Authors: Ian McEwan
New York Times
Notable Book of the Year, 1990
“Ian McEwan proves himself to be an acute psychologist of the ordinary mind. He gets our mundane virtues and vices, our craziness and sanities, exactly right, without the distortions of cynicism or sentimentality.”
New York Times Book Review
“A crackerjack novel … make sure the answering machine’s up and running before starting … you’re unlikely to brook interruptions once you’ve opened it up.”
“Pure literary pleasure … it’s McEwan’s fascination with the inner sources of cruelty and conquest that gives
its frightening vitality.”
“A delicious mix of eroticism and peril … The ending is poignant and unpredictable. McEwan is a truth teller with a flair for story making.”
“McEwan is an excellent storyteller … his forte remains exploring the psyche of his characters and their growth in knowledge and experience at the expense of their innocence.”
Boston Sunday Herald
is a thoughtful, serious novel doing business as a thriller … makes brilliant fictional use of a real-life event.”
“Grisly, cunning, often mordantly funny … a wonderful exercise in literary strategy.”
St. Petersburg Times
“Unfolds with psychological acuity. It’s the sort of book Hitchcock might have snapped up for production.”
“A topical and brutal tour de force that somehow ascends from horror to a promise of goodness and grace.”
“A gripping, absolutely unique story of love and suspense that you won’t forget.”
Ian McEwan is the bestselling author of more than ten books, including the novels
Atonement, The Comfort of Strangers
, all shortlisted for the Booker Prize,
, winner of the Booker Prize, and
The Chad in Time
, winner of the Whitbread Award, as well as the story collections
First Love, Last Rites
, winner of the Somerset Maugham Award, and
In Between the Sheets
. He has also written screenplays, plays, television scripts, a children’s book, and the libretto for an oratorio. He lives in London.
BY IAN McEWAN
First Love, Last Rites
In Between the Sheets
The Cement Garden
The Comfort of Strangers
The Child in Time
The Imitation Game
(plays for television)
Or Shall We Die?
(libretto for oratorio by Michael Berkeley)
The Ploughman’s Lunch
My labours on the Castle Keep were also made harder, and unnecessarily so (unnecessarily in that the burrow derived no real benefit from those labours) by the fact that just at the place where, according to my calculations, the Castle Keep should be, the soil was very loose and sandy and had literally to be hammered and pounded into a firm state to serve as a wall for the beautifully vaulted chamber. But for such tasks, the only tool I possess is my forehead. So I had to run with my forehead thousands and thousands of times, for whole days and nights, against the ground, and I was glad when the blood came, for that was a proof that the walls were beginning to harden; and in that way, as everybody must admit, I richly paid for my Castle Keep.
translated by Willa and Edwin Muir
After dinner we saw an amusing film: Bob Hope in
The Princess and the Pirate
. Then we sat in the Great Hall and listened to
played, much too slowly, on the gramophone. The PM said it brought back “the Victorian era, eighty years which will rank in our island history with the Antonine age.” Now, however, “the shadows of victory” were upon us…. After this war, continued the PM, we should be weak, we should have no money and no strength and we should lie between the two great powers of the USA and the USSR.
—JOHN COLVILLE, describing dinner with
Churchill at Chequers ten days after the
end of the Yalta Conference.
The Fringes of Power: Ten Downing
Street Diaries, 1939–1955
t was Lieutenant Lofting who dominated the meeting. “Look here, Marnham. You’ve only just arrived, so there’s no reason why you should know the situation. It’s not the Germans or the Russians who are the problem here. It isn’t even the French. It’s the Americans. They don’t know a thing. What’s worse, they won’t learn, they won’t be told. It’s just how they are.”
Leonard Marnham, an employee of the Post Office, had never actually met an American to talk to, but he had studied them in depth at his local Odeon. He smiled without parting
his lips and nodded. He reached into his inside coat pocket for his silver case. Lofting held up his palm, Indian greeting style, to forestall the offer. Leonard crossed his legs, took out a cigarette and tapped its end several times against the case.
Lofting’s arm shot out across the desk and offered his lighter at full stretch. He resumed as the young civilian lowered his head to the flame. “As you can imagine, there are a number of joint projects, pooled resources, know-how, that sort of thing. But do you think the Americans have the first notion of teamwork? They agree on one thing, and then they go their own way. They go behind our backs, they withhold information, they talk down to us like idiots.” Lieutenant Lofting straightened the blotter, which was the only object on his tin desk. “You know, sooner or later HMG will be forced to get tough.” Leonard went to speak, but Lofting waved him down. “Let me give you an example. I’m British liaison for the intersector swimming match next month. Now, no one can argue with the fact that we’ve got the best pool here at the stadium. It’s the obvious place for the venue. The Americans agreed weeks ago. But where do you think it’s going to be held now? Way down in the south, in their sector, in some greasy little puddle. And do you know why?”
Lofting talked on for another ten minutes.
When all the treacheries of the swimming match seemed to have been set out, Leonard said, “Major Sheldrake had some equipment for me, and some sealed instructions. Do you know anything about that?”
“I was coming to that,” the lieutenant said sharply. He paused, and seemed to gather his strength. When he spoke again he could barely suppress a yodel of irritation. “You know, the only reason I was sent up here was to wait for you. When Major Sheldrake’s posting came through, I was meant to get everything from him and pass it on. As it happened, and this had nothing to do with me, there was a forty-eight-hour gap between the major’s departure and my arrival.”
He paused again. It sounded like he had prepared this explanation with care. “Apparently the Yanks kicked up an almighty
fuss, even though the rail shipment was locked in a guarded room, and your sealed envelope was in the safe in the CO’s office. They insisted that someone had to be directly responsible for the stuff at all times. There were phone calls to the CO’s office from the brigadier, which originated with General Staff. There was nothing anyone could do. They came over in a lorry and took the lot—envelope, shipment, the lot. Then I arrived. My new instructions were to wait for you, which I’ve been doing for five days, make sure you are who you say you are and explain the situation, and give you this contact address.”
Lofting took a manila envelope from his pocket and passed it across the table. At the same time Leonard handed over his bona fides. Lofting hesitated. He had one remaining piece of bad news.
“The thing is this. Now that your stuff, whatever it is, has been signed over to them, you have to be too. You’ve been handed over. For the time being, you’re their responsibility. You take your instructions from them.”
“That’s all right,” Leonard said.
“I’d say it was jolly hard luck.”
His duty done, Lofting stood and shook his hand.
The Army driver who had brought Leonard from Tempelhof airport earlier that afternoon was waiting in the Olympic Stadium car park. Leonard’s quarters were a few minutes’ drive away. The corporal opened the trunk of the tiny khaki car, but he did not seem to think it was his business to lift the cases out.
Platanenallee 26 was a modern building with a lift in the lobby. The apartment was on the third floor and had two bedrooms, a large living room, a kitchen-dining room and a bathroom. Leonard still lived at home with his parents in Tottenham, and commuted each day to Dollis Hill. He strode from room to room, turning on all the lights. There were various novelties. There was a big wireless with creamy pushbuttons, and a telephone standing on a nest of coffee tables. By it was a street plan of Berlin. There was Army issue furniture—a three-piece suite of smudgy floral design, a pouf with leather tassels,
a standard lamp that was not quite perpendicular, and, against the far wall of the living room, a writing bureau with fat bowlegs. He luxuriated in the choice of bedroom, and unpacked with care. His own place. He had not thought it would give him so much pleasure. He hung his best, second best and everyday gray suits in a wardrobe built into the wall whose door slid at the touch of the hand. On the bureau he placed the teak-lined, silver-plated cigarette box engraved with his initials, a going-away present from his parents. By its side he stood his heavy indoor lighter, shaped like a neoclassical urn. Would he ever have guests?
Only when everything had been arranged to his satisfaction did he allow himself to sit in the armchair under the standard lamp and open the envelope. He was disappointed. It was a scrap of paper torn from a memo pad. There was no address, only a name—Bob Glass—and a Berlin telephone number. He had wanted to spread out the street plan on the dining table, pinpoint the address, plan his route. Now he would have to take directions from a stranger, an American stranger, and he would have to use the phone, an instrument he was not easy with, despite his work. His parents did not have one, nor did any of his friends, and he rarely had to make calls at work. Balancing the square of paper on his knee, he dialed painstakingly. He knew how he wanted to sound. Relaxed, purposeful.
Leonard Marnham here. I think you’ve been expecting me
Straightaway a voice rapped out, “Glass!”
Leonard’s manner collapsed into the English dither he had wanted to avoid in conversation with an American. “Oh yes, look, I’m terribly sorry I …”