Having returned earlier this month to Glasgow, the city of his birth, to attend the launch event for 40 Glasgow Voices, published recently in Issue 10 of The International Literary Quarterly or, as it is otherwise known, Interlitq (www.interlitq.org), Peter Robertson, the Argentine-based publisher and founding editor of the review, acknowledges that this feature, showcasing Glasgow’s contemporary literary talent, and complemented by images from the Cranhill Arts Centre’s Glaswegians Photo Archive, is a literary venture close to his heart.
The “40 Glasgow Voices” launch event on April 8th, 2010 with writers (from left to right) Sue Reid Sexton, Jane Goldman, Laura Muetzelfeldt, Peter Robertson, Ewan Morrison, Gerrie Fellows, Donal McLaughlin, and Claire Quigley
“My goal is to ensure that Glasgow’s eclectic, and often edgy, literature receives the international exposure that it deserves and, considering Interlitq’s scope and burgeoning readership, I am confident that the review is a perfect vehicle for achieving such an objective.”
Transcending the unquestionable talent of the city’s multitudinous literary voices, as evidenced by contributions from the feature’s masterful exponents of prose, poetry, literary criticism and translation, there is another, more personal, reason why Peter Robertson has selected Glasgow as the focus for the first of several major features that Interlitq will be publishing this year, with the spotlight shifting to Miami and New Zealand later in 2010.
“Glasgow is where I will always have my roots. Even though I left the city when I was eleven, and have lived in many different countries, and indeed continents, having been based now in Argentina for more than ten years, I do identify with what I regard as a recurring attribute of the Glaswegian personality, that fusion of bonhomie and doughtiness”“there can be a real warmth underlying an indomitable fighting spirit.”
And yet, perhaps this combative quality that Peter Robertson refers to is not so much his ancestral inheritance, but rather a trait that the circumstances of his early life forced him to acquire.
“My father, who had overcome poverty, founded companies and was successful in business for a number of years that coincided with my childhood. My early life in Glasgow was, in a sense, idyllic. We lived in a big house in Bearsden and belonged to a close-knit local community that was a social enclave, and very much its own world. And then came the collapse of everything, suddenly I didn’t have a father, and we had to move to the less salubrious south of the city. Initially an outsider in a hostile environment, I was conscious, at a relatively young age, of a collision of cultures. But there was much that was to prove humanizing about this other environment, and I came to see that, had my cocooned and privileged life continued, it might well have been too narrow. I do believe that there is considerable strength in diversity, in the rejection of narrow allegiances, and I like to think that this cherished value of mine permeates Interlitq.”
Returning to Glasgow this early spring, and retracing the streets of his childhood, Peter Robertson is buoyed up by the fact that, having successfully profiled the work of 40 Glasgow Voices in The International Literary Quarterly, he has not only found an effective way to reconnect with the city through its literary voices, but he has also been in a position to give something back to the city that shaped him. “I have been able to provide Glasgow with this platform from which to project itself internationally, and this feels to me like one way of paying what I consider to be a long-standing debt of gratitude.”
As he leaves Glasgow behind him once again, to return to London, and then to Argentina, Peter Robertson is well aware that the “Glasgow Voices” have long formed a continuum that he will never be able to silence. Indeed, all these years he has been engaged in an internal dialogue, by turns reassuring and unnerving, with such a chorus. And so it is not so surprising that many years later, and from a vastly different continent, he has returned to the city of his birth to validate those voices that, far from home, will always linger.