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Scots Language Centre Centre for the Scots Leid

Scottish Spleen

26th March 2015

Recently a small but interesting booklet called Scottish Spleen was published by Tapsalteerie. It is edited by Tom Hubbard, James Underhill and Stewart Sanderson and is a collection of prose-poetry translated from the French of Charles Pierre Baudelaire (1821-1867) who was a Paris-born poet, art critic, essay writer and translator closely associated with the modernist movement of his day. In fact, Baudelaire is credited with inventing the term modernité (‘modernity’).


The translations in this booklet are taken from two works by Baudelaire – Les Fleurs du Mal (The Flowers of Evil) and Le Spleen de Paris (published in 1869 after his death). As well as Hubbard and Underhill, the prose-poetry translations in this booklet are by well-known writers Sheena Blackhall and J Derrick McClure (both deservedly noted for their work in North East Scots or Doric), Christie Williamson (in Shetland dialect), and Rab Wilson (Ayrshire), James Robertson (Edinburgh), Robert Calder and Walter Perrie in variations of Central Scots. Each one writes in their own fashion, freely translating the original French, in varying orthography, and each produces a fresh, delightful interpretation.


Hubbard and Underhill also bring their own style, with Underhill writing in a curious mix of Scots and English which he puts down to his family background. One thing, though, given that the booklet’s subject is both prose and poetry, we wonder why Hubbard and Underhill didn’t go the whole hog and write both the preface and postface in Scots too. We could certainly do with much more exploratory prose in the language. Nonetheless we are sure that this work will generate interest.


Scottish Spleen (ISBN: 978 0 9926631 3 1) is available from Tapsalteerie, Bognamoon, Craigievar, Alford, Aberdeenshire AB33 8LX, price £5. Check out the website at www.tapsalteerie.co.uk .