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

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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.

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