2021 Preview: Literary Fiction, Literary History, Poetry Highlights

  14 Jan '21   |  Posted by: Birlinn

Our programme of publishing for 2021 is full of remarkable books that will take you all over the world, propel you back and forward in time, bring you close to fascinating people and offer an escape hatch for when it’s all too much.

In the first spotlight preview of our 2021 list, here’s a rundown of the treats our Polygon imprint has in store in literary fiction, literary history and poetry. We have literary biography from Walter Scott to James Baldwin; we’re marking important literary anniversaries; and we’re publishing some very exciting new fiction.

  • January 1st 2021 saw the expiration of the copyright of George Orwell’s literary works. Chief among them, his dystopian novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four (or 1984, if you prefer) was first published in June 1949. We have two new Orwellian books: the UK edition of Dennis Glover’s fantastic, absorbing The Last Man in Europe, an internationally bestselling novelisation of Orwell’s life from 1936 to his death in 1950. For those who want to discover or revisit 1984 itself, we have 1984: The Jura Edition introduced by Alex Massie, who teases out the myths of the connections between work, writer, and place.
  • This year brings two major literary anniversaries: the centenary of George Mackay Brown, who was born in Orkney on 17th October 1921. In late Spring we will publish three new books in his honour: Carve the Runes is a new selection of verse edited by Kathleen Jamie; Simple Fire, a new selection of short stories edited by Malachy Tallack; and the third is a new edition of  An Orkney Tapestry. Edited by Linden Bicket and Kirsten McCue, it brings this great classic back into print for the 21st century.
  • There’s a case to be made for Walter Scott’s 250th on August 15th as the biggest of ALL Scottish literary anniversaries. The Royal Mint is issuing a set of coins and we will be reissuing Stuart Kelly’s wonderful Scott-land: The Man who Invented a Nation in June. A Radio 4 Book of the Week, it’s packed with brilliant readings of Scott’s works and a clear-eyed appraisal of his enduring influence.
  • Sticking with literary biography, we are thrilled to have the TLS’s James Campbell (J.C.) joining our list. His authoritative biography of James Baldwin, Talking at the Gates, is out in a new edition in February, and his own memoir Just Go down to the Road follows in July. The latter is a story of ‘trouble and travel’, a literary ‘Life’ that begins with a charge of shoplifting (books, of course) and freewheels on through travels in Asia and North Africa, and finds him forming a musical duo with Peter Green on a kibbutz.
  • In new fiction, Helen McClory’s novel Bitterhall is coming in April. It’s a thoroughly modern story of obsession revolving round the stolen diary of a nineteenth-century gentleman who may not be entirely dead. As the diary circulates within a group of friends, currents of desire and longing shatter their sense of themselves. It’s a testament to the power of books and narratives. Helen’s short fiction has won praise from Margaret Atwood and Ali Smith, the latter calls her ‘a writer completely unafraid’. We are fans and we hope you will be too.
  • Of Stone and Sky by Merryn Glover, a multi-generational novel of life on the land in the Cairngorm mountains, comes in May. Shepherd Colvin Munro disappears leaving a deliberate trail of his possessions leading into the mountains. Seeking to understand his disappearance, his foster-sister and prodigal brother uncover a trove of secrets in the local community. Spanning a century, it’s a powerful tale from Nan Shepherd-country about faith, ecology, retribution, and how people are bound to their land and to each other.
  • In September, we have one of Scottish history’s bloodiest murders told by one of Scotland’s most provocative modern writers. Multi-award-winning Denise Mina brings us Rizzio, a radical retelling of one of the darkest episodes in Scottish and European history. David Rizzio, private secretary of Mary Queen of Scots, was brutally murdered on the evening of 9 March 1566. Dragged from the bed-chamber of the heavily pregnant Queen, Rizzio was stabbed 56 times by an 80-strong party of assassins. You will read this in one sitting. The power and pace of the writing won’t allow you to do anything else.
  • The Heart Remembers by Jan-Philipp Sendker is coming out in May, and is the long-awaited final book in the trilogy that began with The Art of Hearing Heartbeats, which has been a bestseller across the globe. Set in Burma and following twelve-year-old Ko Bo Bo, this is a unique story of hope and love set against a backdrop of political and family turmoil.

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