September 2016 saw an odd coincidence of anniversaries. It was fifteen years since the attacks on the World Trade Center, and fifteen years since the publication of Ian McEwan’s Atonement (“easily his finest,” was Frank Kermode’s verdict in the London Review of Books of October 4, 2001). Before the first Atonement reviews were out McEwan had published a response to the events in New York, accusing the hijackers of a deficit of empathy. If

the hijackers had been able to imagine themselves into the thoughts and feelings of the passengers they would have been unable to proceed. It is hard to be cruel once you permit yourself to enter the mind of your victim. Imagining what it is like to be someone...

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