Saturday 6 August 2016

Amitav Ghosh, The Great Derangement

Amitav Ghosh has a new book, non-fiction this time: "The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable" (Allen Lane / Penguin Books India). (See the review by Amita Baviskar, "Civilization and Madness," India Today XLI/31 (1 August 2016) 74-76. Ghosh approaches his topic - climate change - by focussing on the limits of the novel as a literary form. Climate change causes a crisis of the imagination, and the modern novel (and popular culture in general) cannot come to terms with it. The bourgeois novel presumes the ordinariness of everyday life, within which its peculiar narrative unfolds. "The novel tends to smoothen out time and sanitize space," says Baviskar. Interesting.
Ghosh draws upon historian Dipesh Chakravarty's "The Climate of History: Four Theses", but his approach through the limits of the modern bourgeois novel is entirely his own.
There is obviously a nexus between capitalism, imperialism, and our contemporary consumer culture. Ghosh seems to be taking the line that, even if capitalism disappears, climate change will remain an intractable problem. The most promising phenomenon in favour of change, according to him, is the growing involvement of religious groups and leaders. Baviskar acknowledges Pope Francis' Laudato Si' - but does not seem to think much of the hope that this and other religious involvement offers - if that is our only hope.

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