Alasdair Gray Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Alasdair James Gray is generally regarded as one of the foremost practitioners of postmodern and socially relevant fiction. He was born into a working class family—his father ran a box-making machine in a factory—and until he was twenty-five years old he lived in the family apartment in Glasgow, Scotland, where he had grown up. During World War II, the family was briefly evacuated from their home, and this dislocation, along with Gray’s tendency to have nightmares and asthma attacks, underlay the creation of the apocalyptic backdrop to his first novel, Lanark. Gray was educated in primary and secondary schools, as well as at the Glasgow School of Art. His experiences while attending art school provided material for the naturalistic sections of Lanark. Glasgow, however, provided the inspiration, for growing up there during the 1940’s and 1950’s meant witnessing the dismantling of the Scottish industrial economy as well as the defeat of a Socialist movement that Gray had believed could create a way for Scotland to move toward a humane and lasting prosperity.

After graduating from art school, Gray made his living as a teacher, portrait and mural painter, and radioplay and teleplay writer. In the late 1960’s, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) chose Gray to be the subject of a documentary. This sudden notoriety after complete obscurity became the subject of his television play The Fall of Kelvin Walker and, later, a short novel by the same name.

As of the age of eighteen, Gray worked on Lanark, parts of which appeared in Scottish International Review in 1969, in...

(The entire section is 675 words.)


(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Alasdair James Gray demonstrated literary talent as a young boy, adapting part of Homer’s Odyssey for a school play. He entered Glasgow Art School in 1952, graduating with a diploma in mural painting and design in 1957. After serving as an art teacher in Lanarkshire and Glasgow, he became a scene painter for Glasgow’s Pavilion and Citizen’s Theaters in 1961, a position he held for two years. After a period of freelance work, he became an artist recorder for Glasgow’s People’s Palace Local History Museum in 1976.

Gray’s growth as a writer roughly paralleled his development as an artist. Two years into art school, he began writing sections of what became the novel Lanark nearly three decades later. The chapter “The War Begins” won a prize in a short-story competition sponsored by The Observer. He continued to write short stories. He also painted murals for the Scotland-U.S.S.R. Society and for Greenhead Church of Scotland, in Bridgeton.

Gray’s first television and radio plays were broadcast in 1968. In the early 1970’s, while he was attending an informal writing group led by Philip Hobsbaum, Gray began his association with Liz Lochhead and Leonard, among other writers. In 1977, Gray was offered the post of writer-in-residence at Glasgow University, a position he held until 1979.

Gray’s long years of writing were rewarded in 1981, when Lanark was published by Edinburgh’s...

(The entire section is 500 words.)