Damon Galgut on James Kelman's How late it was, how late
2021 Booker Prize-shortlisted Damon Galgut, author of The Promise, on why he loves Kelman’s 1994 winner How late it was, how late.
James Kelman’s raw, wry vision of human survival in a bureaucratic world is given voice by Sammy, an ex-convict with a penchant for shoplifting.
One Sunday morning in Glasgow, Sammy awakens in a lane and tries to remember the two-day drinking binge that landed him there. Things only get worse. Sammy gets into a fight with some soldiers, lands in jail, and discovers that he is completely blind. His girlfriend disappears, the police probe him endlessly, and his stab at Disability Compensation embroils him in the Kafkaesque red tape of the welfare system.
How late it was, how late by James Kelman changed my life. It is such a bold book, the prose and stream of consciousness is really inventive. But it is also one of the first times I saw my people, my dialect, on the page