“The Book of Strange New Things”, the latest work from Dutch-born, Scotland-based writer Michel Faber has won the 2015 Saltire Book of the Year Award, supported by the National Ly through Creative Scotland.
Faber is a past winner of the Saltire First Book of the Year award for his 2000 debut novel Under the Skin, which was later adapted into a 2013 feature film directed by Jonathan Glazer and starring Scarlett Johansson. His 2002 novel The Crimson Petal and the White was dramatised as a four part BBC television series starring Romola Garai and Richard E. Grant in 2011.
Set in a not-so-distant future where a global corporation has successfully colonised a planet in a neighbouring galaxy, Faber’s latest book is a genre-defying novel that tells the story of Peter, a Christian pastor sent to carry out missionary work amongst the aliens native to the planet. As the story progresses, Peter becomes increasingly uneasy about his situation and the mysterious disappearance of his predecessor and finds it more and more difficult to relate his experiences to his wife back home on Earth.
“The Book of Strange New Things” is a powerful examination of humanity and how a failure to communicate can gradually erode marital intimacy. Cloud Atlas author David Mitchell has called it “Michel Faber’s second masterpiece”. Others have variously described it as “gripping”, “heartbreaking”, and “desperately beautiful, sad and unforgettable”.
“The Book of Strange New Things” has also won the 2015 Saltire Society Scottish Fiction Book of the Year, beating off competition from a shortlist that included the latest works from 1995 Whitbread award winner Kate Atkinson, Gaelic language writer Norma Nicleoid and renowned Edinburgh writer Irvine Welsh. Michel Faber collected both awards and an accompanying cash prize of £8,000 at a special ceremony at the Central Hall in Edinburgh on Thursday evening (26 November 2014).
Now firmly established as Scotland’s most prestigious annual book awards, the Saltire Society Literary Awards celebrate and support literary and academic excellence across seven distinct categories with the winner of each of six individual book categories going forward to be considered for the Saltire Book of the Year award.
Alongside a number of award-winning writers and household names, the shortlists for this year’s six individual book categories also featured emerging new talents such as Fiona Rintoul, Peter Geoghegan and Helen McClory.
Each individual award winner receives a £2,000 cash prize while the winner of the Publisher of the Year award receives a £4,000 cash prize to support the ongoing development of their business.
Aside from the Saltire Book of the Year Award, this year’s winners are as follows (see Notes to Editors for quotes from each of the winners):
· The Saltire Society Scottish Research Book of the Year Award supported by the National Library of Scotland:
Clubbing Together: Ethnicity, Civility and Formal Sociability in the Scottish Diaspora to 1930 (Migrations and Identities) [Liverpool University Press], a book by Principal Lecturer in History and Director of International Development and Recruitment at Northumbria University, Dr. Tanja Bueltmann. It provides the first global study of associations and formal sociability by Scottish migrants that seeks to demonstrate how these are key to explaining how migrants negotiated their ethnicity in the diaspora and connected to social structures in diverse settlements.
· The Saltire Society Scottish History Book of the Year Award in partnership with the Scottish Historical Review Trust:
A Chasm in Time: Scottish War Art and Artists in the Twentieth Century [Birlinn], an illustrated account of Scotland’s artists’ responses to and depictions of war in its many manifestations in the twentieth century, written by freelance consultant, researcher and lecturer Dr. Patricia R. Andrew
· The Saltire Scottish Poetry Book of the Year Award supported by the Scottish Poetry Library:
The Good Dark [Penned in the Margins], by Edinburgh City Libraries’ Poet in Residence Ryan Van Winkle.
· The Saltire Society Scottish First Book of the Year Award:
On the Edges of Vision [Queen’s Ferry Press] a collection of dark short stories and prose poetry about the limits of the conscious and the darkness within from Edinburgh-based writer Helen McClory;
· The Saltire Society Scottish Non-Fiction Book of the Year Award:
Adventures in Human Being [Profile Books], a book that takes the reader through surgery, blood, dissection and much besides that keeps the human being ticking over, written by Edinburgh physician Gavin Francis whose book Empire Antarctica was previously shortlisted for the 2013 Saltire Literary Awards.
· The Saltire Society Publisher of the Year Award:
Freight Books: Described by the panel as being clever publishers who produce beautiful books. Although one of the youngest publishers on this shortlist, Freight Books have become a major player in the Scottish publishing industry, offering a platform for new and emerging writers and well established voices alike.
Commenting on winning the Saltire Book of the Year Award, Michel Faber said:
“When I emigrated from Australia to a remote part of Scotland in 1993, I never expected that it would be the beginning rather than the end of my literary career. I’m so moved and grateful that this honour has been bestowed on my work. You’ve made an alien feel very welcome!”
Executive Director of the Saltire Society Jim Tough said:
“Given the sheer breadth and variety of writing talent on display, this has been a vintage year for the Saltire Literary Awards. I think our decision to split the Literary Book Award into two separate categories for fiction and non-fiction has been vindicated. These and indeed every one of the individual book awards were hotly contested, making the judges’ decision a particularly challenging one. The same was also true of this year’s Publisher of the Year Award. My congratulations to all of the winners and my heartfelt thanks to the judging panel and to all of our partners and supporters who helped to make the 2015 Saltire Literary Awards such a resounding success.”
Janet Archer, CEO, Creative Scotland said:
“The list of winners takes readers on a journey from the diaspora of Scotland to the horrors of the First World War and out to the ends of the universe. The strength of this year’s shortlist is testament to the quality and scope of Scotland’s rich literary scene. These awards are important as they celebrate and recognise literary excellence in Scotland and highlight established and emerging authors to readers across the country. Huge congratulations to each of the category winners.”