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Scots Language Centre Centre for the Scots Leid

The Demon

28th July 2014

Writer and translator Frances Robson has recently completed and published a Scots language version of The Demon by 19th century Russian writer Mikhail Lermontov. Members of the Scots language community, and visitors to the SLC, will recall that Frances was winner of both the Hugh MacDiarmid Tassie and John MacPhail Law Tassie, awarded by the Scots Language Society, and that she is among a number of noteworthy writers now working in the field of literary translation in Scots.


Mikhail Lermontov (1814-1841) was a member of a privileged Russian family and one of the prominent Romantic writers of 19th century Russia. His name Lermontov is a Russian version of the Scottish name Learmonth and his ancestors came originally from the area around St Andrews in Fife where the Learmonths held the estates of Clatto and Dairsie. Mikhail was writing by the age of 15, including an original version of his epic poem The Demon. He eventually joined a hussar regiment in 1832 but later landed himself in trouble with the Tsar for suggesting certain high figures were complicit in the murder of the poet Pushkin. Lermontov was exiled twice and in 1841 was killed in a duel.


Lermontovs The Demon was ten years in the making. It is set in the Caucasus mountains and tells the story of a fallen angel cast down to Earth who has been condemned to wander. Then, one day, the angel (or demon) sees a beautiful princess called Tamara who is about to be married. On her wedding day, the demon dances for her and falls in love, but is filled with jealousy of Tamaras husband to be. The demon sends robbers to despoil the wedding and kill Tamaras fianc so that the demon can court her instead. To Tamaras eyes the demon is simply a pathetic, tortured soul, and when he kisses her it kills Tamara and she is sent to heaven. The demon is then left, trapped on earth and without hope or comfort.


The Demon, translated from Russian into Scots by Frances Robson, and illustrated by Joanna Robson, is 40 pages and published to coincide with the 200th anniversary of Lermontovs birth. Frances will be reading extracts from her work at the Callander Poetry Festival, the church hall, Callander, on Saturday 6 September 2014. Copies of The Demon will be available to buy that day, priced 8. If you would like to learn more about the festival please contact Sally Evans at or phone 01877 339449 or visit Kings Bookshop, 91-93 Main Street, Callander.

You can also order the book directly from Frances Robson at costing 8 plus 1 postage etc.