or a long time Ian McEwan found himself trapped in the role of a sensational writer caricatured by the British press as Ian Macabre and the Clapham Shocker. The stories he wrote at the beginning of his writing career — First Love, Last Rites (1975) and In Between the Sheets, and Other Stories (1978) — as well as his ﬁrst two novels — The Cement Garden (1979) and The Comfort of Strangers (1981) — described in clinical detail the sexual and social aberrations of adolescent mentalities whose voices then offered him “a certain kind of rhetorical freedom.”1 It is extraordinary to consider the distance McEwan has traveled in the intervening quarter century. Atonement (2001) employs the narrative voice of a 77-year-old English woman and focuses on a crucial period of British history between 1935 and 1940. Instead of the closed claustrophobic inner world of his early protagonists, Atonement ranges from an upper-class household in pre-War southern England, to the retreat of the British army to Dunkirk, to a wartime London hospital, ending with a coda in 1999. McEwan ﬁrst effected his escape from an exclusively subjective narrative perspective in his third novel, The Child in Time (1987), in which the lost child of the title represents an outer as well as inner world. This novel came after a gap of six years during which McEwan had turned to drama as his principal outlet. In particular, The Imitation Game (1981), a play for television, Or Shall We Die? (1983), an oratorio, and The Ploughmanʼs Lunch (1983), a ﬁlm, reveal his awakened interest in the world of politics and social action, in the nuclear threat, environmental pollution, and the oppression of women. As he confessed to John Haffenden in 1983, “England under Mrs. Thatcher leaves me with a nasty taste.”2 Since he returned to ﬁction in 1987, every subsequent novel has had not just a private and psychological component,... [continues]
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