The writer Ian McEwan, right, whose brooding novels led him to acquire the nickname of "Ian Macabre" early in his career, is not normally associated with the upper-class humorist P G Wodehouse – not least because he once stated: "I hate comic novels". But yesterday his latest work of fiction, Solar, was deemed to capture "the comic spirit of Wodehouse" as it was shortlisted for a comic fiction award.
McEwan's novel, which was among the nominations for the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize announced yesterday, focuses on an ageing Nobel prize winning scientist whose glory days are long behind him, but who still hopes to save the planet from the threat of climate change. It was inspired by a trip McEwan made in 2005 as part of an expedition of artists and scientists who spent several weeks aboard a ship near the North Pole to discuss environmental concerns.
Speaking about the writing of Solar in 2008, McEwan denied that the novel was a comedy. "I hate comic novels; it's like being wrestled to the ground and being tickled, being forced to laugh," he said. But he did concede that the book had extended comic stretches. His previous novels have tackled the weighty topics of love and betrayal in wartime Britain, the Iraq war and sexual inadequacy.
Other nominations for the prize include David Nicholls' One Day, Tiffany Murray's Diamond Star Halo, Paul Murray's Skippy Dies, and Malcolm Pryce's From Aberystwyth with Love, the latest in his series about the Welsh town's only private detective.