Skip to main content Accessibility help
  • Print publication year: 2019
  • Online publication date: June 2019

5 - Cold War Fictions


This chapter offers a detailed reading of McEwan’s 2012 novel Sweet Tooth as a highly self-conscious and allusive literary spy thriller of the Cold War era, one which invites a renewed attention to the Cold War themes, ideas and literary strategies which have been important in his work since the late 1970s in which the novel is set. These flourished especially in the two novels written around the fall of the Berlin Wall, The Innocent and Black Dogs which also receive extended treatment here. In McEwan’s reworking of the Cold War spy thriller as postmodern literary fiction we find, it is argued, a recurrent fascination with misunderstandings and readjustments in emotional and political relations between the sexes as an analogy for Cold War politics and vice versa. Added to this McEwan increasingly packs his fictions with informed literary debate that constitute a profound exploration of literary genres and of the complex relationship between author and reader.