Janan Ganesh on McEwan, a comment by American Writer

Headline:Why Ian McEwan speaks for England

Sub-headline: We await his judgment on Labour under Corbyn, the malaise of Europe and technology’s dark potential 

One reads these two claims/assertions with a kind of amused wonder at the Ganesh perception of McEwan, or is it more about a political projection of Ganesh as Tory apologist/advocate? Here is the appraisal of McEwan as grounded in doubt:

There is that scientific bent, which grounds him in doubt, evidence and other scourges of ideology.

 Mr. McEwan constructs a character a protagonist Henry Perowne, the London neurosurgeon, and then proceeds to build a novel around him as central actor. This character has all the attendant beliefs,prejudices and assumptions of his class. Not to speak of his whole life experience, that are brought to bear in the novel, as the literary exercise of that genre. Ganesh’s assumption is that the McEwan character is a self-portrait of the writer:

It follows that he has a nuanced political orientation. He is a Labour supporter with a nervous eye on the relativism and identity politics that sizzles around the party — a man of the left who knows very well how much nonsense lives on the left.

Ganesh then makes certain claims about McEwan/Perowne as a ‘nuanced’ Labour supporter, who views with skepticism  the twin evils of that political orientation, ‘relativism’ and ‘identity politics’. Not to speak of ‘anti-utopianism’:

More than anything, it is personal background that connects him to anti-utopian England.

Is there still an ‘England’  rather that Great Britain or the United Kingdom? Why would Ganesh use such an anachronism? Perhaps a nostalgic look back at a halcyon past? Anti-utopianism acts here a  reference to Labour’s return to its Socialist roots, expressed in the negative.

More explanation/expatiation on the political character of McEwan/Perowne, not to speak of McEwan as author, over a career, that dovetails with the Tory Triumphalism of Ganesh:

The sensibilities he grew up with are those of core Britain: sceptical, practical, keen to get on. No wonder no rival sits more easily at the nexus of literary prestige and commercial appeal. He writes for a country he more or less personifies. If his provocative interventions over the years have had a theme — including those at the Royal Institution, uttered with campus radicals in mind — it is mistrust of stridency.

Note the presence of ‘campus radicals’ who specialize in ‘stridency’, and don’t forget the current master of the political expression of that ‘stridency’ Jeremy Corbyn.

We await his judgment on Labour under Jeremy Corbyn, the malaise of Europe and technology’s dark potential. The strangeness of their lives means that most novelists can only speak for themselves. McEwan, by dint of class and temperament, might be able to speak for England.

There can be no doubt that Ganesh favors McEwan as literary house cat. As a riposte to his political intervention, see an actual British literary lion  Harold Pinter deliver his 2005 Nobel acceptance address here:

Transcript here:


American Writer



About stephenkmacksd

Rootless cosmopolitan,down at heels intellectual;would be writer. 'Polemic is a discourse of conflict, whose effect depends on a delicate balance between the requirements of truth and the enticements of anger, the duty to argue and the zest to inflame. Its rhetoric allows, even enforces, a certain figurative licence. Like epitaphs in Johnson’s adage, it is not under oath.' https://www.lrb.co.uk/v15/n20/perry-anderson/diary
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