Image of the graduation procession inside the Liverpool Cathedral

Linda Grant

Oration

Presented by Ramsey Campbell

Honourable Pro-Chancellor, I have pleasure in presenting Linda Grant for the award of an Honorary Fellowship from Liverpool John Moores University.

Linda is one of the most prominent Liverpool-born authors of modern day literary fiction. Her award winning fiction draws heavily on the history of the city, along with her family history and Jewish background.

Her early writing experience found an outlet in local journalism and it is as a feature writer in the national press, notably the Guardian that she has gained a loyal and steadfast following for her crusading opinion pieces and witty turns of phrase. Whilst maintaining her profile as a national feature writer she has been able to find a dual voice through story-telling and creative writing.

She always knew that sooner or later she would write fiction, but at first, struggled to find her voice and where to start. Speaking to the Guardian on the process of writing a novel, she said:

“I had thought you didn’t write a novel until the novel came to you, that the novel was in some way already formed, exterior, waiting for the writer to receive it. I was waiting and waiting for my novel to arrive inside my head, and nothing at all had turned up.”

But in the end she ‘just had to get on with it,’ advice she would give any aspiring writer, as she says; 

"It’s impossible to wait until one knows what one is doing; you just sit down, occasionally in excitement, mostly in numb fear, and get on with it.”

She started out in fiction, writing about people who are marginal, who have problematic identities and issues with belonging, and within this found her voice. Her debut novel ‘The Cast Iron Shore’ was published in 1996 and won the David Higham Prize for Fiction for the best first novel of the year.

Three years later her second, non-fiction, work, ‘Remind Me Who I Am Again’, won both the Mind and Age Concern Book of the Year awards. In this 1998 memoir Linda wrote of her mother’s dementia and sought to fill up the aching space the illness leaves in its wake.

Several books and prizes later, including two nominations for the Man Booker, Britain’s leading literary prize, Linda was appointed a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. Most recently, in March 2017, it was announced that Linda’s novel ‘The Dark Circle’ had been longlisted for the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction.

As a campaigning journalist and a high-profile author, Linda has used her position to speak for those marginalised by society, including calling on the government not to close a scheme bringing unaccompanied child refugees from Europe to Britain. She has also declared support for the launch and aims of Culture for Coexistence – an independent UK network representing a cross-section from the cultural world. This aims to inform and encourage dialogue about Israel and a movement towards a resolution of the conflict and a peaceful coexistence.

To return to her fiction, Linda describes how she is driven by her own curiosity when she writes. Who are these people? What happens next? Linda describes her current writing rituals as ‘so calcified I could be an elderly colonel at his gentleman’s club: ironed newspaper, tea piping hot, shoes the correct colour for in town.’ Alone with her keyboard she has everything she needs, but she does ‘regularly turn off her screen, brush her hair and go out to be a part of life’.

For her outstanding contribution to literature, it is with great pleasure that I present Linda Grant for admission to our highest honour, as an Honorary Fellow of Liverpool John Moores University.