Ian McEwan is a literary icon whose extensive catalog includes something for everyone. McEwan is unrivaled in contemporary fiction, science fiction, story collections, and even a children’s book.
Ian McEwan has returned with another literary novel filled with an intimate portrayal of a single man’s life as he experiences intense historical moments. Roland Baines’ life was turned upside down when he was eleven years old, and when his wife goes missing, he begins to investigate his family history in search of answers that will affect the rest of his life. Lessons is a powerful and introspective read for anyone who has ever wondered how living through “once in a lifetime” events can impact the lives of individuals.
McEwan’s ambition with Lessons, his 18th novel, was to show the ways in which “global events penetrate individual lives”, of which the fatwa was a perfect example. “It was a world-historical moment that had immediate personal effects, because we had to learn to think again, to learn the language of free speech,” he says. “It was a very steep learning curve.” It seems strange to remember that 1989 was also the year the Berlin Wall came down, a central event in the new novel. “The fatwa just preceded a rather wonderful time when democracies were sprouting out across Europe, free speech was on the rise, free thought was on the rise,” he says. “Everything has changed from 33 years ago. We now live in a time of heavily constricted, shrinking freedom of expression around the world: Russia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, China, you name it. Plus the self-inflicted free speech matter of the rich west.” ✪