Wednesday, August 05, 2009

McEwan's new novel will feature media hate figure
Author has drawn on his own experience of press controversy, he reveals
Alison Flood in guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 4 August 2009

'My encounters have been minor compared with some of the thing's we've watched in recent years' ... Ian McEwan. Photograph: Getty

Ian McEwan has revealed that his next novel will draw on his own experience of media controversy. The protagonist is a Nobel prize-winning physicist who faces media attacks after he suggests that men outnumber women at the top of his profession because of inherent differences in their brains, rather than any gender discrimination.
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.
Read the full Guardian piece here.

1 comment:

Mark Hubbard said...

McEwan is one of my favourite authors, so I'm glad to see a new novel coming out.

Interesting though, the central tension in the novel, to quote the guardian article, is close to a NZ novel I've read lately. The protagonist is a Nobel prize-winning physicist who faces media attacks after he suggests that men outnumber women at the top of his profession because of inherent differences in their brains, rather than any gender discrimination.

In the novel Acid Song, by NZ author, Bernard Beckett, the central tenet is around a scientist's research findings that some part - I can't quite remember - of race biologically determines, I think, aspects of intellect, and this protagonist is thus attacked mercilessly by the media..

Obviously just a coincidence. I'll be interested in the McEwan. (And I remember the Beckett being very good, certainly worth a read. If I think about it, that novel also in the vein of the best David Lodge, where within the story are interesting scientific and artistic issues).