A Dirty Hero’s Fight for Clean Energy: Satire, Allegory, and Risk Narrative in Ian McEwan’s Solar

  • Evi Zemanek University of Freiburg
Keywords: Ian McEwan, Solar, Satire, Allegory, Risk Narrative

Abstract

In contrast to most other fictional texts treating ecological crisis, Ian McEwan's Solar (2010), celebrated as "the book on climate change," does not develop an apocalyptic scenario culminating in a collective catastrophe. Instead, while on the level of discourse mocking today's rhetoric of risk, it stages the disastrous personal risk management of its protagonist by use of satire. Whereas traditionally literary descriptions of natural disasters often function as allegories for social disasters, McEwan reverses this model by employing a private disaster to foreshadow a possible global catastrophe. The story can thus be read as satiric-allegorical risk narrative. On the one hand this concept is responsible for basic misunderstandings, on the other hand for praise as "the first climate-novel by an author of world-class quality." This essay first analyzes the protagonist's explicit reckoning with risk discourse, then unveils the satirical and allegorical dimensions of his own risk management to demonstrate the novel's aesthetic originality and the potential of this new form of eco-fiction.

 

Resumen

 

A diferencia de la mayoría de los textos de ficción que narran  crisis écologicas, la novela Solar (2010) de Ian McEwan, celebrada como "el libro sobre el cambio climático", no esboza un escenario apocalíptico que culmina en una catástrofe colectiva. En lugar de eso, se burla a nivel del discurso de la actual retórica del riesgo, al mismo tiempo que pone en escena  la desastrosa gestión de riesgos de su protagonista utilizando el género de la sátira. Mientras que las descripciones literarias tradicionales de desastres naturales funcionan a menudo como alegorías de desastres sociales, McEwan parece invertir este modelo empleando un desastre personal para anunciar una posible catástrofe global. La historia puede interpretarse como una narrativa satírico-alegórica de crisis. Por un lado, este concepto engendra malentendidos fundamentales , por otro lado genera elogios como "la primera novela sobre el clima de calidad mundial". Mi ensayo analiza en primer lugar de qué modo el protagonista maneja el discurso de riesgos para enfocar luego la dimensión satírico-alegórica de su propia gestión de riesgos que demuestra la originalidad estética de la novela y su potencial literario en el ámbito del género de la eco-ficción.

 

Downloads

Download data is not yet available.

Author Biography

Evi Zemanek, University of Freiburg

Evi Zemanek is assistant professor of German and Media Studies at the University of Freiburg, Germany. She holds a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from Munich University (2007). Her research and teaching interests include contemporary aesthetics, literature and the visual arts, translation, cultural studies and ecocriticism. She has written books on the poetic portrait and on the reception of Dante's Divine Comedy in modern poetry, edited books oneuropean literature at the turn of the millenium, on intermedial transformations of the sonnet in the arts as well as on architecture and literature (forthcoming);furthermore she is author of a new introduction to comparative literature studies. Currently she is working on an ecocritical study on the aesthetics of nature in contemporary poetry.

Published
2012-03-12
Section
Writing Catastrophes: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on the Semantics of Natural and Anthropogenic Disasters