Excerpt from Amsterdam by Ian McEwan, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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by Ian McEwan

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  • First Published:
    Dec 1998, 193 pages
    Nov 1999, 193 pages

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Print Excerpt

Ridiculous thoughts! He sat up and groped for the bedside light and pulled out from under a magazine the sleeping pills he preferred to avoid. He took one and leaned back against the pillows, chewing it slowly. Still massaging his hand, he mothered himself with sensible thoughts. His hand had been in the cold, that was all, and he was overtired. His proper business in life was to work, to finish a symphony by finding its lyrical summit. What had oppressed him an hour before was now his solace, and after ten minutes he put out the light and turned on his side: there was always work. He would walk in the Lake District. The magical names were soothing him: Blea Rigg, High Stile, Pavey Ark, Swirl How. He would walk the Langstrath Valley, cross the stream and climb toward Scafell Pike, and come home by way of Allen Crags. He knew the circuit well. Striding out, high on the ridge, he would be restored, he would see clearly.

He had swallowed his hemlock, and there'd be no more tormenting fantasies now. This thought too was comfort, so that long before the chemicals had reached his brain, he had drawn his knees toward his chest and was released. Hardknott, Ill Bell, Cold Pike, Poor Crag, Poor Molly ...

Reproduced from Amsterdam : A Novel, by Ian McEwan. © 1997 by Ian McEwan, used by permission of the publishers : Doubleday.

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