James Kelman

By Simon Kovesi

James Kelman


  • Hardcover
  • eBook

Book Information

  • Format: Paperback
  • ISBN: 978-0-7190-7097-6
  • Pages: 224
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £15.99
  • Published Date: December 2007
  • BIC Category: Contemporary Literature, Literature, United Kingdom, Great Britain, Literature: history & criticism, Ireland, BIOGRAPHY & AUTOBIOGRAPHY / Literary, LITERARY CRITICISM / European / English, Irish, Scottish, Welsh, Fiction & related items / Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945), Literature & literary studies / Literature: history & criticism
  • Series: Contemporary British Novelists


James Kelman is Scotland's most influential contemporary prose artist. This is the first book-length study of his groundbreaking novels, and it analyses and contextualises each in detail. It argues that while Kelman offers a coherent and consistent vision of the world, each novel should be read as a distinct literary response to particular aspects of contemporary working-class language and culture. Richly historicised through diverse contexts such as Scottish socialism, public transport, emigration, 'Booker Prize' culture and Glasgow's controversial 'City of Culture' status in 1990, Simon Kovesi offers readings of Kelman's style, characterisation and linguistic innovations.

This study resists the prevalent condemnations of Kelman as a miserable realist, and produces evidence that he is acutely aware of an unorthodox, politicised literary tradition which transgresses definitions of what literature can or should do. Kelman is cautious about the power relationship between the working-class worlds he represents in his fiction, and the latent preconceptions embedded in the language of academic and critical commentary. In response, this study is boldly self-critical, and questions the validity and values of its own methods. Kelman is shown to be deftly humorous, assiduously ethical, philosophically alert and politically necessary.


Series editor's foreword
1. Introduction
2. The Busconductor Hines (1984)
3. A Chancer (1985)
4. A Disaffection (1989)
5. How late it was, how late (1994)
6. Translated Accounts (2001) and You Have to be
Careful in the Land of the Free (2004)
Select bibliography


Simon Kövesi is Senior Lecturer in the Department of English Studies at Oxford Brookes University

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