Thursday, July 21, 2005

Ian McEwan

I owe to the blogosphere, and specifically to Norm Geras, my reading of 'Saturday'. Norm again points to an excellent interview with McEwan in the online der Spiegel.
'Saturday' is a marvellous portrait of a generation, with a lead character who is a successful neurosurgeon, a man of science, truly secular, confronting the fact that the wonderful world that London as a city represents is under threat. It contrasts the multiple delights of his daily life with his sense that the whole structure is quite vulnerable. The interview in der Spiegel pursues his feelings after the London bombings, which the novel clearly presages (and McEwan points out rightly that 'everyone' had been expecting such an attack).
In one part of the interview, McEwan addresses the apparent stoicism of the London public in response to the bombings:
I don't think Great Britain should go too far in promoting itself as a nation of emotionally stunted people who can't, you know, feel emotion. I see that the Spanish press said in Britain the term emotional is a word of abuse. But there has been a lot of emotion in the air, especially during the two minutes of silence at Tavistock Square last week. People also seem to be holding their breath. They don't know quite where this is leading.
My impression on the weekend following the bombing was not that people were emotionally restrained. Interviews with commuters on television consistently identified defiance as a key feeling, and an obvious anger, and frustration that things had gone so far. My own personal response was not unlike what I was seeing - a determination to continue daily life, including riding the underground, and not to yield to the obvious attempt to disrupt a social world that truly works, and is so hated by the bombers. Interestingly, many tourists were responding to intervewers the same way.
So I find the apparent need of the Spanish press to make a feature of the British spirit a bug a rather sad fact, a necessry rationalization.
For fear that the link to the interview may expire, let me point to another excellent part of the interview, by pointing to a normblog post.


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