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Submitted Literature

Enduring Love

By Ian McEwan


Ian McEwan’s early novel “The Cement Garden” explores the psychological breakdown of a family following the death of their father and their mother’s subsequent death.  In order to avoid being separated by the social care system, the children tell no one of their mother’s death, instead interring her in concrete in the cellar.  This thick, tight, cloying narrative makes for compulsive yet uncomfortable reading, as their collective mental deterioration leads to a shocking ending.  “Enduring Love” is one of McEwan’s best known novels, examining the phenomenon of De Clérambaults Syndrome. 

Key Themes:

  • Anxiety
  • De ClĂ©rambaults Syndrome
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
  • Revealing Reads

Significant Quotes / Pages

43 – “I couldn’t find a word for what I felt.  Unclean, contaminated, crazy, physical but somehow moral.  It is clearly not true that without language there is no thought.  I possess to thought, and feeling, as sensation, and I was looking for its word.  As guilt was to the past, so, what was it that stood in the same relation to the future?  Intention?  No, not influence over the future.  Foreboding.  Anxiety about, distastefully future.  Guilt and foreboding, bounded by a line from past future, pivoting in the present – the only moment it could be experienced.  It wasn’t fear exactly.  Fear was too focused, it has an object.  Dread was too strong.  Fear of the future.  Apprehension then.  Yes, there it was, approximately.  It was apprehension.

[…] It was simple, it was a form of fear.  Fear of outcomes.  All day I’d been afraid.  Was I so choose, and not to know fear from the start?  Wasn’t it an elemental emotion, along with disgust, surprise, anger and elation, in Ekman’s celebrated cross-cultural study?”

69 – “I recalled my incoherent feelings the day before when I had ran out into St James Square looking for Parry.  Then he represented the unknown, into which I projected all kinds of inarticulate terrors.  Now I considered him to be a confused and eccentric young man who couldn’t look me in the eye, whose inadequacies and emotional cravings rendered him harmless.  He was a pathetic figure, not a threat after all but an annoyance, one that might frame itself, just as Clarissa had said, into an amusing story.  Perhaps it was perverse, after such an intense encounter, to be able to drive it from my mind.  At the time it seemed reasonable and necessary-I had wasted enough of my morning already.”

135-6 – “ 'I know you won’t hear me-yet.  Your mind is closed, your defences are in place.  It suits you and it protects you to tell yourself that time a madman.  Help!  There’s a man outside offering me love and the love of God!  Call the police, call an ambulance!  There’s no problem with Joe Rose.  His world is in place, everything fits, and all the problems with Jed Parry, a patient idiot who stands in the street like a beggar, waiting to glimpse his loved one and to offer his love.  What is it I have to do to make you begin to hear me?  Only prayer can answer this question, and only Love can carry it through.  But my love to you is no longer of the beseeching sort.  I don’t say by the phone waiting for kind words from you.  You don’t stand above me deciding my future, you don’t have the power to command me to do whatever you like.  I love you is hard and fierce, it won’t take no for an answer, and is moving steadily towards you, coming to claim you and deliver you.  In other words, my love-which is also God’s love-is your fate.' ”

Reference: Ian, McEwan. 1997. Enduring Love. London: Vintage, 1998


- Charley Baker
Date Review Submitted: Friday 20th March 2009