One of the great advantages of living in Scotland is that there is a vibrant community of authors, and you can have the pleasure of reading them and meeting them at various events. Unfortunately, they have difficulty in breaking into the wider UK reading community because of their location.
This is not a problem that is limited to Scotland. It is something that every author who is not part of the London Literary Scene has to contend with. And you can even live in London, in places like Newham or Kilburn, and it can be very difficult to break into that scene.
In Scotland, the problem of getting noticed is slightly different because a community of librarians, trained by OpeningtheBook, have been working for more than a decade now, to bring Scottish and other authors to the attention of the Scottish reading public. I was one of the first batch of trainees and, now that I am retired, I have to seek other ways of bringing authors and books to the attention of the reading public.
I was prompted to write this blog because I have come across a wonderful book called “The Limits of the World” by Andrew Raymond Drennan, and I know that it is not receiving the attention that it deserves. It is not the first book that the author has written, but it is the first of his books that I have read, and I now know that I must make sure that I read the other titles that he has written.
The story is set in North Korea and has been researched in great detail to make sure that the tale is believable. But because it is a story about the human condition, and how we deal with oppression of any kind, written with extraordinary compassion, it is universal in its scope.
It is the story of Han, an apparatchik rising through the ranks of the party, who has been appointed to a sensitive propaganda position in Pyongyang. It is also the story of how his life is affected by his love for books, which he has to obtain illegally and then keep hidden for fear of arrest. It is also the story of how Han’s life is changed by meeting Mae, a cellist who lives in his building, and Ben and Hal, two foreign journalists. To tell any more of the plot would spoil your pleasure in reading the book.
What I will tell you is that Andrew Raymond Drennan is an extraordinary writer, and that this book is something that you should go out of your way to read. I will also tell you that it has echoes of both “1984” and “Cry, the Beloved Country” but these are echoes that you must find for yourself. As someone who was involved in the struggle against apartheid, I can assure you that Drennan has the fear and paranoia factor right. His use of his imagination in this respect is quite extraordinary.
As I said at the start, one of the joys of living in Scotland is that you get to meet these authors. Andrew Raymond Drennan is appearing at the “Unbound” session on 26th August at the Edinburgh International Book Festival. The event is free, so if you have the opportunity to be there, you should.