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Neil M. Gunn (Neil Miller Gunn) Biography

(1891–1973), (Neil Miller Gunn), The Grey Coast, Morning Tide, The Lost Glen, Sun Circle

Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Francis Edward Grainger Biography to Thomas Anstey Guthrie Biography

Scottish novelist and leading figure of the Scottish Renaissance, born in Dalbeath, Caithness, the son of a fishing boat skipper and owner. All his work is set in the Scottish Highlands, particularly in Caithness and Sutherland. Gunn worked in the Customs and Excise from 1911 to 1937. His first stories and articles were published in 1923; the following year he met C. M. Grieve (Hugh MacDiarmid) who influenced his work, although the two were later estranged. His first novel, The Grey Coast (1926), dealt with the fishing trade familiar from his childhood; it was followed by Morning Tide (1931), the story of a boy's growth from childhood to young manhood, set in the Highlands. The Lost Glen (1932) continued the exploration of Highland moors and the threat to them by ‘foreign’ usurpation of lands and rights; Sun Circle (1933) and Butcher's Broom (1934) were historical novels, the first an account of the Pictish communities, the second a recreation of the infamous Highland clearances. Highland River (1937), which follows its protagonist from boyhood to maturity, is informed by the numinous quality and by the sense of oneness with the natural world which is a feature of his work. The Silver Darlings (1941), Young Art and Old Hector (1942), The Serpent (1943), and The Green Isle of the Great Deep (1944) are works in which an anti-materialist philosophy and a sense of the mythic combine with an acute insight into the workings of a community. The Drinking Well (1947) is an ambitious work, incorporating a dialectic between urban and rural ways of life; it also shared an increasing didacticism with later novels such as The Other Landscape (1954). In his later years Gunn struggled with the complications of his own Nationalist position and moved eventually to an idiosyncratic Zen Buddhism. Other works include two collections of essays, The Other Landscape (1949) and the posthumous Landscape and Light (1987), edited by A. McCleery.

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