Nature Blog Network Future Earth: A glove of novelists?

Sunday, 12 July 2009

A glove of novelists?

You might expect your scientific mind to be stretched at Cambridge's Darwin Festival, but conversations at the Corn Exchange the other night stimulated the soul. (O.K., O.K, "soul" not proven concept - please accept as a metaphor). A veritable soul-fest, in fact. A.S. Byatt & Ian McEwan, introduced by writers and interviewed by writers, all united in admiration for the intellectual curiousity of Charles Darwin.

Collective noun for novelists? A stimulation of novelists? An interpretation of novelists? No - I'm settling on "glove". Abiding memory of the evening was A.S. Byatt wiggling her fingers in an imaginary glove inhabiting an imaginary character.... and smiling as she toyed with where it might take them. She insisted it was not puppetry, as did McEwan who described inhabiting his characters and looking around at what they might see, how they might affect others in the vicinity. Seeking insights into the influence of Darwin on their writing, the interviewers came up short - A.S. Byatt was persuaded back into a childhood fascination for the natural world and Norse myths. McEwan pondered on life, not as fate, but as a rolling series of coincidences and crossroads (including voyeristic window into the McE extended family re. different consequences for his wife and sister of the 11 plus exam) .

Apart from commenting that neither novelist would be enjoyed by Darwin (whose taste was restricted to the light relief of pretty heroines and happy endings) both were more easily persuaded to talk about current projects. A.S. Byatt is playing with surrealism and psycho-analysis as fertile ground for contrasting characters (and also still thinking of writing her own "Norse" myth). McEwan has a physically unattractive 1980s Oxbridge scientist using intellectual brilliance to increase his relationship "fitness" and allowing him to play with the struggle that artists and moralists have with fate v. chance and "grandeur in this view of life".

Hey, we know what they are writing this summer!

AS Byatt (DBE, novelist; author of Angels and Insects and Possession) in conversation with Professor Gillian Beer (DBE, University of Cambridge, UK author of Darwin’s Plots).

Ian McEwan (novelist; author of Saturday, Enduring Love and Atonement) in conversation with Professor David Amigoni (Keele University, UK, and author of Colonies, Cults and Evolution).


3 comments:

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
123 123 said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.