Great Derangement

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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.