters that Nan writes to her lover and the "inscape" of that character which is also true for the novel itself. John Burns writes about Neil Gunn’s later life interest in Zen Buddhism and how elements of it are revealed even in the early work. We also include an extract from Peter Davidson’s book ‘The Last of the Light About Twilight ‘ which beautifully transports us to the shadows and timelessness of a walled Spanish garden. We have two very different visual artists:. Scottish painter Ian Scott shows his iconic painting Neil Gunn contemplates inside his Caithness writers retreat. Alexandra Mureșan is a leading glass artist from Romania and has taken inspiration in her work from the Scottish Highlands with glass pieces that evoke duality and the play of light.
The novel is set in the period of the London Blitz and so we have included photographs from the Imperial War Museum that vividly evoke the confusion and horror of that time. Professor Edgar Jones writes about the psychological effects that the bombings had on the civilian population. Post war trauma and the dysfunction of the modern world is a theme that threads through many of Gunn’s novels, and is especially relevant in The Shadow. In addition, we are delighted to introduce Wordpath and Meaghan Delahunt who asks “ Have you ever thought about writing?” She has created three writing prompts for Light in the North and we hope that you may be inspired to make your own creative response.
Finally we have included information on Woodland Trust Scotland who do amazing work in rewilding and protecting the woods of the Highlands. The woods in The Shadow are a continued presence throughout the book and are based on Dingwall Woods ( now privately owned) near to Braefarmhouse.
There is also information about the Couldoran appeal from Woodland Trust Scotland and links to take you to their pages.
Light in the North is a not-for-profit organisation, and we hope you enjoy visiting this site and please feel free to leave comments for us on our Facebook page.
Merran Gunn ( Programme Coordinator)
photo credit: courtesy of Dairmid Gunn
Ian Charles Scott is an artist
from Caithness, Scotland who
lives and teaches painting in
New York. He has won many
prestigious awards and his
paintings can be found in the
Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Aberdeen Art Gallery, Dundee Art Gallery, Royal Scottish Academy,
Koyo Institute and Dublin Art
Gallery, among others.
Alexandra Muresan is a glass artist from Romania and a lecturer at the Ceramic and Glass Department within the University of Art and Design, Cluj-Napoca, Romania. She is the recipient of several awards and her pieces have been exhibited in Cluj, Bistrița, Bucharest, Warsaw, Berlin, Lybster, Bornholm, Prague, Plzen, Bergen and Rome.
Peter Davidson is an author,
scholar, editor and translator.
He is a Fellow of the Society
of Antiquaries of London and
taught literature and art history
at the University of Aberdeen.
He is currently Senior Research
Fellow in Renaissance and
Baroque Studies and Curator
of the Campion Hall Collection,
University of Oxford.