PN Review Print and Online Poetry Magazine
Most Read... Rebecca WattsThe Cult of the Noble Amateur
(PN Review 239)
Mark FordLetters And So It Goes
Letters from Young Mr Grace
(aka John Ashbery)

(PN Review 239)
Henry Kingon Toby Martinez de las Rivas
(PN Review 244)
Eavan BolandA Lyric Voice at Bay
(PN Review 121)
Vahni CapildeoOn Judging Prizes, & Reading More than Six Really Good Books
(PN Review 237)
M. Wynn ThomasThe Other Side of the Hedge
(PN Review 239)
Next Issue Beverley Bie Brahic, after Leopardi's 'Broom' Michael Freeman Benefytes and Consolacyons Miles Burrows At Madame Zaza’s and other poems Victoria Kenefick Hunger Strike Hilary Davies Haunted by Christ
Poems Articles Interviews Reports Reviews Contributors
PNR 250 Poetry Archive Banner
Monthly Carcanet Books
PN Review Blog

This article is taken from PN Review 185, Volume 35 Number 3, January - February 2009.

On On Chesil Beach Frederic Raphael

Cyril Connolly set the mark in the opening sentence of Palinurus: 'the true function of a writer is to produce a masterpiece and no other task is of any consequence'. It follows that, when a commanding critic - who has been more durably magisterial than Karl Miller? - announces that a novel is 'more than an event. It is a masterpiece', we should hurry to read the applauded text. So it was that, on the way to a holiday in the Cyclades, I bought On Chesil Beach, Ian McEwan's latest work of fiction. It would make an instructive addition, I had no doubt, to Josephus's The Jewish War, John Gribbin's Science: a History, Virgil's Eclogues (one a day would, I thought, be good for my morals) and the hardly less lauded Night Train to Lisbon ('One of the best books I have read for a long time', Isabel Allende). Pascal Mercier's novel turned out to be so badly translated and so ill-set, in addition to being one of the slowest trains in the history of fiction, that Allende's 'for a long time' began to have ironic undertones: in what other period of time could one ever read such a work? With McEwan it was evidently quite other-wise: his narrative was composed of five parts, but they accumulated to no more than 166 well-spaced pages.

I do not know Ian McEwan personally, though we both showed ...


Searching, please wait... animated waiting image