Ian McEwan’s Archive Acquired by Harry Ransom Center
AUSTIN, Texas—The Harry Ransom Center, a humanities research library and museum at The University of Texas at Austin, has acquired the archive of writer Ian McEwan (b. 1948), one of the most distinguished novelists of his generation.
The archive documents McEwan’s career and includes early material from his childhood and adolescence, as well as his earliest abandoned stories dating from the late-1960s and early 1970s. The archive includes drafts of all of McEwan’s later published works including his critically acclaimed novels “Amsterdam” and “Atonement” up through “On Chesil Beach” and “Solar.”
“This acquisition represents a rare opportunity to share the work of a living, internationally acclaimed author whose works are of strong interest to readers everywhere,” said Ransom Center Director Stephen Enniss. “McEwan’s archive builds on the strengths of the Ransom Center’s notable collections of contemporary authors and will give students and scholars unprecedented access and insight into the development of his critically acclaimed novels.”
McEwan composed his novels partly in longhand, typically in uniform green, spiral-bound notebooks, and party on the computer. After an initial draft, he would transfer the entire text to a computer, printing out multiple drafts, which he would revise further by hand. McEwan’s Booker Prize-winning novel “Amsterdam” is represented in the archive in its earliest form as a handwritten notebook, followed by two further revised drafts. McEwan often notes details of composition in these drafts, including their completion or revision dates.
“The writer tends to forget rapidly the routes he or she discarded along the way,” McEwan said, commenting on his manuscripts. “Sometimes the path towards a finished novel takes surprising twists. It’s rarely an even development. For example, my novel ‘Atonement’ started out as a science fiction story set two or three centuries into the future.”
McEwan’s work has been translated into more than 30 languages, and there is strong international interest in his work. McEwan’s archive will build on the strengths of the Center’s contemporary literature collections and attract attention from scholars, students and readers from around the world.
The archive includes a large quantity of correspondence with school friends beginning in 1971 when then-23-year-old McEwan spent several months traveling in Europe, Afghanistan and Africa. He continued to save personal correspondence from the 1970s and 1980s, and the archive is filled with letters written to McEwan by other literary figures, including Christopher Hitchens, David Lodge, Michael Ondaatje, Harold Pinter, Philip Roth, Salman Rushdie and Zadie Smith. From 1997 onward, McEwan’s complete email correspondence is preserved as part of the archive.
The archive includes scrapbooks kept by McEwan’s mother, containing cuttings of his magazine work and reviews, photographs and audio and video tape recordings, including copies of radio and television broadcasts.
“The universal and timeless themes of Ian McEwan’s fiction will be relevant to students and researchers now and for future generations,” said Bill Powers, president of The University of Texas at Austin. “Many of McEwan’s novels probe deep scientific quandaries, creating common ground between the sciences and the humanities and encouraging intellectual engagement in both areas.”
McEwan's works have earned him worldwide critical acclaim. He won the Somerset Maugham Award in 1976 for his first collection of short stories, “First Love, Last Rites”; the Whitbread Novel Award (1987) and the Prix Fémina ?tranger (1993) for “The Child in Time”; and Germany's Shakespeare Prize in 1999. He has been shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize for Fiction numerous times, winning the award for “Amsterdam” in 1998. His novel “Atonement” was named Time magazine’s best novel of 2002 and also received the WH Smith Literary Award (2002), the National Book Critics' Circle Fiction Award (2003), the Los Angeles Times Prize for Fiction (2003) and the Santiago Prize for the European Novel (2004). In 2006, he won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for his novel “Saturday,” and his novel “On Chesil Beach” was named Galaxy Book of the Year at the 2008 British Book Awards. McEwan was named the Reader's Digest Author of the Year for 2008, he received the 2010 Peggy V. Helmerich Distinguished Author Award and in 2011 was awarded the Jerusalem Prize. He is an honorary foreign member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
McEwan's archive will reside at the Ransom Center alongside the archives of many of his peers and contemporaries, including his longtime friend Julian Barnes, as well as J. M. Coetzee, Doris Lessing, Jayne Anne Phillips and Tom Stoppard.
McEwan will visit Austin and speak at the university on Sept. 10. More details about this event will be posted later this summer at www.hrc.utexas.edu/events.
Read a Q&A with McEwan, including insight about his archive.
First image: Cover of Ian McEwan's "Atonement" (2001).
Second image: Ian McEwan's first draft of "On Chesil Beach."
Images courtesy of Harry Ransom Center.