Among the many faces of Lecciones is its condition as an exemplary mature novel, if we understand this as one in which its author finds the tone, style, structure and narrative flow that seem ideal for building a fictional world in which to pour the experience and wisdom accumulated over a lifetime. In this sense, the book doubly fulfills what its title conveys: it manages to broaden the mind about what our time on Earth entails, serving up a master class on the literary genre that it uses for this purpose. Reading it also leads one to think that a very reasonable way to amend that widespread fallacy according to which "anyone's life is enough for a novel" would be to add "as long as McEwan writes it for you."
And this because Lessons almost completely covers the life arc of an ordinary individual, Roland, from when he is a teenager in the harrowing years of the Cold War to when he is an old man in the no less conflictive years of Brexit and the pandemic. We are children of our time, the author reminds us, pending to analyze how the large frames determine the trajectory of his creatures, but the focus is above all on the intimate sphere. What marks us and how much can we blame a single event for everything that will come after? Two episodes represent a caesura for the protagonist: 1) away from his parents in a boarding school for boys, Roland will begin a relationship that is as joyful as it is stormy with his piano teacher, many years older than him, and 2) years later, his wife finds him. she will leave with a baby to be able to develop her career as a novelist.
The character's inability to maintain satisfactory and lasting sentimental relationships, and the failure of his successive great aspirations -to stand out as a poet, tennis player and musician-, are they attributable to such setbacks or are we talking about an easy response and leaning towards victimhood? It is one of the main themes of the novel, through which the question of whether an existence dedicated to art or leaving a notch in the course of History -the resistance movements to Nazism and communism are present- justify the damages. that can be derived for loved ones. Roland and his circle serve his creator to cover all the seasons of life and portray colorful profiles in their question about how to measure weight and the meaning of it.
A tame, twilight McEwan? Those familiar with his work cannot help but think when one of those stings or sleight of hand that have defined so many of his books will arrive, whether it be a terrible moment that will change the lives of its protagonists (Children in Time, Enduring Love, Saturday) or a revelation to the reader that will push him to reconsider the whole journey (Atonement), but it does not occur. If anything, Roland's (relative) sexual trauma brings echoes of the catastrophic wedding night of the also young and inexperienced protagonists of Chasil Beach. Of course, he does not deprive us of a hilarious passage of the house, this time with the ashes of a deceased. The author's sensitivity intact to portray our vulnerability and confusion, his sharpness to lament our nonsense as a species, his talent to connect the macro (History, politics...) with the micro (family miseries), not to mention the absolute technical mastery, Lecciones does not need any blows of effect or artifice because it is the result of a contemplative and deeply human gaze.
In his moments of despondency for not having developed his full potential, Roland might have liked to know that his normal life has been redeemed or sublimated into a work of art, ironically the more "earthly" his creator has become.
Ian McEwan Lliçons / Lessons. trad. Jordi Martin Lloret / Eduardo Iriarte. Anagram. 584/ 576 pages. 24.9 euro