In this first critical biography of Hugh MacDiarmid, Alan Bold explores the life and work of a great poet. During his long life (1892-1978), MacDiarmid revitalized the Scots language and in A Drunk Man Looks at the Thistle produced one of the masterpieces of world poetry. He also wrote delicate lyrics in Scots, powerful political poems in English, and worked on an epic sequence, Cornish Heroic Song for Valda Trevlyn.
MacDiarmid served in Salonika during the First World War and worked in a Glasgow factory in the Second World War. He cofounded the National party of Scotland, which subsequently expelled him for his communism; but then the Communist Party also found him a difficult man to contain and likewise expelled him on two occasions. He stood several times for Parliament as a Scottish Nationalist and as a Communist.
Drawing on unpublished and uncollected material as well as on MacDiarmid's published work, Bold shows us a gifted, protean man full of complexities and contradictions. MacDiarmid was at once convivial and argumentative, kind-hearted and aggressive, flexible and tenacious, erudite and pugnacious. Fascinated but not blinded by MacDiarmid's exceptional literary gifts and forceful character, Bold has written a penetrating and balanced study of a man who, in the face of great odds, carved for himself a unique place in twentieth-century literature.