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Scottish Journey: A Modern Classic Paperback – 12 Feb 1996

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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Mainstream Publishing; New Ed edition (12 Feb. 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1851588418
  • ISBN-13: 978-1851588411
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 2 x 19.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 73,957 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By David Manderson on 5 Aug. 2009
Format: Paperback
Edwin Muir came from the Orkneys, and remembered his childhood in those islands as a kind of paradise compared to the grinding poverty he subsequently endured in Glasgow when his family moved there. Working in dead-end jobs, he saw the brutalising effects of unemployment, pollution, heavy industry and the slums up close. Later, when he had to some extent escaped this background, he became, because of his experience of being both scarred by his upbringing and a permanent outsider from it, the best observer of 20th century Scottish life who ever made it into print.

It's this dual sense of detachment and horror that gives his "Scottish Journey" its uniqueness. Muir studies the land of his birth as he travels through it as if he's a newly-landed alien, recording the gloomily-charged atmosphere of Edinburgh tea-rooms and the dwarf alps of the Motherwell bings with equal fascination. In fact it's debatable whether the picture of Scotland which emerges is as much a portrait of Muir himself, and of the politics of the group of writers he belonged to, known as the "Scottish Renaissance", as their shared vision of the twenties dissolved into doubt and dispute during the thirties.

So why should you read a book about Scotland in 1934 if you're neither Scottish nor especially interested in history? Well, because it isn't about those things, but about a search for identity, Scotland's and Muir's, both of which had been broken and lost, and were still in the process of emerging. As the ever-wondering, disappointed but hopeful traveller, Muir speaks for everyone who has tried to piece themselves together from the bits they know. His journey through Scotland speaks to us today as if we're on that voyage with him.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3 reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
One of the most thoughtful travel books ever written 29 Sept. 1998
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Paperback
Muir combines vivid descriptions of people and scenes with passionate discussions of socialism, unemployment, and the spiritual poverty of the Scottish people in the 30's. Truly a political poet's book
7 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Great travel writing, silly and ill-informed politics. 23 Sept. 2003
By Robert Beveridge - Published on
Format: Paperback
Edwin Muir, Scottish Journey (Mainstream Publishing, 1935)
Edwin Muir is a pretty good writer, when he sticks to travelogues and abstract philosophy. He doesn't do so in Scottish Journey, though one would think so from the first hundred pages. Scottish Journey is meant as (and was commissioned as) a travelogue, and for the most part, Muir sticks to the template. He writes well of the Scots countryside, and passably of Edinburgh, slipping in bits of philosophy here and there, as is to be expected in any good travelogue. As well, Muir is an extremely quotable writer; his words are clear and precise, and draw excellent pictures in the reader's mind.
Muir was, however, an ardent Socialist of the closed-minded sort, as much as he professes otherwise. This affects the book in his long chapter on Glasgow, which he starts with a screed against Industrialism (he always capitalizes the word, I might as well, too) and capitalism. Humorously, he attempts to say that Industrialism, in and of itself, isn't all that bad. He does so in a paragraph that spans almost two and a half pages. The first and last few sentences are of the opinion that Industrialism isn't all that bad. It's the middle hundred or so sentences that shoot the argument in the foot, as he catalogs a list of the horrors he sees in Glasgow. One wonders how it's possible to write all these things and frame them with "it's not bad." It would be kind of like a pagan writing the same of the Inquisition, from the evils that Muir ascribes to Industrialism.
What's worse, he can't see the forest for the trees. In one breath, he talks about ho a capitalist system can't take population contraction into account; in the next, he's talking about unemployment. And he sees no correlation between the two, or at least none he's willing to admit. At one point, perhaps the book's nadir, he says, while discussing the rise of the Scottish Nationalist party, "....If such devotion and fidelity are not to be admired, then all our ideas of morality are mistaken." Leaving it as it is, he infers that no such thing could possibly be true. Yet not five pages later, at the beginning of his chapter on the Highlands, he has little good to say about the morality of a people who are so embarrassed by the twin hills known as the Paps of Jura, one of Scotland's biggest tourist draws at the time, that he couldn't find a postcard that showed them clearly anywhere in the town. One is tempted to see the inconsistencies as a (sub?)conscious undercutting of Muir's own arguments, but nothing else in the book points to it; the man's to solid and straightforward a writer to resort to such tricks.
Overall, though, it's worth checking out for the travel writing and the easy read. Just take his political outlook with a grain of salt. ** ½
Enchanting 13 Aug. 2013
By Matthew Theisen - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I bought this book before spending a summer in Scotland. The feeling you get reading about the author's journeys to the highlands are just like when I traveled there myself. The cities of Glasgow and Edingurgh have changed a lot though.
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