Ian McEwan

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Ian McEwan

Paris, 2011
BornIan Russell McEwan
(1948-06-21) 21 June 1948 (age 64)
Aldershot, England
OccupationNovelist, screenwriter
Spouse(s)Penny Allen (1982–1995)
Annalena McAfee (1997–)

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Ian McEwan

Paris, 2011
BornIan Russell McEwan
(1948-06-21) 21 June 1948 (age 64)
Aldershot, England
OccupationNovelist, screenwriter
Spouse(s)Penny Allen (1982–1995)
Annalena McAfee (1997–)


Ian Russell McEwan[2] CBE, FRSA, FRSL (born 21 June 1948) is an English novelist and screenwriter. In 2008, The Times featured him on their list of "The 50 greatest British writers since 1945".

McEwan began his career writing sparse, Gothic short stories. The Cement Garden (1978) and The Comfort of Strangers (1981) were his first two novels, and earned him the nickname "Ian Macabre". These were followed by three novels of some success in the 1980s and early 1990s. In 1997, he published Enduring Love, which was made into a film. He won the Man Booker Prize with Amsterdam (1998). In 2001, he published Atonement, which was made into an Oscar-winning film. This was followed by Saturday (2005), On Chesil Beach (2007), Solar (2010), and Sweet Tooth (2012). In 2011, he was awarded the Jerusalem Prize.


Early life

McEwan was born in Aldershot, Hampshire, on 21 June 1948, the son of David McEwan and Rose Lilian Violet (née Moore).[2] His father was a working class Scotsman who had worked his way up through the army to the rank of major.[3] He spent much of his childhood in East Asia (including Singapore), Germany and North Africa (including Libya), where his father was posted. His family returned to England when he was twelve. He was educated at Woolverstone Hall School; the University of Sussex, receiving his degree in English literature in 1970; and the University of East Anglia, where he was one of the first graduates of Malcolm Bradbury's pioneering creative writing course.


McEwan's first published work was a collection of short stories, First Love, Last Rites (1975), which won the Somerset Maugham Award in 1976. He achieved notoriety in 1979 when the BBC suspended production of his play Solid Geometry because of its supposed obscenity.[4] His second collection of short stories, In Between the Sheets, was published in 1978. The Cement Garden (1978) and The Comfort of Strangers (1981) were his two earliest novels, both of which were adapted into films. The nature of these works caused him to be nicknamed "Ian Macabre".[5] These were followed by The Child in Time (1987), winner of the 1987 Whitbread Novel Award; The Innocent (1990); and Black Dogs (1992). McEwan has also written two children's books, Rose Blanche (1985) The Daydreamer (1994).

His 1997 novel, Enduring Love, about the relationship between a science writer and a stalker, was popular with critics, although it was not shortlisted for the Booker Prize.[6][7] It was adapted into a film in 2004. In 1998, he won the Man Booker Prize for Amsterdam.[8] His next novel, Atonement (2001), received considerable acclaim; Time magazine named it the best novel of 2002, and it was shortlisted for the Booker Prize.[9] In 2007, the critically acclaimed movie Atonement, directed by Joe Wright and starring Keira Knightley and James McAvoy, was released in cinemas worldwide. His next work, Saturday (2005), follows an especially eventful day in the life of a successful neurosurgeon. Saturday won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for 2005, and his novel On Chesil Beach (2007) was shortlisted for the 2007 Booker Prize. McEwan has also written a number of produced screenplays, a stage play, children's fiction, an oratorio and a libretto titled For You with music composed by Michael Berkeley.

Solar, was published by Jonathan Cape and Doubleday in March 2010.[10] In June 2008 at the Hay Festival, McEwan gave a surprise reading of this work-in-progress. The novel concerns "a scientist who hopes to save the planet."[11] from the threat of climate change, with inspiration for the novel coming from a trip McEwan made in 2005 "when he was part of an expedition of artists and scientists who spent several weeks aboard a ship near the north pole to discuss environmental concerns". McEwan noted "The novel's protagonist Michael Beard has been awarded a Nobel prize for his pioneering work on physics, and has discovered that winning the coveted prize has interfered with his work".[11] He said that the work was not a comedy: "I hate comic novels; it's like being wrestled to the ground and being tickled, being forced to laugh",[11] instead, that it had extended comic stretches. McEwan's twelfth novel, Sweet Tooth, is historical in nature and set in the 1970s.,[12] and was published in late August 2012.[13] In an interview with the Scotsman newspaper to coincide with publication, McEwan revealed that the impetus for writing Sweet Tooth had been "[...] a way in which I can write a disguised autobiography”.[14]

In 2006 he was accused of plagiarism; specifically that a passage in Atonement (2001) closely echoed a passage from a memoir, No Time for Romance, published in 1977 by Lucilla Andrews. McEwan acknowledged using the book as a source for his work.[15][16] McEwan had included a brief note at the end of Atonement, referring to Andrews’s autobiography, among several other works.[17] Writing in The Guardian in November 2006, a month after Andrews' death, McEwan professed innocence of plagiarism while acknowledging his debt to the author.[18][19][20] Several authors defended him, including John Updike, Martin Amis, Margaret Atwood, Thomas Keneally, Kazuo Ishiguro, Zadie Smith, and Thomas Pynchon.[21][22]

Awards and honours

McEwan has been nominated for the Man Booker prize six times to date, winning the Prize for Amsterdam in 1998. His other nominations were for The Comfort of Strangers (1981, Shortlisted), Black Dogs (1992, Shortlisted), Atonement (2001, Shortlisted), Saturday (2005, Longlisted), and On Chesil Beach (2007, Shortlisted). McEwan also received nominations for the Man Booker International Prize in 2005 and 2007.[23]

He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, and a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He was awarded the Shakespeare Prize by the Alfred Toepfer Foundation, Hamburg, in 1999. He is also a Distinguished Supporter of the British Humanist Association. He was awarded a CBE in 2000.[24] In 2005, he was the first recipient of Dickinson College's Harold and Ethel L. Stellfox Visiting Scholar and Writers Program Award,[25] in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. In 2008, McEwan was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Literature by University College, London, where he used to teach English literature. In 2008, The Times named McEwan among their list of "The 50 greatest British writers since 1945".[26]

In 2010, McEwan received the Peggy V. Helmerich Distinguished Author Award. The Helmerich Award is presented annually by the Tulsa Library Trust.

On 20 February 2011, he was awarded the Jerusalem Prize for the Freedom of the Individual in Society.[27] He accepted the prize, despite controversy[28] and pressure from groups and individuals opposed to the Israeli government.[29][30] McEwan responded to his critics, and specifically the group British Writers in Support of Palestine (BWISP), in a letter to The Guardian, stating in part, "There are ways in which art can have a longer reach than politics, and for me the emblem in this respect is Daniel Barenboim's West-Eastern Divan Orchestra – surely a beam of hope in a dark landscape, though denigrated by the Israeli religious right and Hamas. If BWISP is against this particular project, then clearly we have nothing more to say to each other."[31] McEwan's acceptance speech discussed the complaints against him and provided further insight into his reasons for accepting the award.[32] He also said he will donate the amount of the prize, "ten thousand dollars to Combatants for Peace, an organisation that brings together Israeli ex-soldiers and Palestinian ex-fighters."[32]

Personal life

He has been married twice. His second wife, Annalena McAfee, was formerly the editor of The Guardian's Review section. In 1999, his first wife, Penny Allen, took their 13-year-old son to France after a court in Brittany ruled that the boy should be returned to his father, who had been granted sole custody over him and his 15-year-old brother.[33]

In 2002, McEwan discovered that he had a brother who had been given up for adoption during World War II; the story became public in 2007.[34] The brother, a bricklayer named David Sharp, was born six years earlier than McEwan, when his mother was married to a different man. Sharp has the same parents as McEwan but was born from an affair between them that occurred before their marriage. After her first husband was killed in combat, McEwan's mother married her lover, and Ian was born a few years later.[35] The brothers are in regular contact, and McEwan has written a foreword to Sharp's memoir.

Views on religion and politics


In 2008, McEwan publicly spoke out against Islamism for its views on women and on homosexuality. He was quoted as saying that fundamentalist Islam wanted to create a society that he "abhorred". His comments appeared in the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, to defend fellow writer Martin Amis against allegations of racism. McEwan, an atheist,[36] said that certain streams of Christianity were "equally absurd" and that he didn't "like these medieval visions of the world according to which God is coming to save the faithful and to damn the others."[37]

McEwan put forward the following statement on his official site and blog after claiming he was misinterpreted:

Certain remarks of mine to an Italian journalist have been widely misrepresented in the UK press, and on various websites. Contrary to reports, my remarks were not about Islam, but about Islamism – perhaps 'extremism' would be a better term. I grew up in a Muslim country – Libya – and have only warm memories of a dignified, tolerant and hospitable Islamic culture. I was referring in my interview to a tiny minority who preach violent jihad, who incite hatred and violence against 'infidels', apostates, Jews and homosexuals; who in their speeches and on their websites speak passionately against free thought, pluralism, democracy, unveiled women; who will tolerate no other interpretation of Islam but their own and have vilified Sufism and other strands of Islam as apostasy; who have murdered, among others, fellow Muslims by the thousands in the market places of Iraq, Algeria and in the Sudan. Countless Islamic writers, journalists and religious authorities have expressed their disgust at this extremist violence. To speak against such things is hardly 'astonishing' on my part (Independent on Sunday) or original, nor is it 'Islamophobic' and 'right wing' as one official of the Muslim Council of Britain insists, and nor is it to endorse the failures and brutalities of U.S. foreign policy. It is merely to invoke a common humanity which I hope would be shared by all religions as well as all non-believers.'[38]

In 2008, McEwan was among a list of more than 200,000 writers of a petition to support Roberto Saviano, in exposing the Neapolitan mafia in the book Gomorrah. The petition urges Italian police to assure the full protection of Saviano from the mafia, while comparing the mob's threats against Saviano to "the tactics used by extremist religious groups".[39]

McEwan lent his support to the campaign to release Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, the Iranian woman sentenced to death by stoning after being convicted of committing adultery.[40]

On winning the Jerusalem Prize, McEwan defended himself against criticism for accepting the prize in light of opposition to Israeli policies, saying "If you didn't go to countries whose foreign policy or domestic policy is screwed up, you'd never get out of bed".[41][42] On accepting the honour he spoke in favour of Israel's existence, security, and freedoms[43] while strongly attacking Hamas, as well as Israel's policies in Gaza, and the expansion of settlements,[44] notable as the audience included political leaders such as Israeli President Shimon Peres and Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat. He also personally attended a protest against the expansion of Israeli settlements on Palestinian territory.[45]

In 2009 McEwan joined the 10:10 project, a movement that supports positive action on climate change by encouraging people to reduce their carbon emissions.[46]



Short story collections

Children's fiction





Film adaptations


  1. ^ Carrell, Severin (22 August 2012). "I am an English writer, not a British one, Ian McEwan tells Alex Salmond: Olympic opening ceremony was first and only time novelist had seen 'Britishness' celebrated, he tells Scotland's first minister". The Guardian. http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2012/aug/22/ian-mcewan-not-a-british-writer?INTCMP=ILCNETTXT3487. Retrieved 22 August 2012. ""I have heard myself described as one [a British novelist], but I think really I'm an English novelist; there are Scottish poets and Scottish novelists.""
  2. ^ a b "Ian McEwan". Film reference. http://www.filmreference.com/film/14/Ian-McEwan.html. Retrieved 26 August 2011.
  3. ^ http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2012/aug/19/ian-mcewan-sweet-tooth-interview
  4. ^ Ian McEwan: Writers and Their Work by Kiernan Ryan publ 1994
  5. ^ Walsh, John (27 January 2007). "Ian McEwan: Here's the twist". The Independent (London). http://news.independent.co.uk/people/profiles/article2169220.ece. Retrieved 22 March 2007.
  6. ^ Knorr, Katherine (9 October 1997). "Enduring Love". International Herald Tribune. http://www.iht.com/articles/1997/10/09/bookjeu.t.php. Retrieved 22 March 2007.[dead link]
  7. ^ "Ian McEwan's Family Values". Boston Review. http://bostonreview.net/BR31.1/boylan.html. Retrieved 21 March 2007.
  8. ^ "Prize archive: 1998". Man Booker Prize. http://www.themanbookerprize.com/prize/archive/31. Retrieved 7 July 2010.
  9. ^ Man Booker Prize Website Retrieved 13 April 2010
  10. ^ "Solar". Ian Mcewan's Website. http://www.ianmcewan.com/bib/books/solar.html. Retrieved 26 August 2011.
  11. ^ a b c Soal, Judith (2 June 2008). "McEwan sees funny side of climate change in novel reading". The Guardian (London). http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2008/jun/02/hayfestival2008.hayfestival. Retrieved 2 April 2010.
  12. ^ Farndale, Nigel (7 March 2011). "Ian McEwan interview". The Daily Telegraph (London). http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/authorinterviews/8359326/Ian-McEwan-interview.html#.
  13. ^ http://ianmcewan.com/bib/books/sweettooth.html
  14. ^ http://www.scotsman.com/lifestyle/books/features/interview-ian-mcewan-author-1-2474675
  15. ^ Cowell, Alan (28 November 2006). "Eyebrows Are Raised Over Passages in a Best Seller by Ian McEwan". The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2006/11/28/books/28aton.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1.
  16. ^ Julia Langdon (25 November 2006). "Ian McEwan accused of stealing ideas from romance novelist". The Daily Mail (London). http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-418598/Ian-McEwan-accused-stealing-ideas-romance-novelist.html. Retrieved 7 July 2010.
  17. ^ Alan Cowell (28 November 2006). "Eyebrows Are Raised Over Passages in a Best Seller by Ian McEwan". The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2006/11/28/books/28aton.html?ex=1322370000&en=998492a2933f783c&ei=5090&partner=rssuserland&emc=rss. Retrieved 7 July 2010.
  18. ^ Ian McEwan (27 November 2006). "An inspiration, yes. Did I copy from another author? No". The Guardian (London). http://books.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,,1957845,00.html. Retrieved 27 November 2006.
  19. ^ Hoyle, Ben (27 November 2006). "McEwan hits back at call for atonement". The Times (London). http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2-2473382,00.html. Retrieved 27 November 2006.
  20. ^ "McEwan accused of copying writers memoirs". PR inside. http://www.pr-inside.com/mcewan-accused-of-copying-writer-s-memoirs-r27254.htm. Retrieved 27 November 2006.
  21. ^ Reynolds, Nigel (6 December 2006). "Recluse speaks out to defend McEwan". The Daily Telegraph (London). http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2006/12/06/nwriter06.xml. Retrieved 25 April 2010.
  22. ^ Bell, Dan (6 December 2006). "Pynchon backs McEwan in 'copying' row". The Guardian (London). http://books.guardian.co.uk/news/articles/0,,1965130,00.html. Retrieved 25 April 2010.
  23. ^ "Man Booker". Themanbookerprize.com. http://www.themanbookerprize.com/prize/authors/38. Retrieved 26 August 2011.
  24. ^ "Ian McEwan". Contemporary Writers. British Council. http://www.contemporarywriters.com/authors/?p=auth70. Retrieved 3 June 2006.
  25. ^ [1][dead link]
  26. ^ Hosking, Patrick; Wighton, David (5 January 2008). "The 50 greatest British writers since 1945". The Times (London). http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/books/article3127837.ece. Retrieved 1 February 2010.
  27. ^ "the jerusalem prize". Jerusalem Book Fair. http://www.jerusalembookfair.com/the_jerusalem_prize.html. Retrieved 13 February 2011.
  28. ^ "McEwan defends decision to accept Jerusalem Prize." Jewish Journal. 26 January 2011. 26 January 2011.
  29. ^ Bates, Stephen (19 January 2011). "Ian McEwan says he will accept Jerusalem prize". The Guardian (London). http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2011/jan/19/ian-mcewan-accept-jerusalem-prize.
  30. ^ "Ian McEwan should turn down the prize". The Guardian (London). 27 January 2011. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/jan/27/mcewan-should-turn-down-prize.
  31. ^ "Israel critics should respect my decision" The Guardian, 26 January 2011.
  32. ^ a b "Jerusalem Prize Acceptance Speech". Ianmcewan.com. http://www.ianmcewan.com/bib/articles/jerusalemprize.html. Retrieved 26 August 2011.
  33. ^ "Novelist's ex-wife 'gagged'". BBC News. 7 September 1999. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/440893.stm. Retrieved 3 June 2006.
  34. ^ Cowell, Alan (17 January 2007). "Ian McEwan's life takes twist with discovery of a brother". International Herald Tribune. http://www.iht.com/articles/2007/01/17/news/brother.php. Retrieved 23 March 2007.
  35. ^ "Novelist McEwan discovers brother". BBC News. 11 January 2007. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/6269887.stm. Retrieved 22 March 2007.
  36. ^ Solomon, Deborah (2 December 2007). "A Sinner's Tale". The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/02/magazine/02wwln-Q4-t.html. Retrieved 2 April 2010.
  37. ^ Popham, Peter (22 June 2008). "'I despise Islamism': Ian McEwan faces backlask over press interview". The Independent (London). http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/i-despise-islamism-ian-mcewan-faces-backlash-over-press-interview-852030.html. Retrieved 25 June 2008.
  38. ^ Ian McEwan (26 June 2008). "McEwan Addresses Recent Statement on Islamism". ian-mcewan.blogspot.com. http://ian-mcewan.blogspot.com/2008_06_01_archive.html. Retrieved 7 July 2010.
  39. ^ Flood, Alison (24 October 2008). "Ian McEwan condemns 'thuggery' of Neapolitan mafia.". The Guardian (UK). http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2008/oct/24/mcewan-mafia-saviano-extremists. Retrieved 26 August 2011.
  40. ^ "Iran stoning case woman ordered to name campaigners". The Guardian (London). 22 July 2010. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/jul/22/iran-stoning-woman-campaigners.
  41. ^ "Palestinian writers shun Ian McEwan over Israel honour". Reuters. 18 February 2011. http://uk.reuters.com/article/2011/02/18/uk-people-mcewan-interview-idUKTRE71H48M20110218.
  42. ^ Harriet Sherwood in Tel Aviv (18 February 2011). "McEwan to accept Israeli book award but criticise occupation". Guardian (UK). http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2011/feb/18/ian-mcewan-israel-book-award?INTCMP=SRCH. Retrieved 26 August 2011.
  43. ^ "RCW". Rcwlitagency.com. http://www.rcwlitagency.com/news.aspx. Retrieved 26 August 2011.
  44. ^ "Ian McEwan attacks Israeli policies | Jerusalem prize". Sydney Morning Herald. 22 February 2011. http://www.smh.com.au/world/mcewan-denounces-authors-of-nihilism-in-israel-20110221-1b2lj.html. Retrieved 26 August 2011.
  45. ^ Gordon, Evelyn (20 February 2011). "Ian McEwan joins left-wing protest in Sh... JPost – National News". Jerusalem Post. http://www.jpost.com/NationalNews/Article.aspx?id=208843&R=R2. Retrieved 26 August 2011.
  46. ^ http://www.1010global.org/uk/who

Further reading

External links