The great derangement Climate change and the unthinkable

Amitav Ghosh, 1956-

Book - 2016

"Are we deranged? The acclaimed Indian novelist Amitav Ghosh argues that future generations may well think so. How else to explain our imaginative failure in the face of global warming? In his first major book of nonfiction since In an Antique Land, Ghosh examines our inability--at the level of literature, history, and politics--to grasp the scale and violence of climate change. The extreme nature of today's climate events, Ghosh asserts, makes them peculiarly resistant to contemporary modes of thinking and imagining. This is particularly true of serious literary fiction: hundred-year storms and freakish tornadoes simply feel too improbable for the novel; they are automatically consigned to other genres. In the writing of history,... too, the climate crisis has sometimes led to gross simplifications; Ghosh shows that the history of the carbon economy is a tangled global story with many contradictory and counterintuitive elements. Ghosh ends by suggesting that politics, much like literature, has become a matter of personal moral reckoning rather than an arena of collective action. But to limit fiction and politics to individual moral adventure comes at a great cost. The climate crisis asks us to imagine other forms of human existence-a task to which fiction, Ghosh argues, is the best suited of all cultural forms. His book serves as a great writer's summons to confront the most urgent task of our time."--Dust jacket.

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2nd Floor 809.9336/Ghosh Due Jun 30, 2024
Chicago ; London : The University of Chicago Press 2016.
Main Author
Amitav Ghosh, 1956- (author)
Physical Description
196 pages ; 23 cm
Includes bibliographical references (pages 165-196).
  • I. Stories
  • II. History
  • III. Politics
  • Acknowledgments
  • Notes
Review by Choice Review

This vitally important book looks at how anthropogenic climate change affects literary production, particularly the novelistic imagination. Although global warming is desperately real, because of the politics of the carbon economy novels that address climate crisis tend to be relegated to the outpost of science fiction and "banish[ed] from the preserves of serious fiction" (part 1, "Stories"). A tour de force examination of how humans have changed the environment, which in turn alters literary representation, the book unfolds with dazzling insights. Ghosh argues that the Anthropocene should resist sci-fi because the impending disaster is not located in a future time or place. Linking the way the poor will be drastically affected by rising sea levels and strong hurricanes, Ghosh asserts that climate change reverses the temporality of modernity because "those at the margins are now the first to experience the future that awaits all of us." The book concludes with a brilliant comparison of two seminal texts, both 2015, that address climate change: Pope Francis's Laudato Si': On Care for Our Common Home and the United Nations Paris Agreement. Ghosh reads both as literary documents that support his thesis that climate change resists contemporary literature and its emphasis on human limitlessness and freedom. Summing Up: Essential. Lower-division undergraduates through faculty and professionals; general readers. --Debra J. Rosenthal, John Carroll University

Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

In his first work of long-form nonfiction in over 20 years, celebrated novelist Ghosh (Flood of Fire) addresses "perhaps the most important question ever to confront culture": how can writers, scholars, and policy makers combat the collective inability to grasp the dangers of today's climate crisis? Ghosh's choice of genre is hardly incidental; among the chief sources of the "imaginative and cultural failure that lies at the heart of the climate crisis," he argues, is the resistance of modern linguistic and narrative traditions-particularly the 20th-century novel-to events so cataclysmic and heretofore improbable that they exceed the purview of serious literary fiction. Ghosh ascribes this "Great Derangement" not only to modernity's emphasis on this "calculus of probability" but also to notions of empire, capitalism, and democratic freedom. Asia in particular is "conceptually critical to every aspect of global warming," Ghosh attests, outlining the continent's role in engendering, conceptualizing, and mitigating ecological disasters in language that both thoroughly convinces the reader and runs refreshingly counter to prevailing Eurocentric climate discourse. In this concise and utterly enlightening volume, Ghosh urges the public to find new artistic and political frameworks to understand and reduce the effects of human-caused climate change, sharing his own visionary perspective as a novelist, scholar, and citizen of our imperiled world. (Oct.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Kirkus Book Review

Fair warning on the perils of ignoring climate change.In this erudite, cautionary treatise, novelist Ghosh (Flood of Fire, 2015, etc.) questions why, even in the face of mounting proof, much of the general public remains unfazed by increasing environmental disruption and disintegration. He recalls, as a child, hearing a tale from the mid-1850s about the ecological refugees from his Bangladesh homeland being displaced after the Padma River suddenly changed direction, wiping out villages and their inhabitants. As that story and those he shares in the books first section prove, the planets natural elements, which many of us take for granted, can come to life with sudden and deadly violence. Originally begun as a set of four lectures at the University of Chicago in 2015, the book lays out the reasons for and ramifications of climate crisis denialism through three distinct yet interrelated sections: stories related to global warmings resistance to the arts coupled with the history and the serpentine politics surrounding our shared environmental responsibility. Interestingly, Ghosh shares tales of people who are waylaid by unpredictable events and then references literatures oversight and casual disregard for unpredictable, improbable weather phenomena. As he writes, to introduce such happenings into a novel is in fact to court eviction from the mansion in which serious fiction has long been in residence. Just as eloquently, the author incorporates a historical discussion into his hypothesis, spotlighting Asias swiftly expanding industrialization as conceptually critical to every aspect of global warming, as well as the multifaceted aspects of capitalism, colonization, the carbon-intensive economy, and the corporatization of climate change. In direct, streamlined prose, Ghosh nimbly assesses the calculated placement of ecological blame, from politicians and world leaders to artists and writers, upon whose shoulders the existential danger of climate erosion potentially rests. A slim but certainly significant contribution to the climate crisis dialogue sure to provoke discussion and increased awareness about our imperiled planet. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.