Ian McEwan: when I was a monster

Ian McEwan in The Guardian:

ScreenHunter_1345 Sep. 01 19.20In 1970, when I was 22, I moved to Norwich and lodged in a small, pleasant room on the edge of the city. I had come to do an MA in English at the University of East Anglia, but my overriding purpose was to write fiction. At the end of my first week, with all arrangements made, I sat down at a card table by the end of my bed one evening and told myself that I would work continuously through the night until I had completed an entire short story. I had no notes, only a scrap, a dreamy notion of what sort of story this would be.

Within an hour, a strange voice was talking to me from the page. I let it speak. I worked on into the night, filled with a romantic sense of myself, the writer heroically driven by a compelling idea, pushing on towards dawn as the city slept. I finished around 6 o’clock.

The story was called “Conversation with a Cupboard Man”, one of a handful I wrote that year that went into my first book, First Love, Last Rites, published in 1975. Its narrator was a man who didn’t want to grow up – a strange choice for me because I considered myself that year to have finally reached adult independence. Being in Norwich was the first major decision I’d taken in my life without reference to or advice from anyone else. I wanted a fresh start after undergraduate life. I regarded myself as a full-time committed writer. An MA was what I could do in my spare time. An academic grant would support me.

Other strange voices, other weird or wretched characters, surfaced in that year to haunt or infest my fiction. Violent, sexually perverse, lonely, they were remote from the life I was living in Norwich at the time. I was meeting many new friends, falling in love, keenly reading contemporary American fiction, hiking the North Norfolk coast, had taken a hallucinogenic drug in the countryside and been amazed – and yet whenever I returned to my notebook or typewriter, a savage, dark impulse took hold of me.

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