Jenny Niven: 'Muriel Spark was versatile, funny, dark, precise and completely original'
- Stewart Smith
- 1 February 2018
Events taking place as part of Muriel Spark 100, a 12-month celebration honouring a writer who truly was the crème de la crème
Muriel Spark 100 is a year-long programme which marks the centenary of the birth of one of Scotland's greatest writers. 'Spark was versatile, funny, dark, precise and completely original,' says Creative Scotland's Head of Literature, Languages and Publishing Jenny Niven. 'Her contribution to Scottish writing can be felt in so much contemporary work. She was also a fascinating person. From her incredible circle of influence to her fascination with aesthetics and style, there is so much that is worthy of exploration.'
Among the highlights are a major exhibition at the National Library of Scotland, based on Spark's archive. 'It's a big moment for the library, as hers is the largest archive of any writer they've ever acquired,' says Niven. 'Her letters are extremely revealing, and so for that deep-dive into her work the exhibition will be unparalleled.'
The NLS will also host The International Style of Muriel Spark, where personal items like handbags and dresses will be on display alongside private correspondence, notebooks, manuscripts and diaries. 'She was an exemplary literary stylist but she was also very concerned with her own style,' adds curator Colin McIlroy. 'We thought it would be nice to have at least some reference to that as well as the fact that dress and style are so important in her books.'
Spark's connections with Edinburgh will be explored through exhibitions, readings, talks, screenings, tours and workshops. For those outside the central belt, festivals all over Scotland will be exploring Muriel Spark's work. 'StAnza [the St Andrews poetry festival] have commissioned a range of contemporary writers to write new poetry based on quotes from Spark's work, which will be presented in readings at the festival,' says Niven. 'There's also a series of BBC radio documentaries with Val McDermid, Louise Welsh and AL Kennedy exploring her life and work, as well as documentaries for both BBC and Sky Arts.'
For Niven, Muriel Spark 100 is a corrective to the historical domination of Scottish literature by male writers. 'I do think if the centenary programme asks the question of why we value the contributions of women differently, then it's a significant achievement.'
Muriel Spark 100, various venues, nationwide, murielspark100.com