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A defining activity

31 January 2005

'One of the great cliches of novel writing is that pleasure and happiness don't make good subjects. We are enormous compartmentalisers; we may have huge anxieties about Africa or Iraq, but at the same time be having a marvellous time, be very interested and content in our work or our private life. Some of the pleasures I wanted to get into the book were preparing a meal, hanging out with your teenage children, listening to music, having sex and playing squash. I wanted to investigate the notion of whether these thing were impossible to write about.

Another ambition of mine was to write a novel that was work-based, because too may novels seem to ignore the fact that people work: that it's a defining activity, a source of pleasure and obsession and self-esteem.'

Ian McEwan on his new novel Saturday in the Bookseller