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One of the judges for the 2023 International Booker Prize for literature credits the public library in Castlebay with sparking his lifelong love of reading and literature.

Judge Uilleam Blacker, a professor at University College London (UCL), who was born on Barra, said on Friday (10 February) that the library was ‘very important’ as he was growing up.

Uilleam is one of Britain’s leading literary translators from Ukrainian, and an associate professor of Ukrainian and East European Culture at UCL.

He is also an author, translator and writer with special interest in the literature and culture of east-central Europe, and a research focus on problems of cultural memory.

In an interview for the Booker Prize website, Uilleam explained how reading started for him at a very young age.

He said: “We always had plenty of books at home and we also had a great little public library on the island where I grew up (Barra, in the Western Isles) – that was very important.

“So I was very lucky to have a wide selection of books available. From childhood, I remember we had a really nice series of books based in Scottish history and folklore, books about selkies and such like. They really appealed to the imagination and seemed connected to the world I lived in.”

The full interview (which you can read here details Uilleam’s own reading interests, which include Scottish literature which, he said: “helps keep me in touch with home.”

He also mentions Scottish poets such as Norman McCaig and Kathleen Jamie.

The International Booker Prize 2023 has opened for entries, with the judging panel looking for the best work of translated fiction published in the UK or Ireland between 1 May 2022 and 30 April 2023.

The longlist of 12 or 13 books will be announced on 14 March and the shortlist of six books on 18 April. The winning title will be announced at a ceremony in London on Tuesday 23 May.

The picture of Uilleam is from University College London.