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Kahane, C. (2016). Solar By Ian Mcewan New York: Nan A. Talese/Doubleday; 2010; 287pp.. Fort Da, 22(1):76-87.

(2016). Fort Da, 22(1):76-87

Solar By Ian Mcewan New York: Nan A. Talese/Doubleday; 2010; 287pp.

Review by:
Claire Kahane, Ph.D.

Questioning Comic Relief in the Psychology of Global Warming

Although there is a consensus among scientists that global warming threatens the very existence of the planet, until recently, the general public and its political representatives have remained resistant to the news. In Solar, Ian McEwan takes on the psychological reasons for that resistance and attempts to engage readers in confronting its potentially disastrous consequences. Yet, while the stakes — our survival as a species — are higher than ever, Solar is not one of McEwan's prototypical dark fictions, but rather a comic-satirical novel whose protagonist Michael Beard, a self-indulgent, promiscuous, fat, middle-aged Nobel Prize-winning physicist still riding on his youthful reputation, is the principal object of the novel's wit. A more than inadequate everyman, Beard has a need for immediate gratification, whether it be a tasty dish or a desirable woman, regardless of the consequences. Yet, he is the novel's knowledgeable spokesperson for the urgency of attending to climate change. How do we understand McEwan's choice of comedy, and of such an unprepossessing protagonist, to present such a critical issue?

In an illuminating essay, McEwan (2005) himself pointed to an answer:

We will not rescue the earth from our own depredations until we understand ourselves a little more, even if we accept that we can never really change our natures.i

It is human nature at its most imperfect that McEwan's protagonist embodies, a flawed nature that must nevertheless be taken into account, McEwan suggests, if we are to “rescue the earth.”

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