Ian McEwan: If we were to travel back in time we’d want to scream

Ian McEwan attending a special screening of On Chesil Beach at the Curzon Mayfair, London.
Ian McEwan attending a special screening of On Chesil Beach at the Curzon Mayfair, London.

Novelist Ian McEwan has criticised what he called the “fantasy” of a past “golden age”.

The writer, who has adapted a film version of his novella On Chesil Beach for the big screen, also dismissed Donald Trump’s presidential election campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again”.

“We’re now beginning to maybe see this through the eyes of Brexit, this fantasy that’s common at the moment amongst some people at least of a golden age,” he told the Press Association.

“People were rather frosty, stiff, conventional, rather oppressive and misogynistic”, he said of the past.

“If we were to suddenly time travel back, I think after a couple of hours we’d want to scream, especially the ways in which people related to each other.”

McEwan went on: “We also look back on the Victorian age, and there are all these myths … I mean, just imagine a world without anaesthetics – that would shake your mind, having a toothache in 1865.”

And he added, in reference to Mr Trump’s slogan: “Making America Great Again – so when is this ‘again?’ What, the Kennedy years? They had terrible problems, especially racial problems, which haven’t gone away.

“So, I think it’s a deep human impulse to imagine a golden world.”

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