During the Cold War CIA and MI6 funded cultural fronts. To promote the open societies agents had to operate in deep secret, an absurdity that drew Ian McEwan to write the spy novel ’Sweet Tooth’, which he reads from here.
Sweet Tooth deals with the experiences of its protagonist, Serena Frome, during the early 1970s. After graduating from Cambridge she is recruited by MI5, and becomes involved in a covert program to combat communism by infiltrating the intellectual world. When she becomes romantically involved with her mark, complications ensue.
”In Britain in the 70’ies women played a very lowly role in the intelligence services”, Ian McEwan introduces. ”Women weren’t allowed, to be promoted beyond a certain point. It was held an assumption in the upper regions of MI5, that women couldn’t keep secrets. We had good reasons to think that, because all the people who had betrayed our country were men”, McEwan says ironically.
”She had a rather frustrating time working for the MI5. Finally she is sent on a mission. MI5 wish to draw in a number of writers and journalist to help set the cultural tone in democracy to help them in their cultural struggle against the Soviet Union.
The Cold War wasn’t only a matter of nuclear weapons it was also a battle for hearts and minds”, Ian McEwan says.
”Serena is sent down to Brighton to offer a yearly grant to a young promising writer that MI5 think might suit their purposes. In fact CIA and MI6 did fund many such cultural fronts during the whole of The Cold War. One of the strange paradoxes that to promote the open societies you have to do this in deep secret, an absurdity, which actually draw me into this subject matter”, McEwan states.
Ian McEwan (b. 1948) is an award winning English novelist and screenwriter. McEwan has been nominated for the Man Booker prize six times to date, winning the prize for 'Amsterdam' in 1998. In 2001, he published 'Atonement', which was made into an Oscar-winning film. This was followed by 'Saturday' (2005), 'On Chesil Beach' (2007), 'Solar' (2010), and 'Sweet Tooth' (2012). He was awarded the Jerusalem Prize in 2011.
Ian McEwan’s reading of Sweet Tooth is filmed at the Louisiana Literature festival, at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Denmark, August 2013.
Camera: Klaus Elmer & Mathias Nyholm
Edited by: Kamilla Bruus
Produced by: Christian Lund
Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2014
Supported by Nordea-fonden