Saturday, June 25, 2005

A grandeur in this view of life

In Ian McEwan's new novel, Saturday, the daughter of the protagonist Henry Perowne, London neurosurgeon, quotes to him the first lines of a poem by Philip Larkin: "If I were called in/ To construct a religion/ I should make use of water." Perowne opines that if he got the call he would make use of evolution. "What better creation myth? An unimaginable sweep of time, numberless generations spawning by infinitesimal steps complex living beauty out of inert matter, driven on by the blind furies of random mutation, natural selection and environmental change, with the tragedy of forms continually dying, and lately the wonder of minds emerging and with them morality, love, art, cities -- and the unprecedented bonus of this story happening to be demonstrably true."

McEwan has always been a fine writer. Saturday is his best novel yet, lifting him into the rank, say, of a Philip Roth.