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 Atonement : sources d'inspiration

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Master of Thornfield

Nombre de messages : 23572
Age : 61
Localisation : Entre Salève et Léman
Date d'inscription : 28/01/2006

MessageSujet: Atonement : sources d'inspiration   Mer 16 Jan 2008 - 17:46

Je ne me souviens plus si nous avons parlé des accusations de plagiat lancées contre McEwan après la sortie du livre, entre autres pour certaines scènes à l'hopital qui auraient été largement (trop?) inspirées de l'autobiographie d'une infirmière de guerre, Lucilla Andrews, intitulée No time for romance. Une accusation qui ne tient pas vraiment puisque le livre en question est clairement mentionné dans les sources à la fin d'Atonement. Mais l'écrivain avait tenu à s'expliquer à nouveau en 2006, lorsqu'un journal avait relancé l'affaire, dans un article où il énumère ses diverses sources, que ce soit pour les scènes de la retraite à Dunkerque ou pour celles de l'hopital. J'ai pensé que vous pourriez être intéressés, même si l'article est un peu ancien.

Citation :

Guardian, 27 novembre 2006

An inspiration, yes. Did I copy from another author? No

Ian McEwan has a reputation for the thorough research he undertakes
before writing his novels. But yesterday, a Sunday newspaper claimed
he had "copied" the work of another author for his Booker-nominated
novel, Atonement. Here, McEwan refutes the claim, and explains how
he drew on research and reminiscences for one of his most celebrated

Monday November 27, 2006
The Guardian

Many ex-servicemen have found it difficult or impossible to talk
about their experiences of war. My father never had any such
problems. He never tired of telling me, a bored adolescent, and
later, an attentive middle-aged son, how his legs were shot up by a
machine gun mounted on a German tank; how he teamed up with a
fellow who had been wounded in both arms, and how between them
they had managed the controls of a motorbike to drive to the beaches of
Dunkirk and eventual evacuation.

Even less interesting to a teenager was the repeated account of his
subsequent six-month stay in Alder Hey hospital in Liverpool; how
the burn victims were the bags" for protection; how
tough soldiers quailed at the sound of the ward sister's voice, and
how he had been severely ticked off by her for swearing in pain when
a nurse attempted to remove the first of scores of pieces of
shrapnel from his thigh.

"Stop me if I've told you this before," was a sentence my father
never uttered. He needed to relive his experiences, especially in
the last year of his life. Perhaps after a sedentary postwar office
job in the army, he sensed that the Dunkirk episode and his slow
recovery from it was the most intense period of his life, the time
when he felt most truly alive.

When I came to write Atonement, my father's stories, with automatic
ease, dictated the structure; after I finished the opening section,
set in 1935, Dunkirk would have to be followed by the reconstruction
of a 1940 London hospital. It is an eerie, intrusive matter,
inserting imaginary characters into actual historical events. A
certain freedom is suddenly compromised; as one crosses and
re-crosses the lines between fantasy and the historical record, one
feels a weighty obligation to strict accuracy. In writing about
wartime especially, it seems like a form of respect for the
suffering of a generation wrenched from their ordinary lives to be
conscripted into a nightmare.

The writer of a historical novel may resent his dependence on the
written record, on memoirs and eyewitness accounts, in other words
on other writers, but there is no escape: Dunkirk or a wartime
hospital can be novelistically realised, but they cannot be
re-invented. I was particularly fascinated by the telling detail, or
the visually rich episode that projected unspoken emotion. In the
Dunkirk histories I found an account of a French cavalry officer
walking down a line of horses, shooting each one in turn through the
head. The idea was to prevent anything useful falling into the hands
of the advancing Germans. Strangely, and for exactly the same
reason, near Dunkirk beach, a padre helped by a few soldiers burned
a pile of King James bibles. I included my father's story of the
near-lynching of an RAF clerk, blamed by furious soldiers for the
lack of air support during the retreat. Though I placed my imagined
characters in front of these scenes, it was enormously important to
me that they actually happened.

Finding out about the Nightingale nurses based at St Thomas's,
London, was far more difficult. Most of the history of war is
military and political. The home front is a small subsection, and of
this, nursing is a negligible fraction. Surely, historians have
neglected their duty. I started in the Imperial War Museum library
where I read a dry, official account of the order of nurses founded
by Florence Nightingale. Then the Keeper of the Archives handed me a
folder of old letters. Many of the Nightingale girls were from
rather posh homes - just like my heroine, Briony Tallis. A good few
of these trainee nurses had never been away from home before. One
letter was blotched with what I imagined was a tear of homesickness.

I began to see snatches of a reality I was looking for: the
familiar, tyrannical ward sister, the military insistence on "bull"
- blankets folded just so, castors on beds lined up the same way,
the constant cleaning of floors and above all, the emptying of
bedpans - the medical orthodoxy then was that even patients who
could walk must submit to "bed rest". There were a few affectionate
mentions of the figure of "George", a large doll that the trainees
learned to dress and feed.

But mostly, the reality lay half obscured by a fog of enquiries
about pets, or horses, or requests for gossip from the Old Rectory.
When the first serious cases began to arrive at the hospital from
Dunkirk, the letters ceased - either lost to the record, or the
nurses were suddenly too busy.

I know well from researching Saturday, a novel about a neurosurgeon,
that patient traumas, medical procedures, hospital routines or
details of training demand the strictest factual accuracy. When all
these elements are 60 years in the past, the quest for truth becomes
all the more difficult and important.

It was extraordinary, then, to find in the Wellcome Trust medical
library, in Oxford, No Time for Romance, the autobiography of
Lucilla Andrews, a well-known writer of hospital romances - my
mother used to read her novels with great pleasure. Contained within
this book was a factual account of the rigours of Nightingale
training, the daily routines and crucially, of the arrival of
wounded soldiers from the Dunkirk evacuation and their treatment. As
far as I know, no other such factual account exists. Andrews even
recounted an episode that paralleled my father's experience of being
told off for swearing.

What Andrews described was not an imaginary world - it was not a
fiction. It was the world of a shared reality, of those War Museum
letters and of my father's prolonged hospital stay. Within the pages
of a conventional life story, she created an important and unique
historical document. With painstaking accuracy, so it seemed to me,
she rendered in the form of superb reportage, an experience of the
war that has been almost entirely neglected, and which I too wanted
to bring to life through the eyes of my heroine. As with the Dunkirk
section, I drew on the scenes she described. Again, it was important
to me that these events actually occurred. For certain long-outdated
medical practices, she was my sole source and I have always been
grateful to her.

I have openly acknowledged my debt to her in the author's note at
the end of Atonement, and ever since on public platforms, where
questions about research are almost as frequent as "where do you get
your ideas from?". I have spoken about her in numerous interviews
and in a Radio 4 tribute. My one regret is not meeting her. But if
people are now talking about Lucilla Andrews, I am glad. I have been
talking about her for five years.

© Ian McEwan 2006

There are things so beautiful that they let you not mind that you will grow old and die.

Good angel of Prime Bright Loulou, lycanophila ma non seriosa
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Mr Damien Tilney
The Knight of Irony

Nombre de messages : 3466
Age : 34
Date d'inscription : 04/10/2006

MessageSujet: Re: Atonement : sources d'inspiration   Mer 16 Jan 2008 - 18:25

@ Cat. Merci beaucoup pour cet article. J'en ai lus d'autres sur cette question de plagiat. Il me semble aussi qu'elle tienne à peine la route. Le romancier reconnait lui même ses sources. J'ai l'impression que c'est une sombre histoire de reconnaissance. L'entourage de Lucilla Andrews a cherché dans Expiation des similitudes grossières. Il y a des passages du roman qui doivent beaucoup à Lucilla Andrews mais ce n'est pas le cas de la première et de la deuxième partie, et ce n'est pas plus le cas pour la structure de l'ensemble.
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Master of Thornfield

Nombre de messages : 23572
Age : 61
Localisation : Entre Salève et Léman
Date d'inscription : 28/01/2006

MessageSujet: Re: Atonement : sources d'inspiration   Mer 16 Jan 2008 - 18:29

Les accusations de plagiat n'ont pas été un vrai problème, je crois, j'ai mis l'article surtout pour le fait que Mc Ewan y parle de son père et parce qu'il y évoque sa façon de travailler avec les sources.

There are things so beautiful that they let you not mind that you will grow old and die.

Good angel of Prime Bright Loulou, lycanophila ma non seriosa
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