Having shrugged off calls to refuse an Israeli literary honour, Ian McEwan has found himself boycotted by Palestinian writers with whom he had sought to help foster peaceful dialogue.
But as a British novelist whose protagonists are shaped by often violent historical fate, McEwan makes no apology for coming to Israel after what he describes as lifelong fascination with its freedoms mixed with misgivings about its tactics. "If you didn't go to countries whose foreign policy or domestic policy is screwed up, you'd never get out of bed," he said at the beginning of a visit to receive the main prize at the annual Jerusalem International Book Fair.
"No, let us come and engage, keep talking. The worst thing that is going to happen is when everyone stops talking," he said, responding to the complaints of a small coalition of pro-Palestinian artists and academics in Britain and Israel who had demanded he back out.