Ian McEwan
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Literary Arts

Ian McEwan

Past Event: Wednesday, March 31, 2004

At Benaroya Hall — S. Mark Taper Foundation Auditorium

Sponsored by Hoffman Construction Company of Washington.

Ian McEwan is one of Britain’s most celebrated writers.

The author of novels including The Cement Garden (1978), the Booker Prize—winning Amsterdam (1998), and most recently, Atonement (2002), McEwan began writing in 1970. When his first book, First Love, Last Rites (1975), received the Somerset Maugham Award, it was lauded as “brilliantly perverse.” Such a description may be applied to the subject matter in nearly all of McEwan’s books: a young girl’s imagination leads her to accuse a childhood friend of a hideous crime he did not commit; a man finds himself being stalked by a religious follower after attempting to save the victim of a tragic air-balloon accident; a group of children lapse into filth and apathy after concealing the deaths of their parents. McEwan may craft horrific tales, but he also has an uncanny ability to guide his readers through these haunting fictional worlds of moral ambiguity and doubt toward a land of sharpness and clarity.

Born in 1948, McEwan is a self-described “army brat” who spent his childhood living in North Africa and Singapore before returning to England for schooling. He received his M.A. from the University of Sussex in Brighton, where he studied under writer Malcolm Bradbury. In addition to his fiction, McEwan is a frequent contributor of nonfiction to publications including The GuardianThe Independent, and The Financial Times. He lives in London.

Excerpt from Atonement (2001)She eased herself onto an elbow and brought the glass of water to her lips. It was beginning to fade, the presence of her animal tormentor, and now she was able to arrange two pillows against the headboard in order to sit up. This was a slow and awkward maneuver because she was fearful of sudden movement, and thus the creaking of the bedsprings was prolonged, and half obscured the sound of a man’s voice. Propped on her side, she froze, with the corner of a pillow clenched in one hand, and beamed her raw attention into every recess of the house. There was nothing, and then, like a lamp turned on and off in total darkness, there was a little squeal of laughter abruptly smothered. Lola then, in the nursery with Marshall. She continued to settle herself, and lay back at last, and sipped her lukewarm water. This wealthy young entrepreneur might not be such a bad sort, if he was prepared to pass the time of day entertaining children. Soon she would be able to risk turning on the bedside lamp, and within twenty minutes she might be able to rejoin the household and pursue the various lines of her anxiety. Most urgent was a sortie into the kitchen to discover whether it was not too late to convert the roast into cold cuts and salads, and then she must greet her son and appraise his friend and make him welcome. As soon as this was accomplished, she was satisfy herself that the twins were properly taken care of, and perhaps allow them some sort of compensating treat. Then it would be a good time to make the telephone call to Jack who would have forgotten to tell her he was not coming home. She would talk herself past the terse woman on the switchboard, and the pompous young fellow in the outer office, and she would reassure her husband that there was no need to feel guilt. She would track down Cecilia and make sure that she had arranged the flowers as instructed, and that she should jolly well make an effort for the evening by taking on some of the responsibilities of a hostess and that she wore something pretty and didn’t smoke in every room. And then, most important of all, she should set off in search of Briony because the collapse of the play was a terrible blow and the child would need all the comfort a mother could give. Finding her would mean exposure to unadulterated sunlight, and even the diminishing rays of early evening could provoke an attack. The sunglasses could have to be found then, and this, rather than the kitchen, would have to be the priority, because they were somewhere in this room, in a drawer, between a book, in a pockeet, and it would be a bother to come upstairs again for them. She should also put on some flat-soled shoes in case Briony had gone all the way to the river . . .

And so Emily lay back against the pillows for another several minutes, her creature having slunk away, and patiently planned, and revised her plans, and refined an order for them. She would soothe the household, which seemed to her, from the sickly dimness of the bedroom, like a troubled and sparsely populated continent from whose forested vastness competing elements made claims and counter claims upon her restless attention. She had no illusions: old plans, if one could ever remember them, the plans that time had overtaken, tended to have a febrile and overoptimistic grip on events. She could send her tendrils into every room of the house, but she could not send them into the future. She also knew that, ultimately, it was her own peace of mind she strove for; self-interest and kindness were best not separated. Gently, she pushed herself upright and swung her feet to the floor and wriggled them into her slippers. Rather than risking drawing the curtains just yet, she turned on the reading light, and tentatively began the hunt for her dark glasses. She had already decided where to look first.

Selected WorkAtonement (2001) Amsterdam (1998)Enduring Love (1997)The Daydreamer (1994)Black Dogs (1992)The Innocent (1990)The Child in Time (1987)The Comfort of Strangers (1981)In Between the Sheets and Other Stories (1978)The Cement Garden (1978)First Love, Last Rites (1975)

LinksIan McEwan’s official web siteIan McEwan resources in the GuardianInterview excerpt from The Paris Review

Event Details

Benaroya Hall — S. Mark Taper Foundation Auditorium

200 University Street
Seattle, WA 98101

View directions.

Transportation & Parking

This event will be held in the S. Mark Taper Foundation Auditorium, the largest event space at Benaroya Hall. 

Benaroya Hall is located at 200 University Street, directly across Second Avenue from the Seattle Art Museum. The public entrance to Benaroya Hall is along Third Avenue.

By Car

  • From Southbound I-5
    Take the Union Street exit (#165B). Continue onto Union Street and proceed approximately five blocks to Second Avenue. Turn left onto Second Avenue. The Benaroya Hall parking garage will be on your immediate left. The garage entrance is on Second Avenue, just south of Union Street.
  • From Northbound I-5
    Exit left onto Seneca Street (exit #165). Proceed two blocks and turn right onto Fourth Avenue. Continue two blocks. Turn left onto Union Street. Continue two blocks. Turn left onto Second Avenue. The Benaroya Hall parking garage will be on your immediate left. The garage entrance is on Second Avenue, just south of Union Street.
  • From Northbound I-5 via Westbound I-90
    Take the 2C exit for I-5 North. Follow signs for Madison Street/Convention Place and merge right onto Seventh Avenue. Turn left onto Madison Street. Proceed three blocks and turn right onto Fourth Avenue. Continue four blocks. Turn left onto Union Street. Continue two blocks. Turn left onto Second Avenue. The Benaroya Hall parking garage will be on your immediate left. The garage entrance is on Second Avenue, just south of Union Street.

By Public Transit (Bus & Light Rail)

Benaroya Hall is served by numerous bus routes. Digital reader boards along Third Avenue display real-time bus arrival information. For details and trip planning tools, call Metro Rider Information at 206.553.3000 (voice) or 206.684.1739 (TDD), or visit Metro online. The Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel, served by light rail, has a stop just below the Hall (University Street Station).


The 430-car underground garage at Benaroya Hall provides direct access from the enclosed parking area into the Hall via elevators leading to The Boeing Company Gallery. Enter the garage on Second Avenue, just south of Union Street. Maximum vehicle height is 6’8″. ChargePoint charging stations are available for electric vehicles. Visit the Benaroya Hall website for event pricing.

Parking is also available at:

  • The Cobb Building (enter on University Street between Third and Fourth avenues).
  • The Russell Investments Center (enter on Union Street between First and Second avenues).
  • There are many other garages within a one-block radius of Benaroya Hall, along with numerous on-street parking options.


Open Captioning is an option for people who have hearing loss, where a captioning screen displaying the words that are spoken or sung is placed on stage. This option is present at every event at Benaroya Hall in our 2021/22 Season.

Closed Captioning is an option for people who have hearing loss, where captioning displays the words that are spoken or sung at the bottom of the video during an online event. Captioning is available for all online events; click the “CC” button to view captions during the event.

Assistive Listening Devices (ALDs) are devices that people with hearing loss use in conjunction with their hearing device (hearing aids or cochlear implants). Benaroya Hall has an infrared hearing system, which transmits sound by light beams. Headsets are available in The Boeing Company Gallery coat check and the Head Usher stations in both lobbies.

Sign Language Interpretation is available upon request for Deaf, DeafBlind, and hard of hearing individuals for both in-person and online events. To make a request for interpretation, please contact us at [email protected] or 206.621.2230×10, or select “Sign Language Interpretation” from the Accessibility section during your ticket checkout process and we will contact you to confirm details. Please note: we appreciate a two-week advance notice to allow us time to secure interpretation.

Wheelchair Accessible Seating and Accessible Restrooms are available in all sections at our venues, and our venues are fully accessible to ticket holders with physical mobility concerns. Among other features, Benaroya Hall has designated parking spaces adjacent to elevators in their parking garage. Elevators with Braille signage go to all levels within the Hall. To reserve seating for a specific mobility concern, you may select “Wheelchair Accessible or Alternative Seating Options” during ticket checkout, and we will contact you to confirm details. For more details on their accessibility features, click here.

Guide and service dogs are welcome.

Gender neutral restrooms are available.

We are pleased to offer these accessibility services at our venues, and they are provided at no additional cost to ticket holders. Please contact us with any questions and feedback about how we can be more accessible and inclusive. Our Patron Services Manager is available at [email protected], or Monday-Friday from 10:00am – 5:00pm at 206.621.2230×10.

For more accessibility information, please head to lectures.org/accessibility. If you would like to make accessibility arrangements you do not see listed here, please contact our box office or select “Other Accommodations” from the Accessibility section during your ticket checkout process, and we will contact you to confirm details.