Welcome to the official website of Norman Bissell, writer, educator and Director of the Scottish Centre for Geopoetics. He grew up and lived much of his life in Glasgow and now lives on the Isle of Luing in Argyll where he writes poems, fiction and essays, and co-edits the online journal Stravaig.
"I’m very sorry to inform you that Kenneth White, the Scottish poet-thinker-teacher who originated the theory-practice of geopoetics, has died peacefully after a short illness at his home on the north coast of Brittany on the evening of Friday 11 August. It is hard to take in such a great loss to the culture of Scotland, France and to the International Institute of Geopoetics which he founded in 1989.
He was a huge influence on me for almost sixty years after I met him as my French tutor in my first year at the University of Glasgow and at the Jargon Group he set up back then. His work inspired people all over the world and will continue to do so. On behalf of the Scottish Centre for Geopoetics I have sent our deepest sympathy to his wife Marie-Claude and to Régis Poulet, President of the International Institute. We feel for them at this very sad time.
The Scottish Centre for Geopoetics will organise a celebration of his life and work later in 2023 in Scotland. A lovely short film in French and English with him and Marie-Claude in it was made last year and you can watch it at https://bit.ly/Kenneth_White." Norman Bissell
Norman Bissell has been awarded a Coastal Cultures Islands Residency by the Culture, Heritage & Arts Assembly, Argyll & Isles (CHARTS) for his Expressing an Island project. A series of free writing and arts/crafts workshops will take place on the Isles of Luing, Lismore, Seil and Kerrera with a view to creating a special print issue of Stravaig journal.
Some of his poems and thoughts on geopoetics featured in Ramblings with Clare Balding on the Isle of Seil in Argyll which was broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in October 2021 and is available on BBC Sounds at Ramblings with Clare Balding.
Barnhill, his novel about the last years in the life of George Orwell, is published in hardback, paperback and e-book by Luath Press. Order a signed and dedicated copy here.
George Orwell left post-war London for Barnhill, a remote farmhouse on the Isle of Jura, to write what became Nineteen Eighty-Four. He was driven by a passionate desire to undermine the enemies of democracy and make plain the dangers of dictatorship, surveillance, doublethink and censorship. Typing away in his damp bedroom overlooking the garden he established and the sea beyond, he invented Big Brother, Thought Police, Newspeak and Room 101 – and created a masterpiece.
Barnhill tells the dramatic story of this crucial period of Orwell’s life. Deeply researched, it reveals the private man behind the celebrated public figure – his turbulent love life, his devotion to his baby son and his declining health as he struggled to deliver his dystopian warning to the world.
“If you want to get a feel for the inner life and personal relationships of George Orwell, and to enter into the imaginative world of the author of Nineteen Eighty-Four in his dying years, then you must pick up Norman Bissell's brilliant dramatization of the life of the man who gave us Big Brother and doublethink - and I guarantee you: you will not put it down until you finish.” John Rodden, world leading authority on George Orwell and his legacy, and author of The Politics of Literary Reputation and Becoming George Orwell as well as many other acclaimed books.
"Bissell fills out and explores more deeply the Orwell’s character and his relationships with those around him. It’s a very believable portrayal, digging beneath the surface of a man who could be awkward, opinionated and intransigent in an attempt to see what made him tick." Alastair Mabbott, The Herald on Sunday and Sunday National
"Extensive research by the author provides an excellent and insightful retelling of George Orwell's experiences on the Isle of Jura where he conjured up the ground-breaking dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four." The Scots Magazine
"This impressively researched novel by Norman Bissell tells a vibrant, moving and compelling story of the final years of a troubled Orwell’s life. Bissell offers us a fascinating insight into the mind of the tormented and notoriously private author, while painting an evocative and insightful picture of the context of Orwell’s later work. Sitting at the intersection of fact and fiction, Bissell’s narrative is absolutely gripping and engrossing. A must read." Frank Pignatelli, former Strathclyde Regional Council Director of Education
"I have just finished reading Barnhill and cannot start another book because it is still living with me! I lived every moment of that incredible story, felt the cold, the pain, the bliss and excitement. You have done such a marvellous thing in bringing Eric to us and allowing us to visit him in such an intimate way. Thank you, I am so glad I put it to one side for a day I might have a little more time to read and digest... I rarely read a biography but this has shown me how an outstanding account of someone's life is a huge education as well as a riveting read." Joy Cameron, Chair, Bookends Festival, Benderloch
Norman Bissell is an experienced speaker and reader of his work and is available for book festivals and other events by contacting him or Luath Press and for talks and creative writing/poetry workshops through the Scottish Book Trust Live Literature scheme.
The Firth of Lorn off Cullipool, copyright Gudrun Häusler
it’s hard to tell
the sound of the wind
from the sound of the waves
or the sound of the waves
from the sound of the rain
or the sound of the wind
and the waves and the rain
from the sound of my breath.
All website text and images are copyright Norman Bissell unless otherwise stated. Permission to use them will normally be given if contacted.
The current system of funding the arts in Scotland is deeply flawed since far too much of the budget is spent on administering funding by Creative Scotland instead of funding artists and arts provision. Radical changes are needed along the lines of these proposals I put forward in April 2019. Some of these were taken forward by the CTEEA Committee in its report of December 2019 but much more needs to be done. SCOTTISH PARLIAMENT […]
This is an extended version of an essay originally published as an afterword in my recently published novel Barnhill. I first walked into Barnhill on the Isle of Jura in September 2006 but didn’t go inside the gate. I knew that George Orwell had written Nineteen Eighty-Four in that remote farmhouse but was puzzled by the contrast between his dark, dystopian novel and that beautiful location by the coast. I could see a little of […]
Here is a shorter version of a review I wrote for the Orwell Society website. John Rodden is widely regarded as the world’s leading authority on the legacy of George Orwell. Beginning with The Politics of Literary Reputation The Making and Claiming of ‘St George’ Orwell in 1989, he has established himself as the foremost expert on the cultural and political impact of Orwell on the world. His latest book more than justifies that reputation. […]
Eighty years ago today Leon Trotsky was assassinated in Mexico by Ramon Mercader, a Stalinist agent. Here’s my take on that significant event in twentieth century history as it affected George Orwell. It’s a short extract from my novel Barnhill when George Orwell feared for his life on Jura. Were his fears justified? In the novel George Orwell and his friend Paul Potts walk from the Barnhill farmhouse to the north of Jura and discuss […]
This paper by the Writers Guild Great Britain Scottish Committee has been sent to the Scottish Government Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop, the Scottish Parliament CTEEA Committee Convener Joan McAlpine and Creative Scotland Chief Executive Iain Munro. It proposes an original and innovative way of using some of the £107 million funding for the benefit of freelance and employed creatives, their communities and economic recovery in Scotland. It is hoped that WGGB Scotland and the other […]