He’s Britain’s national author – with a swag of prizes – but why should the Brits have the scandalously popular Ian McEwan to themselves? Luckily, he agreed (he likes Australia and Australians) to sit down with Jennifer Byrne at his old, grand London house to talk about everything from his childhood stammer to why he writes to his feeble attempt to become an M15 spy.
Ian McEwan is one of those rare authors whose work is loved equally by both critics and readers. His first novel The Cement Garden was published in 1976 and since then he’s written some of the great books of the past four decades; On Chesil Beach, Enduring Love, Amsterdam, Saturday and Atonement.
With so many contemporary classics to his name it’s no wonder that Christopher Hitchens once described him as “the writer that most British writers want to be”.
Much of his work has been controversial with dark subject matter, such as deviant sexuality, incest, child abuse, suffering and violence, earning him the nickname ‘Ian Macabre’ early on in his career. Despite this, he has enjoyed the rare combination of critical success and popularity with readers.
Born in Hampshire, England in 1948, McEwan’s father was an army dispatch rider so as a child he spent time in Singapore, Tripoli, Germany and North Africa, wherever his father was posted. Ian specifically used his father’s war experience in the second part of his novel Atonement.
With a BA degree in English Literature, he then completed an MA degree in Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia, a course established by the novelists Malcolm Bradbury and Angus Wilson. His first collection of short stories First Love, Last Rites was written at the age of 22 as part of his Master’s thesis and won the Somerset Maugham Award.
McEwan has earned numerous literary accolades, with over 25 awards so far, including the Whitbread Award, the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and the Booker Prize.
For more on the series, go to: http://www.abc.net.au/tv/firsttuesday/jbp/