Happy Birthday, Ian McEwan, born 21 June 1948
10 Ian McEwan Quotes
- True intelligence requires fabulous imagination.
- Many writers let their sentences unfold experimentally on the page in order to find out what they are, where they are going, and how they can be shaped. I would sit without a pen in my hand, framing a sentence in my mind, often losing the beginning as I reached the end, and only when the thing was secure and complete would I set it down. I would stare at it suspiciously. Did it really say what I meant? Did it contain an error or an ambiguity that I could not see? Was it making a fool of me?
- I’ve always liked a clear, precise, and simple prose of the kind I think children would enjoy and understand. I avoided any moral heavy breathing—I don’t like children’s fiction that tells them how to behave.
- You could say that all novels are spy novels and all novelists are spy masters.
- I’m quite good at not writing.
- In the seventies I used to work in the bedroom of my flat at a little table. I worked in longhand with a fountain pen. I’d type out a draft, mark up the typescript, type it out again. Once I paid a professional to type a final draft, but I felt I was missing things I would have changed if I had done it myself. In the mid-eighties I was a grateful convert to computers. Word processing is more intimate, more like thinking itself. In retrospect, the typewriter seems a gross mechanical obstruction. I like the provisional nature of unprinted material held in the computer’s memory—like an unspoken thought. I like the way sentences or passages can be endlessly reworked, and the way this faithful machine remembers all your little jottings and messages to yourself. Until, of course, it sulks and crashes.
- I aim for about six hundred words a day and hope for at least a thousand when I’m on a roll.
- Imagining what it is like to be someone other than yourself is at the core of our humanity. It is the essence of compassion and the beginning of morality.
- Novelists have to be adept at controlling the flow of information, and, most crucially, they have to be in charge of the narrative.
- I think of novels in architectural terms. You have to enter at the gate, and this gate must be constructed in such a way that the reader has immediate confidence in the strength of the building.
Ian McEwan is an English novelist and screenwriter. In 2008, The Times featured him on their list of ‘The 50 greatest British writers since 1945’. He won the Man Booker Prize for Amsterdam in 1998. Atonement was made into an Oscar-winning film. His other novels include the titles, Saturday, On Chesil Beach, and Nutshell. He was awarded the Jerusalem Prize in 2011. Visit his website: IanMcEwan.com
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