The Comfort of Strangers

The Comfort of Strangers

by Ian McEwan

"Haunting and compelling." --The Times As their holiday unfolds, Colin and Maria are locked into their own intimacy.

  • Language: English
  • Category: Fiction
  • Rating: 3.42
  • Pages: 128
  • Publish Date: November 1st 1994 by Anchor
  • Isbn10: 0679749845
  • Isbn13: 9780679749844

Read the Book "The Comfort of Strangers" Online

This was exactly the novel I didnt want to read, but at least its official now NO MORE IAN MCEWAN BOOKS FOR ME, EVER. This is, I take it, what people mean when they harp on about the Ian McEwan prose style. What he does is he describes in tedious detail a couple of ordinary novocained middle class English types in an ordinary situation and just when youre dozing off he has a page of lurid violence. I think this is the way dead people would write, if they could : In the evening they decided they were suffering from lack of exercise and made plans to catch the boat across the lagoon the next day to the popular strip of land whose beaches faced the open sea. Notice the popular strip of land whose beaches faced the open sea he cant give it its name, which would be the natural thing to do, because for some reason of high literature, he has decided not to say that the city with its canals and no traffic is Venice.

(Teachers note: "Can you explain that more in detail, please?" Student: "No, I have forgotten the rest!") Second reference from the text, as required in the rubric: What tended to happen, to Colin and Mary at least, was that subjects were not explored so much as defensively reiterated, or forced into elaborate irrelevancies, and suffused with irritability. Paraphrase: What tended to happen, reading McEwan at least, was that subjects were not explored so much as defensively reiterated, or forced into elaborate irrelevancies, and suffused with irritability. Note from student to teacher: "I fulfilled the rubric, so you will have to give me the marks. I wonder if my Student Alter Ego even read it?" Student: "No, Teacher Alter Ego, I did not. For if I had, I would have told you that it is not for students: gratuitous violence, unmotivated, random story lines, superficially shocking" Teacher Alter Ego: "Fair enough, is would not have been possible to make a proper characterisation or plot analysis either, as the protagonists are completely unrealistic: who would follow a stranger to his house and listen to his stupid life story and then return despite clear indications that he is brutal and manipulative" Student Alter Ego: "My point precisely.

NOTHING in this book makes any sort of sense whatsoever, and the plot can be best described as "two morons go on a holiday where they meet two crazy people who do horrible things to them for no apparent reason". McEwan can write and the best thing about this novel is his prose, but unfortunately he proves that he can write about nothing in particular and not only get away with it but also win accolades for his fiction. Amazingly impropable plot developments (the couple goes to the beach when the sky is completely overcast, and is even described as being black...the bars are closed at 9PM in a big city(!) and when the couple find a bar, the waiter refuses to serve them water(!!)) combined with amazingly stupid and inconsistent character actions (the man our couple meets is a thug with a gold chain, who shares on the spot the story how his father abused his siters and how they took revenge of thim, which included a lot of feces and turkish rugs - AND THEY GO AWAY WITH THIS DUDE TO HIS HOUSE, it's true check for yourself!) combined with a lot of calculated, creepy stuff thrown in for further shock value (the man tells the girl that he'd like to bind her to a machine that would constnatly penetrate her body, even after her death - and she tells him that she'd like to cut his limbs off and keep him for sex - AND THESE PEOPLE HAVE CHILDREN, thank God this is fiction!) combined with a lot of schtooping and booze (the two lovers eat practically nothing, sleep in the streets(!), drink gallons of alcohol and when they get back to a hotel they make sweet and passionate love for like FOUR DAYS - what was McEwan thinking?).

Its creepy and stupid. I mean protagonists are stupid and some creepy things happen to them. Probably because they are stupid. The comfort of strangers is one of the earliest McEwans works but we already can discern here typical to his writing obsessions that would become his hallmark.

After reading three Ian McEwan novels, each one different but all rather elegant and civilized, I thought Id try one of his early books, written back when he had the nickname Ian Macabre. The Comfort Of Strangers (1981) is a chilling psychological thriller about Colin and Mary, an attractive, if rather self-absorbed, unmarried couple who are vacationing in an unnamed city that has all the old-world markers of Venice. One night, while looking for a restaurant, they get lost in the narrow, labyrinthine alleys and run into Robert, a gruff older man who grasps them a little too tightly and leads them to a bar. After a long night at the bar (which it turns out Robert owns) and a surreal early morning spent wandering around in a daze, they once again run into the man.

What follows is twisted and disturbing, but had me completely mesmerized, and having read some of Ian McEwans other books I knew he had a tendency to take the story into some bizarre territory.

"The Comfort of Strangers" is the unfortunate combination of two of McEwan's worst books (which were published decades later, obviously): "Saturday" & "On Chesil Beach." It has that PVoAA (Powerful Voice of Authentic Authority), or that I've-published-stuff-now-I-will-see-places-with-the-eyes-of-a-wealthy-man tone. There are certain entities that take our hands to take us places, and I believe it is intolerable to make them dunces, dullards, or pure-Fillers.) Like, who cares? "Comfort" is all about the brutal nature of strangeness-- yes, people: bad stuff happens.

E ci trascinano nelle loro giornate senza senso, in discussioni silenziose in un tempo immobile, in unabitudine ai loro corpi che è normalità, piacere, delicatezza e conforto. Le parole sono scelte con cura, nulla è in più o in meno, asciutte, tragiche, creano una tensione nellimmobilità che allerta i sensi del lettore fino alla fine, forse solo un po frettolosa, ma a rifletterci non avrebbe potuto essere diversa.

4.5 stars McEwan has a fixation on the intimacy between men and women, both physical and emotional, and he explores that in a fascinating way in The Comfort of Strangers. The story follows Colin and Mary, a couple who've been together for several years but aren't married, as they spend a holiday in an unnamed city (though it's very clearly Venicewhy McEwan chooses to keep this masked intrigues me).

His novel Atonement received the WH Smith Literary Award (2002), National Book Critics' Circle Fiction Award (2003), Los Angeles Times Prize for Fiction (2003), and the Santiago Prize for the European Novel (2004).