Ian McEwan (Ian Russell McEwan) Biography
(1948– ), (Ian Russell McEwan), First Love, Last Rites, In Between the Sheets, The Cement Garden
Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Harriet Martineau Biography to John McTaggart (John McTaggart Ellis McTaggart) Biography
British novelist and short-story writer, born in Aldershot, Hampshire educated at the Universities of Sussex and East Anglia. He created something of a stir with his first book, First Love, Last Rites (1975, Somerset Maugham Award), a collection of stories startling in their cool portrayal of ordinary people caught up in ordinary nightmares; masturbation, incest, castration, and the bewildering potency of adolescent sexual urges are the themes of this collection and his next, In Between the Sheets (1978). His first novel, The Cement Garden (1978), describes a family of four children who bury their mother in concrete rather than admit her (natural) death to the authorities. The Comfort of Strangers (1981) shuts four adults in an ultimately violent nightmare of their own. McEwan's three children were born in the interval between this and his third novel, The Child in Time (1987), which is warmer, broader, and considerably more committed than his previous fiction, dealing as it does with politics and parenthood, loss and desire. The Innocent (1990) uses a historical espionage venture, the CIA/MI6 tunnel dug in 1955–6 to tap the telephone lines of East Berlin, as the basis for an exquisitely crafted story of misplaced machismo and farcical deceit. Black Dogs (1992) is a fable about the nature of evil, whose central event—an encounter between a young woman on holiday with her husband in post-war France and the black dogs referred to in the title—has a clear political symbolism. The novel, which moves between this event and a contemporary setting, deals with changes in political allegiances in the aftermath of the Cold War, and asks some pertinent questions about the possible resurgence of Fascism in such a climate. In this, as in other more recent works, McEwan has moved from the purely psychological focus of his early stories towards a broader concern with social and political issues, and the ways in which these impinge on individual lives. McEwan's political instincts and distrust of patriarchal values are equally evident in his libretto for Michael Berkeley's oratorio, Or Shall We Die? (1983), as well as in his television plays and his screenplay for The Ploughman's Lunch (produced 1983, published 1985).