"One has to have the courage of one's pessimism." -- Ian McEwan
Ian Russell McEwan CBE, FRSA, FRSL (born 21 June 1948) is an English novelist and screenwriter. McEwan is one of Britain's most highly regarded writers. In 2008, The Times named McEwan among their list of "The 50 greatest British writers since 1945".
McEwan's first published works were two collections of short stories, First Love, Last Rites (1975) and In Between the Sheets (1978). The Cement Garden (1978) and The Comfort of Strangers (1981) were his two earliest novels. The nature of these works caused him to be nicknamed "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 (2003) and On Chesil Beach (2007). His latest novel is Solar (2010).
"By concentrating on what is good in people, by appealing to their idealism and their sense of justice, and by asking them to put their faith in the future, socialists put themselves at a severe disadvantage.""It is not the first duty of the novelist to provide blueprints for insurrection, or uplifting tales of successful resistance for the benefit of the opposition. The naming of what is there is what is important.""Politics is the enemy of the imagination.""You enter a state of controlled passivity, you relax your grip and accept that even if your declared intention is to justify the ways of God to man, you might end up interesting your readers rather more in Satan."
McEwan was born in Aldershot, Hampshire, on 21 June 1948, the son of David McEwan and Rose Lilian Violet (née Moore). He spent much of his childhood in East Asia (including Singapore), Germany and North Africa (including Libya), where his father, a Scottish army officer, 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. 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". 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 wrote 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 extremely popular with critics, although it was not shortlisted for the Booker Prize. It was adapted into a film in 2004. In 1998, he won the Booker Prize for Amsterdam, though it was considered one of his weaker works. 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. 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 (2003), 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.
McEwan's most recent work, Solar, was published by Jonathan Cape and Doubleday in March 2010. In June 2008 at the Hay Festival, McEwan gave a surprise reading of this work-in-progress. According to reportage of the reading in The Guardian, the novel concerns "a scientist who hopes to save the planet." 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 divulged to the audience that "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" but denied that the novel, which was not due to be published for at least two years, was a comedy, saying "I hate comic novels; it's like being wrestled to the ground and being tickled, being forced to laugh", instead, that it had extended comic stretches.
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, Shortlisted), and On Chesil Beach (2007, Shortlisted). McEwan also received nominations for the Man Booker International Prize in 2005 and 2007.
McEwan 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. In 2005, he was the first recipient of Dickinson College's prestigious Harold and Ethel L. Stellfox Visiting Scholar and Writers Program Award, in Carlisle, PA, USA. 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".
In late 2006, it was reported that Lucilla Andrews felt that McEwan had failed to give her sufficient credit for material sourced from her 1977 autobiography No Time for Romance for his novel Atonement. McEwan had included a brief note at the end of Atonement, referring to Andrews’s autobiography, among several other works. Writing in The Guardian in November 2006, a month after Andrews' death, McEwan professed innocence of plagiarism while acknowledging his debt to the author. Several authors defended him, including John Updike, Martin Amis, Margaret Atwood, Thomas Keneally, Zadie Smith, and the reclusive Thomas Pynchon.
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.
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. 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. The brothers are in regular contact, and McEwan has written a foreword to Sharp's memoir.
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, a self-described atheist, said that Christianity was "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."
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 US 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.'
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".
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.