Irvine Welsh: Wikis


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Irvine Welsh

Irvine Welsh 2004 at the Edinburgh International Book Festival
Born 27 September 1958 (1958-09-27) (age 51)
Leith, Edinburgh, Scotland
Occupation Novelist
Nationality Scottish
Genres Literature, Novel
Literary movement Modernism, Post Modernism
Notable work(s) Trainspotting
Official website

Irvine Welsh (born 27 September 1958 Leith, Edinburgh) is a contemporary Scottish novelist, best known for his novel Trainspotting. His work is characterised by raw Scottish dialect, and brutal depiction of the realities of Edinburgh life. He has also written plays and screenplays, and directed several short films.



Irvine Welsh was born in Leith, a port area to the east and now part of the Scottish capital Edinburgh and moved with his family to Muirhouse, in Edinburgh, when he was four, where the family stayed at local housing schemes [1]. His mother worked as a waitress. His father was a dock worker at Leith until bad health forced him to become a carpet salesman; he died when Welsh was 25. Welsh left Ainslie Park High School when he was 16 and then completed a City and Guilds course in electrical engineering. He became an apprentice TV repairman until an electric shock persuaded him to move on to a series of other jobs.[1] He left Edinburgh for the London punk scene in 1978, where he played guitar and sang in The Pubic Lice and Stairway 13,[1] the latter a reference to the Ibrox disaster. A series of arrests for petty crimes and finally a suspended sentence for trashing a North London community centre, inspired Welsh to correct his ways. He worked for Hackney Council in London and studied computing with the support of the Manpower Services Commission.[1]

In the mid 1980s he became a minor property speculator, renovating houses in the rapidly gentrifying North London. After the London property boom of the 1980s, Welsh returned to Edinburgh in late 80s, where he worked for the city council in the housing department. He went on to study for an MBA at Heriot-Watt University, writing his thesis on creating equal opportunities for women.

Welsh has made several reading tours around the world and has been involved with his beloved house music as a DJ, promoter and producer. Like many of his characters, he supports Hibs. He met an American woman Beth Quinn, 26, when he was teaching creative writing in Chicago, and they were married in July 2005. He considers the age gap inconsequential. 'I've never felt tied to any one age ... I've never thought "I must find someone a couple of years younger than I am".' Welsh was previously married to Anne Ansty from 1984 until their divorce in 2003.[2]

He currently lives in Dublin, Ireland. In an interview with The Daily Mail on 7 August 2006, he described himself as "not so much middle-class as upper-class. I'm very much a gentleman of leisure. I write. I sit and look out of my window into the garden. I enjoy books. I love the density and complexity of Jane Austen and George Eliot. I listen to music; I travel. I can go off to a film festival whenever I like." He also describes himself as monogamous: "it sounds boring but it's the way I am".


Irvine Welsh in Warsaw, Poland, 13 March 2006

To date, Welsh has published seven novels and three collections of short stories. His first novel, Trainspotting, was published in 1993, and rumor has it that Welsh wrote it in the breaks while writing his thesis at Heriot-Watt University's Library, second floor. Set in the mid 1980s, it uses a series of loosely connected short stories to tell the story of a group of characters tied together by decaying friendships, heroin addiction and stabs at escape from the oppressive boredom and brutality of their lives in the housing schemes. It was released to shock and outrage in some circles and massive acclaim in others; Time Out called it "funny, unflinchingly abrasive, authentic and inventive", and The Sunday Times called Welsh "the best thing that has happened to British writing for decades". One critic (Welsh's personal friend Kevin Williamson) went so far as to say that Trainspotting "deserves to sell more copies than The Bible". It was adapted as a play, and a film adaptation, directed by Danny Boyle and written by John Hodge, was released in 1996. Welsh himself appeared in the film as Mikey Forrester, a minor character. The film was a worldwide success. U.S. Senator Bob Dole decried its moral depravity and glorification of drug use during the 1996 presidential campaign, although he admitted that he had not actually seen the film (or, presumably, read the book).[3]

The novel has since achieved a cult status, aided by the global success of the film.[4]

Next, Welsh released The Acid House, a collection of short stories from Rebel Inc., New Writing Scotland and other sources. Many of the stories take place in and around the housing schemes from Trainspotting, and employ many of the same themes; however, a touch of fantasy is apparent in stories such as The Acid House, where the minds of a baby and a drug user swap bodies, or The Granton Star Cause, where God transforms a man into a fly as punishment for wasting his life. Welsh himself adapted three of the stories for a later film, which he also appeared in.

Welsh's third book (and second novel), Marabou Stork Nightmares, alternates between a typically grim tale of thugs and schemes in sub-working class Scotland and a hallucinatory adventure tale set in South Africa. Gradually, common themes begin to emerge between the two stories, culminating in a shocking ending.

His next book, Ecstasy: Three Tales of Chemical Romance (1996), became his most high-profile work since Trainspotting, released in the wave of publicity surrounding the film. It consists of three unconnected novellas: the first, Lorraine Goes To Livingston, is a bawdy satire of classic British romance novels, the second, Fortune's Always Hiding, is a revenge story involving thalidomide and the third, The Undefeated, is a sly, subtle romance between a young woman dissatisfied with the confines of her suburban life and an aging clubgoer. Most critics dismissed the first two as relatively minor affairs and focused their praise on The Undefeated. Welsh's narration imbued both characters with surprising warmth, and the story avoided easy, pro-ecstasy conclusions.

A corrupt police officer and his tapeworm served as the narrators for his third novel, Filth (1998). Welsh had never avoided flawed characters, but the main character of Filth was a brutally vicious sociopathic policeman.

Glue (2001) was a return to the locations, themes and episodic form of Trainspotting, telling the stories of four characters spanning several decades in their lives and the bonds that held them together.

Having revisited some of them in passing in Glue, Welsh brought most of the Trainspotting characters back for a sequel, Porno, in 2002. In this book Welsh explores the impact of pornography on the individuals involved in producing it, as well as society as a whole, and the impact of aging and maturity in individuals against their will.

Welsh's novel, The Bedroom Secrets of the Master Chefs (2006), deals with a young, alcoholic civil servant who finds himself inadvertently putting a curse on his nemesis, a nerdy co-worker. In 2007, Welsh published If You Liked School You'll Love Work, his first collection of short stories in over a decade.

At the request of the Daily Telegraph, Welsh travelled with a group of authors and journalists to the Sudan in 2001. A book called The Weekenders: Travels in the Heart of Africa was the result, to which Welsh contributed a novella called Contamination, about the violence and warlords in the region. A second book, The Weekenders: Adventures in Calcutta, was published in 2004. Welsh, Ian Rankin, and Alexander McCall Smith each contributed a short story for the One City compilation published in 2005 in benefit of the One City Trust for social inclusion in Edinburgh.

Welsh's most recently published novel is entitled Crime, whose main character is Ray Lennox (who appeared in Welsh's previous work, Filth). Detective Inspector Ray Lennox is recovering from a mental breakdown induced by occupational stress and cocaine abuse, and a particularly horrifying child sex murder case back in Edinburgh. The story takes place in Florida.[5]

Welsh is currently writing a prequel to Trainspotting, to be called Skagboys.[6][7][8]

Film and stage

As well as fiction, Irvine Welsh has written several stage plays, including Headstate, You'll Have Had Your Hole, and the musical Blackpool, which featured original songs by Vic Godard of the Subway Sect.

More recently he coauthored Babylon Heights with his screen writing partner Dean Cavanagh. The play premiered in San Francisco at the Exit Theatre and made its European premiere in Dublin, at The Mill Theatre Dundrum, directed by Graham Cantwell. The plot revolves around the behind-the-scenes antics of a group of Munchkins on the set of The Wizard of Oz. The production included the use of oversized sets with actors of regular stature.

Cavanagh and Welsh have also collaborated on a number of screenplays. The Meat Trade is based on the 19th century West Port murders. Despite the historical source material, Welsh has set the story in the familiar confines of present day Edinburgh, with Burke and Hare depicted as brothers who steal human organs to meet the demands of the global transplant market.

Wedding Belles, a film made for Channel 4 that was written by Welsh and Cavanagh, aired at the end of March 2007. The film centres around the lives of four young women, who are played by Michelle Gomez, Shirley Henderson, Shauna MacDonald, and Kathleen McDermot. Wedding Belles was nominated for a Scottish BAFTA and was subsequently sold to TV channels in Canada and Europe.

Welsh has directed several short films for bands. In 2001 he directed a 15 minute film for Gene's song "Is It Over" which is taken from the album Libertine. In 2006 he directed a short film to accompany the track "Atlantic" from Keane's album Under the Iron Sea.

Welsh directed his first short dramatic film, NUTS, which he co wrote with Cavanagh. The film features Joe McKinney as a man dealing with testicular cancer in post Celtic tiger Ireland. It was released in 2007.

Welsh co-directed 'The Right to liberty' a chapter of the documentary film The New Ten Commandments in 2008.

Film adaptation

In 2009, the film Ecstasy based on The Undefeated will be produced.

Theatre adaptations

Ecstasy, Glue, Filth, Trainspotting, Marabou Stork Nightmares.[9]


Welsh is often pigeonholed as a writer whose work concentrates on recreational drug use. However, most of his fiction and non-fiction is dominated by the question of working class and Scottish identity in the period spanning the 1960s to the present day. Within this, he explores the rise and fall of the council housing scheme, denial of opportunity, sectarianism, football, hooliganism, sex, suppressed homosexuality, dance clubs, low-paid work, freemasonry, Irish republicanism, sodomy, class divisions, emigration, and perhaps most of all, the humour, prejudices, and axioms of the Scots.


His novels share a number of characters, giving the feel of a "shared universe" within his writing. For example, characters from Trainspotting make cameo appearances in The Acid House, Marabou Stork Nightmares, Ecstasy, Filth, and slightly larger appearances in Glue, whose characters then appear in Porno.

Irvine Welsh is known for writing in his native Edinburgh Scots dialect. He generally ignores the traditional conventions of literary Scots, used for example by Allan Ramsay, Robert Fergusson, Robert Burns, Robert Louis Stevenson, and James Orr. Instead, he transcribes dialects phonetically, a device popularised by authors such as James Kelman and Iain Banks. Non-Scottish readers may have difficulty deciphering the language, and may miss some of the impact and references to football, sectarianism, and Scottish everyday life in his work. For that reason, some international editions of his books have included brief glossaries at the end.

Like Alasdair Gray before him, Welsh also experiments with typography. A notable example is the book Filth, where the tapeworm's internal monologue is imposed over the top of the protagonist's own internal monologue (the worm's host), visibly depicting the tapeworm's voracious appetite, much like the 'Climax of Voices' in Gray's novel 1982, Janine.



Short story collections

Script writing

  • You'll Have Had Your Hole (drama)
  • "Dose" (half Hour BBC drama written with Dean Cavanagh)[10]
  • The Acid House (screenplay)
  • Wedding Belles (2007 film for Channel 4 written with Dean Cavanagh)[11]
  • Four Play This is a collection of Irvine Welsh's books that have been adapted for the stage. Trainspotting, Marabou, Filth, and Ecstasy.[12]


  • Babylon Heights
  • You'll Have Had Your Hole


  1. ^ a b c d The Novelist Irvine Welsh's Trainspotting: A Reader's Guide, by Robert A. Morace. Published by Continuum International Publishing Group, 2001. ISBN 082645237X.Page 7-24.
  2. ^ Lorna Hughes (September 28, 2003). "Irvine Welsh splits from secret wife". Sunday Mail. 
  3. ^ Furek, Maxim W. (2008). "The Death Proclamation of Generation X: A Self-Fulfilling Prophesy of Goth, Grunge and Heroin". i-Universe. pp. 105. ISBN 978-0-595-46319-0. 
  4. ^ Contemporary Scottish Fictions--Film, Television, and the Novel: Film, Television and the Novel, by Duncan J. Petrie. Published by Edinburgh University Press, 2004.ISBN 0748617892. Page 101-102.
  5. ^ "". 
  6. ^ "Prequel to chart Trainspotting characters' fall from innocence". London. Retrieved 2007-03-17. 
  7. ^ "Welsh offers chance to score a role in Trainspotting prequel". Retrieved 2009-01-20. 
  8. ^
  9. ^ [1]
  10. ^ BBC - Press Office - Dose
  11. ^
  12. ^ [2]

External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Irvine Welsh (born in Leith, Edinburgh on September 27, 1958) is an acclaimed contemporary Scottish novelist.



Trainspotting (1993)

  • Sometimes ah think that people become junkies just because they subconsiously crave a wee bit ay silence.
    • "Kicking: The Skag Boys, Jean-Claude Van Damme and Mother Superior" (Chapter 1, Story 1)
  • That beats any meat injection ... that beats any fuckin cock in the world ... Ali gasps, completely serious. It unnerves us tae the extent that ah feel ma ain genitals through ma troosers tae see if they're still thair.
    • Alison, after receiving a shot of heroin from Sick Boy, narrated by Renton.
    • "Kicking: The Skag Boys, Jean-Claude Van Damme and Mother Superior" (Chapter 1, Story 1) (ellipses in the original)
  • The rhetorical question, the stock-in-trade weapon ay burds and psychos.
    • "Relapsing: Scotland Takes Drugs in Psychic Defense" (Chapter 2, Story 1)
  • Ah hate cunts like that. Cunts like Bebgie. Cunts that are intae baseball-batting every fucker that's different; pakis, poofs, n what huv ye. Fuckin failures in a country ay failures. It's nae good blamin it oan the English fir colonising us. Ah don't hate the English. They're just wankers. We are colonised by wankers. We can't even pick a decent, vibrant, healthy culture to be colonised by. No. We're ruled by effete arseholes. What does that make us? The lowest of the fuckin low, the scum of the earth. The most wretched, servile, miserable, pathetic trash that was ever shat intae creation. Ah don't hate the English. They just git oan wi the shite thuv goat. Ah hate the Scots.
    • "Relapsing: The Glass" (Chapter 2, Story 2)
  • Life's boring and futile. We start oaf wi high hopes, then we bottle it. We realize that we're aw gaunnae die, withoot really findin oot the big answers. We develop aw they long-winded ideas which jist interpret the reality ay oor lives in different weys, withoot really extending oor body ay worthwhile knowledge, about the big things, the real things. Basically, we live a short, disappointing life; and then we die.
    • "Relapsing: Cock Problems" (Chapter 2, Story 4)
  • Funny scene, likesay, how aw the psychos seem tae ken each other, ken what ah means, likes?
    • "Kicking Again: Na Na and Other Nazis" (Chapter 3, Story 2)
  • Rents once sais, thirs nothin like a darker skin tone tae increase the vigilance ay the police n the magistrates: too right.
    • Spud narrating a past conversation with Renton immediately before a race-ignited brawl in a pub.
    • "Kicking Again: Na Na and Other Nazis" (Chapter 3, Story 2)
  • How many shots does it take before the concept ay choice becomes obsolete?
    • Blowing It: Courting Disaster" (Chapter 4, Story 1)
  • Ah wonder if anybody this side of the Atlantic has ever bought a baseball bat with playing baseball in mind.
    • "Blowing It: Deid Dugs" (Chapter 4, Story 3)
    • Sick Boy, after using a baseball bat to kill a pitbull.
  • Society invents a spurious convoluted logic tae absorb and change people whae's behaviour is outside its mainstream. Suppose that ah ken aw the pros and cons, know that ah'm gaunnae huv a short life, am ay sound mind etcetera, etcetera, but still want tae use smack? They won't let ye dae it. They won't let ye dae it, beacuse its seen as a sign ay thir ain failure. The fact that ye jist simply choose tae reject whit they huv to offer. Choose us. Choose life. Choose mortgage payments; choose washing machines; choose cars; choose sitting oan a couch watching mind-numbing and spirit-crushing game shows, stuffing fuckin junk food intae yir mouth. Choose rotting away, pishing and shiteing yersel in a home, a total fuckin embarrassment tae the selfish, fucked-up brats ye've spawned to replace yourself. Choose life.
    Well, ah choose no tae choose life. If the cunts cannae handle that, it's thair fuckin problem. As Harry Lauder sais, ah jist intend tae keep right on to the end of the road ...
    • "Blowing It: Searching for the Inner Man" (Chapter 4, Story 4)
  • Still, failure, success, what is it? Whae gies a fuck. We aw live, then we die, in quite a short space ay time n aw. That's it; end ay fuckin story.
    • "Blowing It: House Arrest" (Chapter 4, Story 5)
  • Ah thought that every cunt over twenty was a toss an no worth speakin tae, until ah hit twenty. The mair ah see, the mair ah think ah wis right. After that it's aw ugly compromise, aw timid surrender, progressively until death.
    • "Blowing It: Bang to Rites" (Chapter 4, Story 6)
  • He had noted that with older people. They often try to control younger, more popular and vivacious people; usually due to the fact that they are jealous of the qualities the younger people have and they lack. These inadequacies are disguised with a benign, protective attitude.
  • Ah suppose man, ah'm too much ay a perfectionist, ken? It's likesay, if things go a bit dodgy, ah jist cannae be bothered, y'know?

The Acid House (1994)

  • Ah jist shrugged, -- Well, as one anarchist plumber sais tae the other: smash the cistern.
    • A conversation between plumbers.
    • "A Blockage in the System"
  • That cunt Nietzsche wis wide ay the mark whin he sais ah wis deid. Ah'm no deid; ah jist dinnae gie a fuck. It's no fir me tae sort every cunt's problems oot. Nae other cunt gies a fuck so how should ah? Eh?
    • God talking to Boab, the story's main protagonist, in a pub.
    • "The Granton Star Cause"
  • Bad luck is usually transmitted by close proximity to habitual sufferers.
    • The narrator talking about Ange after they are released from prison.
    • "Stoke Newington Blues"
  • The duty sergeant was going through his routine of asking each brawling set of prisoners who the Billy and who the Tim was. If the handshake is right he will let the Billy go and slap the Tim around a bit. That way everybody's happy. The Billy gets to feel superior and delude himself that being a non-churchgoing 'protestant' is somehow important; the Tim gets to feel persecuted and indulge his paranoia about masonic conspiracies; the sergeant gets to slap the Tim around.
    • "The Two Philosophers"
  • There's nothing worse than a violent beating from an unremarkable person. Physical violence with someone is too much like shagging them. Too much id involved.
    • A Smart Cunt: A Novella, "Associates as Opiates" (Chapter 3)
  • That's all very well as an abstract moral principle, Avril, a coffee-table theoretical construct, but there's no denying the sheer gratuitous pleasure to be derived from seeing members of the ruling class in pain and torment.
    • A Smart Cunt: A Novella, "Marriage" (Chapter 13)
    • Darren and Brian explaining their own notions of anarchy to Avril.
  • Once you've been with each other in a primal, shagging state, it's hard to talk about the weather.
    • A Smart Cunt: A Novella, "Marriage" (Chapter 13)


  • You can't just have stuff that is free and escapist, you have to have stuff that is confrontational as well. You need stuff that is mystical but you need the realism too.
    • "Alan Black Interviews Irvine Welsh for 3AM", 3:AM Magazine, 2004

See Also

External links

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