Ian McEwan and Paul Nurse at UEA Literary Festival – review

The penultimate night of UEA’s Autumn Literary Festival saw Nobel Prize winner Paul Nurse, and the internationally renowned writer Ian McEwan take to the stage in conversation with UEA’s own Chris Bigsby.


It might have seemed an odd decision to pair a Scientist and a Novelist, but it was a decision that definitely paid off. Neither were there to promote or plug any new work, they simply came to talk about what interested them, and the sheer enthusiasm for their subjects was shared by the capacity-audience.

The conversation immediately veered towards the idea of Science and the Humanities as existing in two separate spheres, and who better to expound or deny this view than two guests at the height of these respective fields.

This opening was an indicator of what was to come. With the event focused not so much on the personal lives and successes of the guests, but rather Bigsby used it as an opportunity to draw McEwan and Nurse into a series of discussions; from the nature of the education system, to the idea that String Theory isn’t even really science.

Nurse in particular seemed to become instantly animated when talking about his earliest influence. When he was a young boy he chased a satellite down the road that was passing over head, and decided from that moment onwards to explore his fascination with the world as fully as possible. Although, he did mention that Natural Sciences were not especially for him as he prefers a warm lab to a cold and wet field experiment.

There was a slight sense of disappointment in the audience that McEwan had not shared so openly his earlier influences. Yet the discussion was so fast paced and so much ground was covered that the breadth of the discussion more than made up for this small short-coming.


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January 2022
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