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McEwan, Amis pay tribute to 'greatest novelist' Updike

John Updike died of lung cancer at the age of 76. -AFP

Thu, Jan 29, 2009

LONDON (AFP) - - British authors Ian McEwan and Martin Amis paid tribute to US novelist John Updike, who died Tuesday, marvelling at his ability to reveal the most intimate moments of life.

"I think he was the greatest novelist writing in English at the time of his death," said McEwan, author of "Atonement" and "On Chesil Beach".

Amis, author of "London Fields" and "Time's Arrow", said Updike was "certainly one of the great American novelists of the 20th century" and news of his death heralded "a very cold day for literature".

"He showed us, like 19th century writers, that it was possible to be a serious writer and a popular writer," McEwan told the BBC late Tuesday.

"Many of his figures are men of the street -- Rabbit's quite a lowlife character, not an intellectual," he said, referring to the series of "Rabbit" novels that helped make Updike a household name.

"The great trick with Updike was to somehow give you the world through the fine mesh of a brilliant mind, ie Updike's, but let the reader live all that through a rather uneducated man."

"Updike was congenitally unembarrassable and we are the beneficiaries of that. He took the novel onto another plane of intimacy: he took us beyond the bedroom and into the bathroom," Amis wrote in the Guardian newspaper Wednesday.

"It's as if nothing human seemed closed to his eye."

Updike died of lung cancer early Tuesday at the age of 76, his publisher Knopf said, bringing to an end a career spanning more than half a century.

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