Booker winner bags pig and champagne for ‘laugh-out-loud’ climate change novel
Ian McEwan’s trophy cabinet has heretofore been home to more serious awards, but the Booker prize-winning author will today be making room on the shelves for his first comic-fiction accolade, won for his take on climate change, Solar.
The novel was chosen unanimously from a shortlist of five books to win the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse prize for comic fiction. “I hope he’ll be really, really pleased,” said judge and director of the Guardian Hay festival, Peter Florence. McEwan claimed at the festival two years ago: “I hate comic novels; it’s like being wrestled to the ground and being tickled, being forced to laugh.”
McEwan, though, said today he was “delighted” to win the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse, “three names associated with distinctive and important pleasures”.
“Some prizes offer fifty thousand pounds, but this one comes with a Gloucester Old Spot piglet attached and I’ll be honoured to hold it in my arms. As long as it behaves,” the author added.
Florence said Solar provided many moments of “laugh-out-loud” humour, thanks to McEwan’s “beautiful phrasing” and “descriptions of infidelity and intimate personal details”. Florence said that despite McEwan’s “macabre and serious” reputation, he’d “always found there are moments of amazing humour in lots of his books, even The Child in Time. He’s so precise with his language and he makes his point so brilliantly with humour. In Solar, there’s this wonderful, bloated, chaotic man, just like our planet, hurtling to his destruction, taking no responsibility for himself at all, and it’s a gloriously funny idea.”
The prize is given to the novel that has “best captured the comic spirit” of Wodehouse. Telling the story of the ambitions and delusions of the womanising, Nobel prize-winning physicist Michael Beard, Solar beat David Nicholls’s One Day, Tiffany Murray’s Diamond Star Halo, Paul Murray’s Skippy Dies and Malcolm Pryce’s From Aberystwyth With Love to win the award. The Jeeves and Wooster author himself “would have enjoyed” McEwan’s novel, said Florence – both authors revel in “the sheer playfulness of language”, and Wodehouse, too, makes his political points with ridicule and humour, he said.
McEwan will be presented with his prize – a jeroboam and a case of Bollinger, and a set of Wodehouse books – on 28 May at the Hay festival, when he will be speaking about Solar with Florence. As is traditional, he will also be given a locally bred Gloucestershire Old Spot pig, to be named after his winning novel. This year’s pig is luckier in its new identity than previous swine have been: the award has gone in the past to Marina Lewycka’s A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian, Christopher Brookmyre’s All Fun and Games Until Somebody Loses An Eye and Paul Torday’s Salmon Fishing in the Yemen.