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The Bone Cave by Dougie Strang and The Dark Mountain

  15 Dec '23   |  Posted by: Birlinn

Have you come across the Dark Mountain project? Writer Dougie Strang, author of The Bone Cave, is a core member of this movement. Subscribers take a fresh look at our cultural heritage and in particular the stories that reflect our history. The following is from their ‘about’ page on their website:

In 2009, two English writers – Dougald Hine and Paul Kingsnorth – published a manifesto. Out of that manifesto grew a cultural movement: a rooted and branching network of creative activity, centred on the Dark Mountain journal, sustained by the work of a growing gang of collaborators and contributors, as well as the support of thousands of readers around the world.

Together, we are walking away from the stories that our societies like to tell themselves, the stories that prevent us seeing clearly the extent of the ecological, social and cultural unravelling that is now underway. We are making art that doesn’t take the centrality of humans for granted. We are tracing the deep cultural roots of the mess the world is in. And we are looking for other stories, ones that can help us make sense of a time of disruption and uncertainty…

The manifesto calls us to question the stories our societies like to tell about the world and our place within it: the myth of progress, the myth of human separation from nature, the myth of civilisation. And it claims a particular role for storytellers and culturemakers in a time when the stories we live by have become untenable. This is the project of ‘Uncivilised’ art and writing set out in the invitation which closes the manifesto.

Today the Dark Mountain team produce some beautifully made books by writers, thinkers and artists who respond to that manifesto. For four years they ran the Uncivilisation festival and now contribute to festivals large and small across the country. Their web of collaborators has grown and their reach is international. The have become a bridge between worlds.

As a publisher, Birlinn echoes the ideas contained in this manifesto. We celebrate the past of Scotland and look to the future. We witness history with fresh eyes and take on board the need for new stories to be told. We hope you stand with us on this journey.

Dougie Strang’s The Bone Cave, picks up on the ideas of the Dark Mountain (and you can read some of his blogs on their site), looking forward to a time when the land of Scotland is both restored and restoried. The book has been applauded by critics throughout the country since it was published just eight short weeks ago:

Dougie Strange’s The Bone Cave is a mesmerising journey through remote Scotland, full of myth and self-reflection. I trust Strang when he says that we need the old folk tales from a time when our ancestors lived in greater harmony with the world around them, even those of us who are too old or weak or inured to city comforts to follow in his footsteps’ David Robinson, Books from Scotland

‘A sensitive exploration of land, time, modernity and masculinity… ache[s] with a profound, not-quite-lost connection to Earth’ – Kathleen Jamie, New Statesman

Strang treads softly across this storied landscape. Travelling solo throughout the month of October, he cooks on carefully tended fires and camps out under the stars or – one memorable night – in the Bone Cave at Creag nan Uamh near Inchnadamph, Assynt. In its deepest recesses, the remains of prehistoric bears, lynx and wolves have been excavated and in the candlelit gloom, Strang imagines “the otherworld” pressing in through the walls, just as the roar of a passing stag echoes from the cave mouth… Mixing challenging questions about rewilding, land ownership and Highland re-population with enchanting stories and luminous prose, The Bone Cave is a beautiful book: the perfect companion to a winter’s night by the fireside’ – Susan Flockhart, The Herald

‘This is a glorious read: measured, insightful, wistful and replete with meaning… a gem of a book’ – Scottish Field

‘A unique perspective on place, land, ownership and ecological stewardship… a beautiful book’ Oban TImes

‘A fascinating insight into the ways in which landscape and folklore are intertwined here in Scotland… The ways in which these stories are linked to the landscape – and to the daily lives of the people who used to inhabit it – are expertly teased out by Strang’ – Roger Cox, The Scotsman

A lovely well-written book… To the extent that I felt that I got to know the author, I liked him – I liked him a lot. He’d be the type of person I’d like to meet by accident – it would be a treat… I really enjoyed my dip into Scottish folklore, the landscape that houses its memories and the tramping of the author’s boots on soggy ground‘ – Mark Avery, Sunday Review

‘Although the book shines with folk tales and quirky lore, it doesn’t shy away from the real tragedy of the Highlands, where people remain dispossessed and land-ownership and ecological destruction remain a brutal fact of life’ – Bella Caledonia

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