‘I seem to have escaped that particular whipping’: Ian McEwan on sensitivity readers, Succession, and his next novel

Lately, Ian McEwan has found himself reading a lot of Ian McEwan. It’s not that the 74-year-old author has been struck by a sudden attack of solipsism; rather, he’s deep in preparation for a one-off performance with the BBC Symphony Orchestra at the Barbican. Backed by 80 musicians, the Booker Prize winner will deliver extracts from a career that stretches over 16 novels, from the psychological horror of 1978 debut The Cement Garden to bestselling tragic romances such as Atonement and On Chesil Beach. Most recently, he published Lessons, a sprawling, semi-autobiographical look back at the sweep of history in his lifetime. Selecting which passages to perform from that rich material has been a revealing process. “It was like a review of a big chunk of my adult life,” says McEwan. “There were moments when my fingers twitched around an imaginary blue pencil and I thought: ‘I wouldn’t punctuate that like that now.’ Other times I was thinking: ‘Wow, that was good. Have I declined?’ It was a fascinating thing to do.”

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