Thursday, December 06, 2007

Atoning for Past Wrongs

This is Deborah Solomon's interview with Ian McEwan from the New York Times that Preeta was referring to in the comments to this post, yesterday.

In it McEwan talks (among other things) about his novel Atonement which has recently been made into a film, and about the whole concept of atonement for a past wrongdoing.

I wish the interview had been longer and a bit more searching, but this is particularly interesting:
It seems to me that the impulse to atone is a religious one, and yet you are a self-declared atheist. Yes, I am an atheist, and probably Briony* is, too. Atheists have as much conscience, possibly more, than people with deep religious conviction, and they still have the same problem of how they reconcile themselves to a bad deed in the past.

It’s a little easier if you’ve got a god to forgive you. Not necessarily. Faith in itself is not easy to sustain. Well, we won’t get into that.
(*His protagonist in Atonement.)


GUO SHAO-HUA said...

i don't know about whether atheists have more conscience than religious people or vice versa. i wouldn't dare speak for anyone on such a personal matter. i'd only speak for myself.

i browsed McEwan at the bookstore, read a couple pages, and found i like his style very much.

bibliobibuli said...

you would like him, i think. not only does he write v. well but there is some real darkness at the centre of his stories which i know would appeal to you - can lend you

Anonymous said...

His style and structure in Atonement, particularly, are brilliant, I think. I fairly fell out of my seat at the end.

-- Preeta

Anonymous said...

Hate the character of Briony - she needs two big slaps across her face.

Jane Sunshine said...

I loved how he explored the concept of conscience in such a subtle way and yet, eats the life out of one. But I agree with Anon above- Briony needs two big slaps.
(This was my first McEwan and I loved, loved, loved it).

Anonymous said...

Funny, I didn't have that reaction to Briony. She makes mistakes, yes, but her main fault -- exaggeration, melodrama, play-acting on various levels, attention-seeking, whatever you want to call it -- seemed pretty typical of girls that age. It's just that her love of exaggeration happens to have more dire consequences than other girls', but I saw this as being more the result of circumstance, of her being in the wrong place at the wrong time (more than once), than as proof of a deeper flaw. Obviously, others disagree!


Anonymous said...

P.S. Sharon -- it occurs to me that in the bit you quote from the interview, you've mixed up the questions and answers a bit -- the first bold bit (in your quotation) is the interviewer speaking, but then the second bold bit is actually McEwan -- it's the "Not necessarily. Faith in itself is not easy to sustain," that's spoken by the interviewer.

I know I'm being an annoying nitpicker -- it probably doesn't matter either way since it looks like people are done commenting, but I thought I should point it out just in case.

-- Preeta

Anonymous said...

Bib, is the librarything working ? it says "no books catalogued". I have half a mind to write you one myself. Just let me know if you need it (cos librarything doesn't seem to be working anyways.)

bibliobibuli said...

it could be down temporarily as websites often are

but i stuck on even more books earlier today so the answer should be yes, just be a bit patient and try again