Alasdair Gray (born 28 December 1934) is a Scottish writer and artist. His acclaimed first novel, Lanark (1981), written over almost 30 years, was described by The Guardian as “one of the landmarks of 20th-century fiction.” Poor Things (1992) won him a Whitbread Novel Award and Guardian Fiction Prize. He calls himself a civic nationalist and a republican. His works combine realism, fantasy, and science fiction, plus clever use of typography and his own illustrations. He has also written in support of socialism and Scottish independence and on the history of English literature. He has been seen as “a creative polymath with an integrated politico-philosophic vision”, and “perhaps the greatest living [writer] in this archipelago today”, and by himself as “a fat, spectacled, balding, increasingly old Glasgow pedestrian”.
Gray was born in Riddrie, east Glasgow. His father had been wounded in the First World War and worked at the time in a factory, while his mother worked in a shop. During the Second World War, Gray was evacuated to Perthshire and then Lanarkshire, experiences which he drew on in his later fiction. The family lived on a council estate, and Gray received his education from a combination of state education, (at Whitehill Secondary School), public libraries, and the BBC: “the kind of education British governments now consider useless, especially for British working class children”, as he later commented. He studied at Glasgow School of Art from 1952 to 1957, and taught there from 1958 to 1962. It was as a student that he first began what would become the novel Lanark.