Thursday, May 15, 2014

Ian McEwan's Literary Archive Bought by Harry Ransom Center for $2m

by Mark Brown)

Ian McEwan's literary archive – including abandoned stories, early drafts of novels, letters from other writers and about 17 years of emails – is heading to Texas after it was bought by the Harry Ransom Center for $2m (£1.2m).

The centre, a humanities research library and museum which is part of the University of Texas at Austin, said it had acquired an archive belonging to "one of the most distinguished novelists of his generation".

The centre's director, Stephen Enniss, said: "This acquisition represents a rare opportunity to share the work of a living, internationally-acclaimed author whose works are of strong interest to readers everywhere."

The centre already holds the archives of McEwan's friend, Julian Barnes, as well as JM Coetzee, Doris Lessing and Tom Stoppard. "McEwan's archive … will give students and scholars unprecedented access and insight into the development of his critically-acclaimed novels," Enniss said.

The archive will include material from his childhood and adolescence as well as scrapbooks his mother kept. There will be letters he received from literary figures including Christopher Hitchens, David Lodge, Harold Pinter, Philip Roth, Salman Rushdie and – tantalisingly – his complete email correspondence from 1997. And there will be lots of material relating to his novels including Amsterdam, On Chesil Beach and Solar.

In an interview to mark the acquisition, McEwan said writers tended to forget the routes they discarded. "Sometimes the path towards a finished novel takes surprising twists," he said. "It's rarely an even development. For example, my novel Atonement started out as a science fiction story set two or three centuries into future."

There is always fierce competition to acquire literary archives, with the British Library heading the queue in the UK. The library, however, does not have the money that US institutions have, although the Harry Ransom Center stressed "it will be paid with dedicated endowments and privately raised funds"