11-08-13

Reading about a cold place...

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I bought the book on purpose.

In the bookshop in Kirkwall it suddenly struck me that it would be special to read about the Orkneys when on holiday in the South of France, and Magnus, by George Mackay Brown, the most important writer and poet of the islands, seemed to me a good choice.

It was almost uncanny how the book seemed to radiate northern light and cold air when I was reading it, seated on the terrace of my caravan in Argeles-sur-mer, surrounded by palm trees, a glass of rosé in my hand and not even wearing a t-shirt (35°C in the shadow). It was almost a Harry Potter like experience and I swear that the whole time it actually felt cold and fresh to the touch.

Nobody but a man from the north could write a book like this. George Mackay Brown was born in Stromness, in Orkney, one of the islands to the north of Scotland, and died in 1996  He suffered from tuberculosis and this led to an increasingly reclusive life in his town of birth. He was a great writer and poet and they say this is his masterpiece (though I actually liked his Booker Prize shortlisted Beside the Ocean of Time more). It is a special book, as special as the islands of the orkneys themselves, but it is a powerful piece of literature, without a smile but with the harsh blue eyes of the Northman.

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Since I spent two days on Orkney last june I am captivated by its atmosfere. It was a strange experience to walk in the white and cold sunlight of the North in june and experience the same sun, but yellow and hot and exuberant in the South. I still don't know what I liked most, but if I follow my feelings I don't think I am a man of sunshine and olive trees. I had a nice time under the shadow of the Pyrenees, but my heart longs for the wide open skies and chasing clouds of the North...

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