Book Fringe
Edinburgh's alternative book festival of ideas
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GET LEAVE TO LIVE: THE LIVING MOUNTAIN BY NAN SHEPHERD

Our very first Book Fringe 2019 event at Golden Hare Books may well have broken records.  The seats were filled by 6pm, the room was full by 6:15pm, and by the time the talk started at 6:30pm, personal space had become a thing of the past!

It’s a testament to Nan Shepherd’s incredible legacy, the stunning new edition of The Living Mountain published by Canongate, and the popularity of the folks at Have You Ever? who recorded the event as part of their podcast, that everyone braved the queues and rising heat to hear about Shepherd’s gorgeous volume of seminal nature writing.

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We kicked off with a fascinating short presentation by Erland Clouston, Nan Shepherd’s literary executor, who even brought a selection of books for show and tell (we love a good book!). Among them were an old notebook from the Nan Shepherd days, and numerous copies of The Living Mountain translated into multiple new languages, including German, Mandarin, and Spanish. Seeing all these editions stacked together really brought home how significant Shepherd has been to nature writing, both in Scotland and globally. At one point, Erland discussed how Shepherd had given a voice to those who didn’t feel they had a place in nature writing, and these translations and the numerous volumes of contemporary nature writing we have in our collection demonstrate this. Shepherd democratised the connection people have with their surroundings, particularly opening up the genre to female writers and reconfiguring the hierarchical masculine relationship with nature that had previously existed. 

The floor then passed over to Erland’s son Svein Clouston and his co-host Rowan Morrison (listen out for our live cheers at the start of the podcast episode!). Have You Ever? is a podcast dedicated to friendship and recommending things you love, and unsurprisingly, Nan Shepherd was high on their list of things to share together. In this case, it was Svein who suggested the book to Rowan, prompted by the memories of Shepherd’s literary presence throughout his life. Svein and Rowan are both fascinated by the landscape of the Cairngorms that Shepherd describes with such exquisite care and attention; Rowan especially discussed the ways in which The Living Mountain chronicles a quasi-love story between Shepherd and the environment of the Cairngorms, with Shepherd’s writing suggesting an almost erotic physicality of nature. Both Svein and Rowan waited to record this episode until they had journeyed themselves along the paths depicted in The Living Mountain, exploring the Cairngorms and wild swimming – bravely – in the freezing lochs. Their own connection with the Cairngorms speaks to Shepherd’s interest in the physicality of nature, and shows how much The Living Mountain is rooted in place – in the place of wilderness and the Scottish Highlands.

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We had such a wonderful time celebrating Nan Shepherd’s The Living Mountain and hearing these privileged perspectives from Erland and Svein Clouston and Rowan Morrison. If you were one of the unlucky few we couldn’t fit in, be sure to check out our upcoming event on Nan Shepherd with Svein, Rowan, and one of the judges of the Nan Shepherd Prize Chitra Ramaswamy, held as part of our inaugural Golden Hare Book Festival in October. Simply sign up to our mailing list to find out more!