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Keywords:

  • Ian McEwan;
  • atonement;
  • novel;
  • literary;
  • evangelical lection

Abstract

Ian McEwan is arguably the best living British novelist. His most successful novel, Atonement, was recently made into an internationally successful film. And indeed, through analysis of his novels, it is clear that Ian McEwan believes literature—precisely as fictive—might very well bear the task of atonement for postmodernity. His novels, though, are patently hopeless, (even as they are truly well-written). Because McEwan doesn't accept or see the causes of sin as such—formally understood as rebellion against the Creator—his diagnostic aesthetic of our postmodern malaise is incomplete and ineffectual. The literary or fictive atonement that he would achieve through his novels does not satisfy. This article aims to lay bare the philosophico-literary characteristics of Ian McEwan's later novels. The ultimate goal of this critical reading, though—tending toward an “evangelical lection”—is to transfigure McEwan's imaginative and creative virtuosity for otherwise disappointed Christian readers, precisely by envisioning his novels in the dark light of their redemptive deficit. Thus, the literary or fictive atonement that Ian McEwan's atheism cannot achieve might be saved apropos the Judeo-Christian revelation of divine atonement.