Author has drawn on his own experience of press controversy, he reveals
Alison Flood in guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 4 August 2009
McEwan found himself under a similar kind of fire last summer, besieged by the media after he told an Italian newspaper that he "despise[d] Islamism, because it wants to create a society that I detest". It prompted a wave of articles picking over his words including a piece in the Independent headlined "McEwan faces backlash over press interview".
"I said something like I thought there was something morally abhorrent about Islamism and I opened the Independent the next day and it has me attacking Islam. And it's deeply dishonest," McEwan told the Eastern Daily Press yesterday, in an interview in which he also reveals details about his new novel. "I don't think I was drawing on any specific thing [in my new novel] ... I think my encounters have been minor compared with some of the things we've watched in recent years. And I've seen it happen to friends," he went on, referring to the outcry over Martin Amis's comment in 2006 that "the Muslim community will have to suffer until it gets its house in order". (McEwan defended Amis in a letter to the Guardian at the time, saying his friend was "no racist".)
The author revealed that he is three-quarters of the way through writing the new book, which will probably be called Solar. It follows the story of the physicist Michael Beard, who discovers a way to fight climate change after managing to derive power from artificial photosynthesis, using light to split water into hydrogen and oxygen.
"I devised a character into whom I poured many, many faults. He's devious, he lies, he's predatory in relation to women; he steadily gets fatter through the novel. He's a sort of planet, I guess. He makes endless reforming decisions about himself: Rio, Kyoto-type assertions of future virtue that lead nowhere," McEwan told the EDP.
After Beard makes his fateful remark at a symposium, he is attacked by academics and the media, where the words "Nazi" and "eugenics" are used."Things can fall apart for people and they usually happen very quickly and catastrophically and unexpectedly," said McEwan.