Ian Rankin home
Scottish author Ian Rankin has been honoured with the 2010 Pepe Carvalho prize for his Inspector Rebus series. Ahead of the festival, Metropolitan asked him about Edinburgh, Barcelona and winning the BCNegra award.
Metropolitan: Does your work being recognised abroad bring a different sense of satisfaction to winning prizes at home?
Ian Rankin: When a book gets translated, you have very little idea how it will be received in that new territory. I cannot, for example, read my own work in Spanish, so I depend on the quality of my translators. If my books then go on to win awards or prizes in a country like Spain, it means that the translator has done a good job, and that I am exploring themes and characters which have resonance in Spain.
Metropolitan: How do you think life in exile influenced you and your writing?
Ian Rankin: I left Scotland in 1986 and moved to London for four years, then lived in rural France for six years. Getting away from Edinburgh was good for me, I think. I had to create an 'Edinburgh of the mind', mixing the fictional with the factual. But I would return to Edinburgh once or twice a year to do research, which mostly meant sitting in bars! I find this city fascinating. Each book is an attempt to make sense of it and of the small nation in which it sits. I have been living here now since 1996, and find it hard to imagine living anywhere else.
Metropolitan: Do you see any parallels between Edinburgh and Barcelona which make them good settings for crime fiction?
Ian Rankin: I have only been to Barcelona once before, and then only for a couple of days, so I don’t really know the city. But I feel that it has similarities with Edinburgh. Both are coastal cities and proud cultural capitals, with amazing feats of architecture...and some good restaurants, too! But crime and the potential for crime are everywhere, even in the most beautiful cities—lurking just beneath the surface. And then, of course, you have the political situation, which is always interesting for a crime writer!
Metropolitan: Are you a Pepe Carvalho fan?
Ian Rankin: I have read only a couple of Montalbán books—they are not that easy to find in English translations! But I do like the character of Pepe Carvalho, and I like the way Montalbán uses the crime novel to ‘dissect’ the culture and politics of 20th-century Spain (and especially, of course, Barcelona). I try to do something similar in my own books. When the G8 world leaders came to Scotland, I wrote about it in a novel; when the Olympics came to Spain, Montalbán wrote about it in a novel.
Please note this is a slightly extended version of the interview that appears in the February 2010 edition of Barcelona Metropolitan