Saturday, February 24, 2007

Fiction of Ian McEwan (Resource)

Peter Childs's The Fiction of Ian McEwan introduces students to a range of critical approaches to McEwan's fiction. Criticism is drawn from selections in academic essays and articles, and reviews in newspapers, journals, magazines and websites, with editorial comment providing context, drawing attention to key points and identifying differences in critical perspectives. Also includes selections from published interviews with Ian McEwan.

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Blogger Mary Soderstrom said...

Reading Dark Age Ahead by Jane Jacobs, I've just come upon the answer, perhaps, to a question that has bothered me since I first read Saturday: where does the name of the hero, Henry Perowne, come from.

Henry, as you all know, wakes early on the morning of a day of international protest against the approaching war in Iraq to see a plane in flames approaching Heathrow Airport. The vision shadows everything that happens to him, including the attack he and his family survive.

McEwan seems to have very carefully worked out the details of the book. Even the poem which saves Daisy from rape and worse—"Dover Beach" by Mathew Arnold—appears chosen for its message as well as its popularity. But the hero’s name stands out for its absence of significance. How strange, I thought at the time, annoyed that it seemed to resonate with something which I couldn’t put my finger on. I even spent a couple of hours trying possible permutations of the letters in Henry Perowne to see if I could come up with an interesting anagram.

No luck.

But then in rereading the Jacobs book, I came across her discussion of Henri Pirenne, (1862-1935) a Belgian historian and Orientalist. He is best known, it seems for the Pirenne Thesis which argues that the ancient world ended and the Middle Ages began following the establishment of Muslim control over the Mediterranean Sea.

According to Pirenne, Jacobs writes, that Dark Age started to move toward light when the “ poor, backward European cities...began trading with one another again and, indirectly through Venice, with the Middle East and Asia.” This, of course, falls right in with Jacobs’s thoughts about the economies of cities, but it also has interesting resonances with what is happening now. Is our current increased awareness of what is going on in the Muslim world an end or a beginning?

I have been trying to find a forum on which to ask McEwan if the choice of Perowne’s name is one of those symbols writers sometimes drop into their work for their own pleasure, or if it is pure coincidence. What do you think?

Mary Soderstrom

December 1, 2007 at 3:54 PM  

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