Critical acclaim, record sales and a film starring Keira Knightley made Atonement a publishing phenomenon. From its origins as a sci-fi story to the elaborate creation of its iconic cover, the behind-the-scenes story is no less gripping. Here, in the year of its 20th anniversary and publisher Jonathan Cape's centenary, we tell the full story of the book that changed British fiction.
"Emerging from the ruins of a disregarded sci-fi short story, Atonement was filed rapidly and in parts, the novel’s crucial final section arriving only after production had already begun. Along the way, McEwan changed the title at the last minute, and the publishing house embarked on one of the largest photoshoots it had undertaken to take a risk on what became its most enduring cover. What resulted was a collision of publishing good fortune – and one of the greatest books of the 21st century. In the centenary year of publisher Jonathan Cape, and 20 years since it appeared in bookshelves, here’s how Atonement happened, according to the people who were there." — From the introduction by Alice Vincent
Read the full oral history on the Penguin website.
"Charles Darwin could not believe that a kindly God would create a parasitic wasp that injects its eggs into the body of a caterpillar so that the larva may consume the host alive. The ichneumon wasp was a challenge to Darwin’s already diminishing faith. We may share his bewilderment as we contemplate the American body politic and what vile thing now squats within it, waiting to be hatched and begin its meal."
Read the full essay at "Trump's poetry was hatred. What about the prose?"The Guardian, 12 November 2016.
Once a year, the Goethe-Institut awards the Goethe Medal, an official decoration of the Federal Republic of Germany. This medal honours luminaries who have performed outstanding service for the German language and for international cultural relations.
The candidates for the Goethe Medal are nominated every year by the Goethe-Instituts abroad in close collaboration with Germany’s diplomatic representation offices. The Goethe Medal Conferment Commission, consisting of persons from the fields of science, the arts and culture, pre-selects the awardees who must then be confirmed by the Board of Trustees. The chair of the Goethe Medal Conferment Commission is the cultural scientist and Vice President of the Goethe-Institut Christina von Braun.
To commemorate McEwan's receiving the Goethe Medal, the Goethe Institut commissioned artist Lukas Jüliger to create four illustrations depicting "a journey through Ian McEwan's books, the recurring motives within them, and how they correspond with his public persona, philosophy, and ethics." Lukas Jüliger kindly agreed to have the first of these works featured on the Ian McEwan Website. To learn more about Jüliger's work, please visit his website (lukasjueliger.com/). His graphic novel Unfollow is recently published.
Ian 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 Etranger (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 received the WH Smith Literary Award (2002), National Book Critics' Circle Fiction Award (2003), Los Angeles Times Prize for Fiction (2003), and the Santiago Prize for the European Novel (2004). Atonement was also made into an Oscar-winning film.
In 2006, Ian McEwan 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 where McEwan was also named Reader's Digest Author of the Year. Solar won The Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize for Comic Fiction in 2010 and Sweet Tooth won the Paddy Power Political Fiction Book of the Year award in 2012. Ian McEwan was awarded a CBE in 2000. In 2014 he was awarded the Bodleian Medal.