In recognition of his contributions to literature, Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment has elected to offer Alexander McCall Smith an award for Lifetime Environmental Achievement in the Fine Arts.
McCall Smith, a Scottish author and an emeritus law professor at the University of Edinburgh, will receive the prestigious LEAF award in a ceremony April 12. He has written more than 60 books, several collections of short stories and the “No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency” series, which has sold more than 20 million copies worldwide. McCall Smith is the fifth recipient of the LEAF award, which is given annually by a selection committee affiliated with the Nicholas School of the Environment.
“LEAF is unique in that it awards artists for their treatment of and inclusion of the environment in their works, thus, through their artistic work connecting people to the natural world on an emotional and visceral level,” said Nicholas School Dean William Chameides in an email Tuesday. “[McCall Smith] is unique among our previous recipients for the range of his work—from children’s stories to detective novels taking place in Botswana to scholarly work on bioethics.”
The ‘No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency’ series follows a Motswana woman named Mma Precious Ramotswe and was adapted into an HBO series in 2008.
Tim Lucas, director of marketing communications at the Nicholas School, noted that McCall Smith’s vivid descriptions of Botswana’s ecology in the series were likely influenced by his time living in the country when he set up a law school at the University of Botswana.
“There is a strong sense of connection between people and places in [McCall Smith’s] works,” Lucas said.
The award, selected by the school’s Board of Visitors, was specifically aimed at McCall Smith’s portrayal of the land in his novels, yet also took into account the broader body of his work.
McCall Smith will speak at Duke in a special ceremony April 12. Tickets are free through the Bryan Center Box Office.
“We like to give this award because there are some things about the environment that can’t be communicated as well by research papers as by art,” Lucas said.