IAN MCEWAN, the award-winning British novelist, is the author of The Child in Time (winner of the Whitbread Novel of the Year Award, 1987), Amsterdam (winner of the Booker Prize, 1998), Atonement, Sweet Tooth, and The Children Act. He lives in London.
ED. NOTE: Ian McEwan, who is living in France this month, sent the following email this afternoon from Paris which he asked us to share with the EDGE community.
The death cult chose its city well—Paris, secular capital of the world, as hospitable, diverse and charming a metropolis as was ever devised. And the death cult chose its targets in the city with ghoulish, self-damning accuracy—everything they loathed stood plainly before them on a happy Friday evening: men and women in easy association, wine, free-thinking, laughter, tolerance, music—wild and satirical rock and blues. The cultists came armed with savage nihilism and a hatred that lies beyond our understanding. Their protective armour was the suicide belt, their idea of the ultimate hiding place was the virtuous after-life, where the police cannot go. (The jihadist paradise is turning out to be one of humanity’s worst ever ideas; slash and burn in this life, eternal rest among kitsch in the next).
Paris, dazed and subdued, woke this morning to reflect on its new circumstances. Those of us who were out on the town last night can only wonder at the vagaries of chance that lets us live and others die. As the slaughter began, my wife and I were in a venerable Paris institution, a cliché of the modest good life since 1845. In this charming restaurant in the sixieme, one shares crowded tables with good-willed strangers, visitors and locals in a friendly crush. With our Pouilly Fume and filets d’hareng, we were as good a target as any. The cult chose the onzieme, the dixieme, barely a mile away and we didn’t know a thing.
Now we do. What are those changed circumstances? Security will tighten and Paris must become a little less charming. The necessary tension between security and freedom will remain a challenge. The death-cult’s bullets and bombs will come again, here or somewhere else, we can be sure. The citizens of London, New York, Berlin are paying close and nervous attention. In January we were all CharlieHebdo. Now, we are all Parisians and that at least, in a dark time, is a matter of pride.
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