The Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin purchased the archive of British novelist Ian McEwan for $2m last week. The archive includes early drafts of his classic novels, unfinished or abandoned stories, letters to McEwan from other literary luminaries like Philip Roth and Salman Rushdie, and 17 years of e-mail correspondence.
Stephen Enniss, Director of the Harry Ransom Center said the “acquisition represents a rare opportunity to share the work of a living, internationally-acclaimed author whose works are of strong interest to readers everywhere.”
McEwan said of the value of the archive, “The writer tends to forget rapidly the routes he or she discarded along the way. Sometimes the path towards a finished novel takes surprising twists. 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.”
McEwan continued, “I was recently awarded the (Oxford) Bodleian medal. After accepting it, I was shown some of the items in their extensive historical archives. It was deeply moving, to hold in my hand a notebook of the 17-year-old Jane Austen. And then, to turn the pages of Kafka’s first draft of Metamorphosis. An archive takes you right to the heart of the literary creation; it makes for an emotional connection that anyone who loves literature will understand. The experience is almost sensual. Beyond that, of course, critical and biographical work on writers is completely dependent on the resources of a world-class archive collection like the Ransom Centre.”
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Reprinted with permission from Fine Books & Collections, author Nate Pedersen