This year's Orwell Memorial Lecture was given by Ian McEwan on the topic 'Politics and the Imagination: Reflections on Orwell's Inside the Whale'.
In 1957, Albert Camus wrote, 'it is always possible to record the social conversation that takes place on the benches of the amphitheatre while the lion is crunching the victim.’ George Orwell’s 1940 essay 'Inside the Whale' raises important questions about a writer’s sense of obligation towards issues of the day, social justice and political commitment. Do such duties compromise that absolute freedom necessary to all good art? Or is such freedom a form of privileged and selective blindness? Perhaps this circle can never be squared. Camus and Orwell demonstrated that it can.
The Orwell Prize YouTube channel has provided a video of the lecture and the discussion that followed:
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.
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.