Ian McEwan is one of my favourite authors. On top of being so damn good at what he does, I love it that he has kept old notebooks so he can remember how stories evolve and change with life’s natural progression. As today is his birthday, I thought I’d give him the “Growing Pains” treatment.
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Ian was born on 21 June 1948 at 8:30 am in Aldershot, United Kingdom (Rodden Rating: A; Collector: Rodden). By star sign, his Sun didn’t quite get under the solstice wire to be in Cancer. At 29 degrees 48 minutes, his Sun is in Gemini. Ian’s ascendant is in Leo, meaning the Sun is the Lord of his chart so by progression and solar arc, it would take on a more particular meaning. Typically, a person with a Leo ascendant cannot help but be noticed and actively seeks the limelight. However, for Ian, this manifests in a very different way. For starters, two other planets are in conjunction to his ascendant (Saturn and Pluto) making the Sun their ruler too.
Further, with Uranus conjunct his Sun, Ian may have felt compelled to avoid attention and insist and doing things in his own and unique manner, contrary to what others may have wanted. He would have detested being ‘handled’ by others. This conjunction is opposite his Jupiter and Moon in Sagittarius. A Jupiter-Moon conjunction usually indicates a person who is naturally optimistic and has perpetually itchy feet. As a child, Ian lived in several different countries due to his father’s army postings. Around the time of his first Jupiter return in 1958, he and his parents were living in Libya but they returned to England later that year. Ian may have felt either been over indulged or ignored as he grew up. Either way, with Sun conjunct Uranus, he may have been attracted to the idea of revolutionising the world through his communications in a playful, trivial way. The Moon and Jupiter opposing this deepens philosophical thoughts and interests, perhaps leading to over confidence and a strong desire to take risks. All handy traits in a man who is listed amongst the top 50 writers in Great Britain—and unexpectedly (at least to an astrologer), his work reflects his chart. Remember, natal planets carry their energy as they transit another planet.
Ian’s first book, The Cement Garden, is a fairly good manifestation of this complicated opposition. Published in 1978 as Jupiter transited Uranus, Sun, Mercury and Venus, it tells the tale of four children who bury their mother in cement to avoid being taken into to foster care. The children survive the rather onerous task of keeping this terrible secret as well as raising themselves.
His next book, The Comfort of Strangers, was published as Jupiter squared the stellium in Gemini in 1981. Curiously, the couple featured in the book, Mary and Colin, are in a relationship that is undergoing its first Saturn square (7 years). They befriend another couple who clearly have “issues” in relationships that ultimately lead to Colin’s death. Ian married shortly after the book was published but the relationship collapsed 13 years later under the strain of his success or, in astrological terms, the marriage didn’t survive the first Saturn opposition.
The Child in Time (1987) was written as Ian was fighting for custody of his children (the marital breakdown had been a long and arduous process). Published during the waning phase of the Jupiter cycle, the main theme is that of an author of children’s books who loses his only child in the supermarket. He becomes obsessed with space and time travel and leads to him seeing a vision of his parents as a young couple before they married.
It is easy to see how his subsequent novels follow the Jupiter cycle: The Innocent (1990—Transting Jupiter conjunct Saturn), Black Dogs (1992—transiting Jupiter conjunct the stellium in Gemini), Enduring Love (1997—transiting Jupiter opposing Saturn), Amsterdam (1998– transiting Jupiter opposing Saturn, the last in a series of three), Atonement (2001—Jupiter conjunct Saturn) and Saturday (2005—Jupiter conjunct Neptune).
As Saturn came to transit the stellium in Gemini in 2007, On Chesil Beach was published. This tells the tale of a couple with vastly different backgrounds end up splitting up on their honeymoon over a sexual misunderstanding.
But it is Solar which wins the prize for best transits: When it was published in 2010, both Jupiter and Saturn were square to his natal Sun.
Ian also has a conjunction of Mercury and Venus in Cancer, in dissociate aspect to the Sun and Uranus, perhaps giving him an interest in History and a keen eye and ear for human emotion. He has kept his early writing notebooks as a means of keeping track of how his stories evolved. He has said Atonement began as a science fiction book set two or three centuries in the future (thus pleasing his Sun conjunct Uranus!). It is utterly fascinating he eventually released the book written entirely from the point of a view of a woman through various stages of her life.
Perhaps as a child during the first Saturn squares (he had a series of three), he suffered an illness or there was a significant change in the family structure (natally, Saturn is square to Chiron in Scorpio in the 4th so this would have been activated by Saturn transits). Whilst it is safe to say he didn’t bury his mother cement, the first Saturn square (as well as the first Jupiter opposition the year before) is an important developmental milestone and the memories of events around this time can have a lifelong effect.
The fourth house can describe the family home, in particular the mother, and consequent emotions surrounding these themes: according to Wikipedia, in 2002 he discovered he had a brother who was six years older than him. Although his mother had been married to a different man, the brothers share the same biological father because she had had an affair before her first marriage. When her first husband died, she married the brothers’ father. Transiting planets carry forward the energy of natal positions. So Transiting Saturn opposed Ian’s Jupiter when he found out about this family secret but it was at his second Saturn return (he had a series of three conjunctions) and fifth Jupiter return when this became public. The second Saturn return and fifth Jupiter occurs around the age of 60. It is the only time in a human life that the returns coincide. Astrologically, it is a time of reflecting and acting on the wisdom accumulated to that point. Ian dealt with this ‘outing’ with true grace—an achievement no doubt assisted by the Jupiter and Saturn returns.
The following year, in 2008, Ian came under criticism for his comments on Islam which he felt had been misinterpreted: “Certain remarks of mine to an Italian journalist have been widely misrepresented in the UK press, and on various websites. Contrary to reports, my remarks were not about Islam, but about Islamism – perhaps ‘extremism’ would be a better term. I grew up in a Muslim country – Libya – and have only warm memories of a dignified, tolerant and hospitable Islamic culture. I was referring in my interview to a tiny minority who preach violent jihad, who incite hatred and violence against ‘infidels’, apostates, Jews and homosexuals; who in their speeches and on their websites speak passionately against free thought, pluralism, democracy, unveiled women; who will tolerate no other interpretation of Islam but their own and have vilified Sufism and other strands of Islam as apostasy; who have murdered, among others, fellow Muslims by the thousands in the market places of Iraq, Algeria and in the Sudan. Countless Islamic writers, journalists and religious authorities have expressed their disgust at this extremist violence. To speak against such things is hardly ‘astonishing’ on my part (Independent on Sunday) or original, nor is it ‘Islamophobic’ and ‘right wing’ as one official of the Muslim Council of Britain insists, and nor is it to endorse the failures and brutalities of US foreign policy. It is merely to invoke a common humanity which I hope would be shared by all religions as well as all non-believers.”
Copyright: Alex Trenoweth, 2014