Ian McEwan’s archives acquired by the Ransom Center
The Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin has acquired the archives of Man Booker prize-winning author Ian McEwan. It’s the latest addition to the center’s significant collection of the papers of modern and contemporary authors, including Doris Lessing, Graham Greene and Don Delillo.
“I’m not the sort of writer who makes instant use of his own life for material to be transcribed immediately to fiction,” McEwan said in a Ransom Center Q&A. John “Updike is a supreme example of that. My fiction is, to borrow a fine phrase, displaced by ‘a knight’s move’ from my life. I think the archive will show these tenuous connections.”
Although McEwan’s archives are coming to America, he lives in London and was born in England. His Scottish father, an army officer, took the family abroad; he was posted in several places, including Singapore and Libya.
The archive will include McEwan’s earliest unpublished stories, drafted in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when he was in his 20s. His first book was the short story collection “First Love, Last Rites,” published in England in 1975.
By then he had become friends with some of the other writers who, like he, would become major literary figures. His correspondence with many of them, including Christopher Hitchens, David Lodge, and Salman Rushdie, will be included in the archive.
Also in the archive will be McEwan’s complete email correspondence from 1997 onward, which could mean a lot of reading for future scholars.
McEwan has enjoyed his place at the top of bestseller lists as well as decades of critical acclaim. His novel “Atonement,” which was made into the award-winning film, took the L.A. Times Book Prize for fiction and the National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction in 2003. He won the Man Booker Prize in 1998 for “Amsterdam” and is frequently on the long- and shortlist for the award. In 2011, he was awarded the Jerusalem Prize; in 1987, he won the Whitbread Novel Award for “The Child in Time.”
Recently awarded the Bodleian medal at Oxford, McEwan was given access to their archives. “It was deeply moving, to hold in my hand a notebook of the 17-year-old Jane Austen. And then, to turn the pages of Kafka’s first draft of ‘Metamorphosis,’” he said. “An archive takes you right to the heart of the literary creation; it makes for an emotional connection that anyone who loves literature will understand. The experience is almost sensual.”
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