Know Your History

Know Your History – 21st June – Ian McEwan born

know your history - writingOn this day… 21st June, 1948 – Ian McEwan born

Ian Russell McEwan, (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 adapted into a film. He won the Man Booker Prize with Amsterdam (1998).

On Writing

McEwan typically writes 500-800 words between 9:30 and lunch time. He then reads in the afternoon.

Of his writing process McEwan says:

I tend to leave long gaps between novels; I’m quite Ian McEwanhappy not to write for months on end. I don’t have anxieties about writer’s block either – I don’t even believe in the concept – but I’m a great believer in hesitation. I think there’s nothing wrong with pausing when you’re not sure how to proceed

Sometimes I experimentally write out a first paragraph – or middle paragraph, even – of a novel which I feel no obligation to write. Those kind of dabblings I always set down in a green, ring-bound A4 notebook. It’s full of paragraphs from novels I will never complete, or hardly start. But sooner or later, one of those paragraphs will snag my attention, and I’ll come back to it asking: why does that interest me so much, why does that seem to offer a peculiar kind of mental freedom? And so I might find myself adding a page or two. It was with a complete free hand, for example, that I once wrote what turned out to be the opening of Atonement – with no clear sense that I was committed to anything at all, I was just playing with narrative positions, with tone of voice, with a certain descriptive moment. Or I might decide that what I’ve written belongs to the middle of a novel, and then I’ll spend some idle time tracing out a beginning. Then abandoning it. It’s a way of tricking myself into writing novels.

Did You Know

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”.

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