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Solar (2010)

by Ian McEwan

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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3,6681513,450 (3.29)200
When Nobel prize-winning physicist Michael Beard's personal and professional lives begin to intersect in unexpected ways, an opportunity presents itself in the guise of an invitation to travel to New Mexico. Here is a chance for him to extricate himself from his marital problems, reinvigorate his career, and very possibly save the world from environmental disaster.… (more)
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English (125)  French (6)  Dutch (6)  German (3)  Danish (2)  Portuguese (Brazil) (2)  Italian (2)  Hebrew (1)  Spanish (1)  Finnish (1)  Norwegian (1)  All languages (150)
Showing 1-5 of 125 (next | show all)
While not my favorite of McEwan's books (Enduring Love & Saturday would rank higher), I laughed out loud as hard as at anything I've read at scenes in this story. And the tale whips right along without a bit of slogging and McEwan's writing is polished, witty and memorable. There is a great deal of info on physics (not my bent) but well done, even interesting, particularly the crowning moments in the U.S. desert. ( )
  featherbooks | May 7, 2024 |
Being a Nobel prize winner means you've done something amazing. Nobody else before you did that. Today many others, most likely, are building on what you achieved. The world is likely in your debt for what you did. All this implies we are prone to think very positively of a Nobel laureate. Once you read this book, you will never think that way again.

The central character of this book, Michael Beard, has won a Nobel prize. But at this point he's clearly coasting on his laurels. He's on his fifth marriage. Rather than doing research or teaching, he's into getting funding for a Center he heads. The Center has a positive goal, reducing climate change by developing renewal energy. They are creating rooftop wind generators which he knows will never be workable. He's had countless affairs even though he's married beautiful women who adored him. He pays little attention to his assistants who desperately seek his approval. He seeks liquor whenever anything becomes troublesome. He's narcissistic, self-absorbed, and lacks empathy. In short, he's a cad. Yes, he's a Nobel laureate, are we supposed to overlook everything else?

It even gets darker. His beautiful young wife is no longer talking to him. She's been pushed over the edge. She's having a very public affair with someone who had worked on their house. Beard is beside himself. Returning home from a trip unexpectedly, he discovers she's also having an affair with the brightest assistant in his Center. The assistant had been trying to get Beard to abandon the rooftop wind generators and focus on solar, which is closer to what Beard's Nobel prize was based on. The assistant slips, hits his head and dies. Beard sees an opportunity He gets the workman's hammer from a closet, dips it in the assistant's blood and plants it as incriminating evidence. Workman goes to jail. Beard solves two problems at once. Our opinion of Beard plummets even if we had been sympathetic so far.

It gets worse. Beard reads what the assistant had wanted to show him. He realizes the assistant has created designs that will make solar viable as a renewable energy source and solve the climate change problem. Beard appropriates the designs as his own, and for the next several years he rides this wave based on "his" designs. He has an amazing ability to escape the consequences of what he's done. Still having affairs, still drinking, still getting older. Will his luck ever run out? You'll have to read the book to find out. ( )
  Ed_Schneider | Mar 29, 2024 |
Human Spirit
  BooksInMirror | Feb 19, 2024 |
While I have enjoyed many of his books, I have never thought of Ian McEwan as a particularly humorous writer. One of my favourites among his novels is Sweet Tooth, which shows him in relatively light-hearted mode, but even it does not leave the reader convulsed with laughter. I was, therefore, surprised that this novel should have won the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize for comic literature.

I remember reading it shortly after it was published (and, indeed before it was warded that prize) and enjoying it. At that time, I was working on the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) Team at the Department for Education, and Michael Beard, the rather unpleasant protagonist, struck me as uncomfortably reminiscent of some of the external stakeholders in the science world with whom my colleagues and I had regularly to interact. Re-reading it now, a long way removed from the world of academic scientists, I found it heavier going.

There are some very humorous moments, but it is not by any customary definition a comic novel. Michael Beard, a Nobel Laureate, is also a decidedly unempathetic character. Having been married four times when the novel opens, he finds himself in the unaccustomed position of being the cuckold, as is beautiful and much younger wife has taken up with a builder who had been working on their house. Thitherto, marital infidelity had been Beard’s own speciality, and he does not like having the tables turned. That particular bump in the marital road is resolved in unusual circumstances, and Beard moves on.

McEwan’s observation of the gradual unravelling of Beard’s self-confidence is acute, and the hoops he goes through to try to retain his prominence within the academic science community (always terrified that the discoveries that had secured his meteoric early success might come to be challenged in the light of subsequent discoveries) and secure his financial future are very capably drawn. Somehow, though, the novel struggled to hold my attention this time around. While still a good book, it has not, in my view, aged well, and is not on a par with McEwan at his imperious best. ( )
  Eyejaybee | Dec 27, 2023 |
I expected a lot more from this book. It deals with such an important issue; global warming. But unfortunately, the main character was one of the most un likeable people I've ever come across in a work of fiction. I got so tired of his moaning and whining and frankly, the best part of the book was when it ended, and he finally got what he deserved . ( )
  kevinkevbo | Jul 14, 2023 |
Showing 1-5 of 125 (next | show all)

Solar is grappig, slim geschreven en spannend tot op de laatste bladzijde. Een roman om, Beardsgewijs, duimen en vingers bij af te likken.
added by PGCM | editKnack, Jan Stevens (Nov 25, 2010)
 
Despite the book’s somber, scientific backdrop (and global warming here is little but that), “Solar” is Mr. McEwan’s funniest novel yet — a novel that in tone and affect often reads more like something by Zoë Heller or David Lodge. Like “Amsterdam,” this latest book shows off his gifts as a satirist, but while it gets off to a rollicking start, its plot machinery soon starts to run out of gas, sputtering and stalling as it makes its way from one comic set piece to another.
 
Solar” is een vermakelijke en bijzonder goed gevulde roman, waarvan ook de wetenschappelijke gedeelten strak en helder geschreven zijn. Ian McEwan weet als zo vaak minutieus realisme en stilistische elegantie met elkaar te verenigen. De vraag die velen zich wel zullen stellen is: waar wil McEwan met zijn lezer naar toe? Er is namelijk slechts één gids: de onbetrouwbare anti-held Michael Beard, “passé” als geleerde maar niet genoeg om hem zo maar van de tafel te vegen. Zijn seksuele en andersoortige geeuwhonger maakt van deze Nobelprijslaureaat wel een karikaturale omkering van wat de nieuwe mens zou moeten zijn en hoe hij zich op een verantwoordelijke wijze tot de aarde en zijn medebewoners zou moeten gedragen.
 
Lightness, however, comes less easily to McEwan, whose style depends on deliberateness and a certain ponderousness. The ominous lining up of causes and effects and the patient tweaking of narrative tension don't always mesh well with the aimed-for quickness and brio. Some of the humour is quite broad: there's a rather clunking motif concerning polar bears, and Beard gets involved with a stereotypical Southern waitress who's called, in the way of trailer-trash types, Darlene. He emerges as a figure of some comic dynamism, but the pages on his childhood and youth, though brilliantly done, articulate poorly with the knockabout parts of the plot. Once it became clear that the book's world is comic, I also found myself wondering if it wouldn't have benefited from being more loosely assembled, with shorter, discontinuous episodes and Beard functioning along the lines of Updike's Bech, Nabokov's Pnin or the consciousness in Calvino's Cosmicomics.
 
Beard is as robust and full-fleshed and ebullient a character as McEwan has come up with. And in Solar, he shows a side to himself as a writer — a puckishness, a broadness of humour, an extravagance of style — that we haven’t seen before.
 

» Add other authors (4 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
McEwan, Ianprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Basso, SusannaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bastos, Ana FalcãoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Camus-Pichon, FranceTraductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dauster, JorioTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dean, SuzanneCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ekman, MariaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hansen, JanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Keníž, AlojzTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kristiansen, HalvorTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lindholm, JuhaniTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Olcina, EmiliTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Schmitz, WernerÜbersetzersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Verhoef, RienTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Zulaika, JaimeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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Epigraph
"It gives him great pleasure, makes Rabbit feel right, to contemplate the world's wastings, to know the earth is mortal too."

Rabbit is Rich, John Updike
Dedication
To Polly Bide
1949-2003
First words
He belonged to that class of men - vaguely unprepossessing, often bald, short, fat, clever - who were unaccountably attractive to certain beautiful women.
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Information from the Spanish Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
La Edad de Piedra no terminó a causa de la escasez de piedras.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Information from the French Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
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When Nobel prize-winning physicist Michael Beard's personal and professional lives begin to intersect in unexpected ways, an opportunity presents itself in the guise of an invitation to travel to New Mexico. Here is a chance for him to extricate himself from his marital problems, reinvigorate his career, and very possibly save the world from environmental disaster.

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Haiku summary
Homme sans qualité,
il fuit, vole les idées d'autres,
la cata finale!
(Tiercelin)

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