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 8, 2022
Series
Randy L. and Melvin R. Berlin family lectures.
Subjects
Published
Chicago ; London : The University of Chicago Press 2016.
Language
English
Physical Description
196 pages ; 23 cm
Bibliography
Includes bibliographical references (pages 165-196).
ISBN
9780226323039
022632303X
Main Author
Amitav Ghosh, 1956- (author)
  • Stories
  • History
  • Politics.
Review by Choice Reviews

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.--D. J. Rosenthal, John Carroll UniversityDebra J. RosenthalJohn Carroll University Debra J. Rosenthal Choice Reviews 54:12 August 2017 Copyright 2017 American Library Association.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

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.) [Page ]. Copyright 2016 PWxyz LLC

Review by Publisher Summary 1

Is our imagination adequate to the realities of global warming? The novelist Amitav Ghosh argues that we need art and literature to help us imagine our future in the Anthropocene, but that they are falling short of the task. If culture cannot help us see the realities of our plight, then our era, which so congratulates itself on its self-awareness, may come to be known as the time of the Great Derangement. A case in point is fiction, which is so committed to normalcy and the everyday that it has no space for the improbability of climate change events—the persistent droughts, hundred-year storms, and freakish tornadoes. Our politics, likewise, seems unable to mobilize forcefully in response to climate change. Ghosh argues that politics, like literature, has become a matter of individual moral reckoning, a journey of the solitary conscience 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. A powerful nonfiction work by one of our most gifted, historically attuned novelists, The Great Derangement brings a fresh urgency to thinking on climate change.  

Review by Publisher Summary 2

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, make 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.  

Review by Publisher Summary 3

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, make 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.