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Ian McEwan

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Ian McEwan
Occupation Author, screenwriter
Nationality British
Period 1975 - present
Genres Recent history
Spouse(s) Penny Allen (1982-1995)
Annalena McAfee (1997-)

Ian Russell McEwan, CBE, FRSA, FRSL, (born 21 June 1948) is a Booker Prize-winning English novelist and screenwriter.

Early life

McEwan was born in Aldershot, the son of Rose Lilian Violet (née Moore) and David McEwan. He spent much of his childhood in East Asia, Germany and North Africa, where his father, a Scottish army officer, was posted. He was educated at Woolverstone Hall School, the University of Sussex and the University of East Anglia, where he was the first graduate 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. 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.

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. In 1998, he was awarded the Booker Prize for his novel Amsterdam. His next novel, Atonement, 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, follows an especially eventful day in the life of a successful neurosurgeon. Saturday won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for 2005. He wrote an article for Chinadialogue about climate change in 2005. His most recent novel, On Chesil Beach, was shortlisted for the 2007 Booker Prize. McEwan has also written a number of produced screenplays, a stage play, children's fiction, and an oratorio.

McEwan's most recent completed work is the libretto to an opera called For You composed by Michael Berkeley, which tells the story of a composer whose sexual and professional powers have passed their peak. It is set to be performed in November 2008 by Music Theatre Wales.

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 Herold and Ethel L. Stellfox Visiting Scholar and Writers Program Award, in Carlisle, PA, USA, and in 2008, McEwan was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Literature by University College, London, where he used to teach English literature.

In June 2008 at the Hay Festival, McEwan gave a surprise reading of his work-in-progress eleventh novel. 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 is not due to be published for at least two years, was a comedy, saying instead that it had extended comic stretches: "I hate comic novels; it's like being wrestled to the ground and being tickled, being forced to laugh.""

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, kidnapped their 13-year-old son 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. Sharpe has the same two parents as McEwan but was born from an affair between McEwan's parents 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 two are in regular contact, and McEwan has written a foreword to Sharp's memoir.


In March and April 2004, just months after the British government invited him to dinner with Laura Bush, McEwan was denied entry into the United States by the Department of Homeland Security for not having the proper visa. After several days' publicity in the British press, McEwan was admitted because, as he quoted a customs official telling him, "We still don't want to let you in, but this is attracting a lot of unfavorable publicity." The US government later sent a letter of apology.

In late 2006, Lucilla Andrews' autobiography No Time for Romance became the focus of a posthumous controversy (she died in October 2006) when it was alleged that McEwan plagiarized from this work while writing his highly acclaimed novel Atonement. McEwan publicly protested his innocence; in The Guardian newspaper, he responded to the claim, stating he had acknowledged Andrews' work in the author's note at the end of Atonement. McEwan has been defended by many leading writers, including the American novelist Thomas Pynchon. Comments had also been made about the originality of his first novel, The Cement Garden, and the writer Claire Henderson-Davis suggested to McEwan that his book On Chesil Beach had been inspired by the name of her mother, and the life stories of her parents. McEwan has denied this claim.

In 2008, McEwan publicly spoke out against Islamism for its views on women and 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".

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