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The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable (Berlin Family Lectures)

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9780226526812: The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable (Berlin Family Lectures)
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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.

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Review:

"Ghosh's analysis of the 'era of climate change' is fascinating, erudite, and unflinching. The Great Derangement is a profoundly original book that spares no one."--Elizabeth Kolbert, author of The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History

"For a long time, we have been talking about climate change as a scientific question. In this magnificent book, Ghosh changes the conversation, moving it out of the narrow corridors of science and into the wide precincts of culture, politics, and power. Climate change, he argues, is the result of a set of interrelated histories that promoted and sustained our collective dependence on fossil fuels, and it is a kind of derangement to say we want a different world but act in a way that ensures the continuance of the present one. A clarion call not just to act on climate, but to think about it in a wholly new way."--Naomi Oreskes, author of The Collapse of Western Civilization: A View from the Future

"On very rare occasions, a writer marshals such searing insight and storytelling skill that even a well trodden subject is blown wide open. New connections are made, new futures appear. Ghosh is that kind of writer, and this is that kind of book."--Naomi Klein, author of This Changes Everything

"Ghosh has written brilliant fiction, impactful essays. But this work on climate change is the most transformational and powerful piece of writing to come from his pen. The Great Derangement is a book on our burning planet for those who are burning it and are being burnt with it. Ghosh gives us, in scalding anguish, a masterpiece that reflects the Buddha''s Adittapariyaya Sutta or 'The Fire Sermon' that T S Eliot so plangently re-affirmed in 'The Waste Land.' We have here a book that seeks to chastise, challenge, and change our brain's clogged circuitry."
--Gopalkrishna Gandhi

"With the deftness of a master storyteller and the powerful vision of a keen political observer, Ghosh traces the complex ways that globalization, empire, and the bourgeois novel are entangled with the history of carbon and our contemporary climate crisis. A thrilling, often brilliant work of synthesis and imagination, The Great Derangement is essential reading for anyone trying to understand what the Anthropocene means for our human future."
--Roy Scranton, author of Learning to Die in the Anthropocene: Reflections on the End of Civilization

"Captivating. . . .The lightness and agility of Ghosh's writing succeeds in keeping all the urgency and the shadows of something we cannot really look at: the destiny of mankind."
--Giorgio Agamben

"For decades Ghosh has been telling us exquisite stories of unlikely human connection across geographical and historical boundaries. In The Great Derangement he goes a step further and sets us amidst the great collectivity of a living and dying planet. This intensely lyrical work from a visionary writer at his best calls for a restitution of the sacred--in its most inclusive form--so that we can face the climate crisis of our times with our finest remaining resources."
--Leela Gandhi, Brown University

"Ghosh is one of the most important living writers writing in English."--Los Angeles Review of Books

"In his first work of long-form nonfiction in over 20 years, celebrated novelist Ghosh '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. . . . 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."
--Publishers Weekly

"The Great Derangement . . . begins with a simple question--why have the arts (literature and fiction in particular) been unable and unwilling to grapple with the greatest crisis facing the planet, anthropogenic climate change?--and runs in thrillingly unpredictable directions with it. . . . The Great Derangement bristles with trenchant and dense ideas, expressed with exemplary lucidity and finesse. At a time when the idea of the engagé intellectual is not just unfashionable, but in full-blown retreat, here is a book that triumphantly -announces its return."
--New Statesman

About the Author:

Amitav Ghosh is an award-winning novelist and essayist whose books include The Circle of Reason, The Shadow Lines, In An Antique Land, Dancing in Cambodia, The Calcutta Chromosome, The Glass Palace, The Hungry Tide, and the Ibis Trilogy: Sea of Poppies, River of Smoke, and Flood of Fire.

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