By Stephen Henighan
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Extra info for A Report on the Afterlife of Culture
In May 1989, the Stare Miasto felt removed from the turmoil that prevailed elsewhere. Nothing happened there. Tourists ambled about in the sunlight; politics felt far away. There was little evidence of the anger I found in Cracow, or the non-stop hyperactivity of the opposition movement in Gdynia and Gda½sk. No blob-lettered red-on-white Solidarnoíº banners marred the perfect procession of tall, narrow buildings – one painted green, the next one pink – that lined the Rynek Starego Miasta, the central square.
The Child in Time (1987), in which McEwan’s growing interest in feminism and physics were played out against the search for a way to move from the sexual freedom of the 1960s and 1970s to a responsible model of parenting that would obviate the restrictive gender-roles of the traditional British family, struck a chord across the Atlantic, providing McEwan with his first major international success. But The Child in Time also displayed some of McEwan’s weaknesses. Like his later Enduring Love (1997), The Child in Time proceeds from a dazzling opening to an uncertain development and a forced, over-explained resolution.
The insistence that the present-day act of narration takes precedence over the content of that which is A Report on the Afterlife of Culture 31 being narrated (such as stories that link the individual to the past), which lies at the heart of many of the textual assaults launched by postmodern literary theorists, springs from an acute consciousness of the competing political rhetorics of communism and capitalism that manipulated the past in order to paint the present as both inevitable and desirable.