Magnus Merriman

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Canongate, 1990 - Fiction - 308 pages
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This hilarious novel charts the rise and fall (and perhaps the rise again) of Magnus Merriman—would-be lover, writer, politician, idealist, and crofter—moved by dreams of greatness and a talent for farcical defeat. Convinced that "small nations are safer to live in than big ones," Magnus becomes a Nationalist candidate for the parliamentary seat of "Kinluce." With details based on Linklater's own experiences in an East Fife by-election in 1933, the way is set for a satirical and irreverent portrait of Scottish life, literature, and politics in the 1930s. Nothing is sacred and no-one is spared. Introduced by Douglas Gifford.

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About the author (1990)

Eric Linklater (1899-1974) was born in Wales and educated in Aberdeen. His family came from the Orkney Islands (his father was a master mariner), and the boy spent much of his childhood there.

Linklater served as a private in the Black Watch at the close of WWI, surviving a nearly fatal head wound to return to Aberdeen to take a degree in English. A spell in Bombay with the Times of India was followed by some university teaching in Aberdeen again, and then a Commonwealth Fellowship which allowed him to travel in America from 1928 to 1930.

Linklater's memories of Orkney and student life informed his first novel, White Maa's Saga (1929), while the success of Poet's Pub in the same year led him to take up writing as a full-time career. A hilarious satirical novel, Juan in America (1931), followed his American trip, while the equally irreverent Magnus Merrimen (1934) was based on his experience as a Nationalist candidate for a by-election in East Fife.

Linklater joined the Army once again in WWII, to serve in fortress Orkney, and later as a War Office correspondent reporting the Italian campaign, going on to write the official history. The compassionate comedy of Private Angelo (1946) was drawn from his Italian experience.

With these and many other books, stories and plays to his name, Linklater enjoyed a long and popular career as a writer. His early creative years were described in The Man on my Back (1941), while a fuller autobiography, Fanfare for a Tin Hat, appeared in 1970.

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