English novelist and screenwriter Ian Russell McEwan CBE FRSA FRSL was born 21 June 1948 in Aldershot, Hampshire. He spent much of his childhood in East Asia (including Singapore), Germany and North Africa (including Libya), where his father was posted. His family returned to England when he was twelve. He was educated at Woolverstone Hall School; the University of Sussex, receiving his degree in English literature in 1970; and the University of East Anglia, where he undertook a master’s degree in creative writing.McEwan began his career writing sparse, Gothic short stories. The Cement Garden (1978) and The Comfort of Strangers (1981) were his first two novels, and earned him the nickname “Ian Macabre”. McEwan’s first published work was a collection of short stories, First Love, Last Rites (1975), which won the Somerset Maugham Award in 1976. He achieved notoriety in 1979 when the BBC suspended production of his play Solid Geometry because of its supposed obscenity.His second collection of short stories, In Between the Sheets, was published in 1978. The Cement Garden (1978) and The Comfort of Strangers (1981) were his two earliest novels, both of which were adapted into films. The nature of these works caused him to be nicknamed “Ian Macabre”.
These were followed by Child in Time (1987), winner of the 1987 Whitbread Novel Award; The Innocent (1990); and Black Dogs (1992). McEwan has also written two children’s books, Rose Blanche (1985) and The Daydreamer (1994). In 1997, he published Enduring Love,about the relationship between a science writer and a stalker, was popular with critics, although it was not shortlisted for the Booker Prize, however it was adapted into a film in 2004. He won the Man Booker Prize with Amsterdam (1998). In 2001, he published Atonement, which was adapted into an Oscar-winning film starring Keira Knightley and James McAvoy and directed by Joe Wright. Time magazine named it the best novel of 2002, and it was shortlisted for the Booker Prize. This was followed by Saturday (2005), which follows an especially eventful day in the life of a successful neurosurgeon. Saturday won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for 2005, and his novel On Chesil Beach (2007) was shortlisted for the 2007 Booker Prize. It was followed by Solar (2010), Sweet Tooth (2012), and The Children Act (2015). In 2011, he was awarded the Jerusalem Prize.
McEwan has also written a number of produced screenplays, a stage play, children’s fiction, an oratorio and a libretto titled For You with music composed by Michael Berkeley.cSolar was published in 2010. In June 2008 at the Hay Festival, McEwan gave a surprise reading of this work-in-progress. The novel includes “a scientist who hopes to save the planet” from the threat of climate change, with inspiration for the novel coming from a Cape Farewell expedition McEwan made in 2005 in which “artists and scientists…spent several weeks aboard a ship near the north pole discussing environmental concerns”. McEwan noted “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”. McEwan’s twelfth novel, Sweet Tooth, is historical in nature and set in the 1970s,and was published in 2012.McEwan’s next novel, The Children Act, is about high court judges.
In 2006 he was accused of plagiarism; specifically that a passage in Atonement (2001) closely echoed a passage from a memoir, No Time for Romance, published in 1977 by Lucilla Andrews. McEwan acknowledged using the book as a source for his work. McEwan had included a brief note at the end of Atonement, referring to Andrews’s autobiography, among several other works. His debut novel The Cement Garden, also had key elements of the plot of which closely mirrored some of those of Our Mother’s House, a 1963 novel by British author Julian Gloag, which had also been made into a film. McEwan denied charges of plagiarism, claiming he was unaware of the earlier work. Several authors defended him, including John Updike, Martin Amis, Margaret Atwood, Thomas Keneally, Kazuo Ishiguro, Zadie Smith, and Thomas Pynchon.
McEwan has been nominated for the Man Booker prize six times to date, winning the Prize for Amsterdam in 1998. His other nominations were for The Comfort of Strangers (1981, Shortlisted), Black Dogs (1992, Shortlisted), Atonement (2001, Shortlisted), Saturday (2005, Longlisted), and On Chesil Beach (2007, Shortlisted). McEwan also received nominations for the Man Booker International Prize in 2005 and 2007. He 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 awarded Dickinson College’s Harold and Ethel L. Stellfox Visiting Scholar and Writers Program Award, in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. In 2008, McEwan was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Literature by University College London, where he used to teach English literature. In 2008, The Times named McEwan among their list of “The 50 greatest British writers since 1945”.In 2010, McEwan received the Peggy V. Helmerich Distinguished Author Award. The Helmerich Award is presented annually by the Tulsa Library Trust.mOn 20 February 2011, he was awarded the Jerusalem Prize for the Freedom of the Individual in Society, which caused some controversy. In 2012 the University of Sussex presented McEwan with its 50th Anniversary Gold Medal in recognition of his contributions to literature.In 2014, the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas paid $2 million for McEwan’s literary archives.