In all due respect, what Dr Amitav Ghosh from Brooklyn got wrong in his shout-out to the cli-fi community worldwide on page 43 of his new essay book on climate change titled "THE GREAT DERANGEMENT: Climate Change and the Unthinkable."From page 43 of Amitav Ghosh's brilliant new essay on the literary, political and historical ramifications of climate change, in a book just released in English from the University of Chicago Press, edited by Alan Thomas there, titled THE GREAT DERANGEMENT: Climate Change and the UNthinkable," Dr Ghosh gives a brief shout out to the cli-fi community worldwide when he writes:
"Is it the case that science fiction is better equipped to address climate change than mainstream literary fiction? This might appear obvious to many. After all, there is now a new genre of science fiction called ‘climate fiction’ or cli-fi."
But Dr Ghosh, for all his erudition and smarts, is wrong about cli-fi, but at least he mentions the term in the book. Bravo for that! But sir, dear Brooklyn sage, cli-fi is not a genre of science fiction.
Science fiction is a genre of its own, and so how can another genre be a genre of science fiction? What you probably meant to write was that cli-fi is considered by some people to be a SUBgenre of sci-fi. That's better. That's close to reality but still not there. In fact, cli-fi is a separate, standalone, independent genre of its own, and is not part of sci fi at all. You need to try to undestand this, sir.
That said, it was nice to see
ublicly acknowledge theexistence of cli fi
in his book with his brief shout out to the rising new genre on page 43.Bravo. It
's a beginning in the scholarly
A man, who, by the way, I deeply admire as both a gentleman and a scholar and a novelist par excellence! Even his sci fi genre novel from 1999 ''THE CALCUTTA CHROMOSOME'' was fantastic!
So welcome to the club, Dr Ghosh!
On another very good website devoted to climate change narratives, one forum moderator writes:
''With all the talk of genre fiction in here, I wondered if we could have a conversation about the type of argument that Amitov Ghosh has (that no serious fiction writers are addressing climate change). I dislike it that the main narrative in the news lately is him saying that climate change is not being addressed in novels, when clearly IT IS. There is proof it is.
''So why is his narrative being furthered?
''Maybe Ghosh is looking to literary authors to address it and sees only genre fiction, which maybe he looks down on (?), tackling it. But literary authors ARE, such as Barbara Kingsolver...
''So, I think Ghosh is ignoring an entire canon of work, but also maybe we could look past genre vs. literary fiction and understand the many layers of style and appeal and storytelling that already exist out there to shed some hope or warning about our warming world.''
POST POST SCRIPT
From another INDIAN newspaper reporter in INDIA who does not challenge Dr Ghosh at all for his incorrect opinions about novelists writing climate-themed books. Just another PR puff piece from INDIA sycophants and ass-kissers an brown-nosers. Yes sir, Master, Whatever you say Amitavji!
Book Review: Why don’t our writers take the climate crisis seriously?
By VINEET GILL | | 17 September, 2016
Amitav Ghosh’s latest book, The Great Derangement, is a j’accuse issued against all those literary writers who abdicated their social responsibility by being indifferent to the climate crisis — by far the greatest predicament facing humanity. Why did someone like John Updike, for instance — a writer of superhuman erudition and curiosity — never address this subject in his writings, most of all in his novels?
The modern novel has always been adept at looking inwards — it celebrates the Self and regards the “collective” with suspicion, even distaste. And climate change isn’t something you can write about without looking out at the world. At one point in The Great Derangement, Ghosh cites a few lines from one of Updike’s reviews, where the latter defines the novel as an account of an “individual moral adventure” that is unconcerned with “men in the aggregate”. While this may sound like the form itself has certain inbuilt limitations, Ghosh rightly takes issue with such a narrow view of how the novel can be defined.
As he writes: “...it is a matter of record that historically many novelists from Tolstoy and Dickens to Steinbeck and Chinua Achebe have written very effectively about ‘men in the aggregate’.”
So why should contemporary novelists — or, in Updike’s case, near-contemporaries — be any different? And why is it that the coming climate catastrophe barely figures at all on our cultural radar?
The 20th-century split between the high arts and sciences is another explanation that Ghosh offers in this context, though he fails to mention the great “Two Cultures” debate between C.P. Snow and F.R. Lewis. As many would remember, Snow was the one who advocated the miscegenation of the arts and sciences, while Lewis, with puritan resolve, dreamed of a literary sphere free from the certitudes of scientific theory. Today, any work of fiction grounded in science or technology is relegated from the literary mainstream to what Ghosh identifies as the lower cultural rungs of sci-fi or genre fiction. That in itself is one aspect of the larger problem.
Writing about nature — natural catastrophes in particular — is another. One of the most intriguing bits in this book involves an autobiographical account of the author helplessly trapped on a Delhi street after the city is impacted by a rare weather phenomenon. On 17 March 1978, the national capital was struck by a sporadic tornado, which turned parts of the city upside down and led to some 30 fatalities. (That we rarely get to read about this freak event, in magazines or books, further testifies to Ghosh’s central thesis.)
One of the most intriguing bits in this book involves an autobiographical account of the author helplessly trapped on a Delhi street after the city is impacted by a rare weather phenomenon.“Glancing over my shoulder,” he writes, “I saw a grey, tube-like extrusion forming on the underside of a dark cloud: it grew rapidly as I watched, and then all of a sudden it turned and came whiplashing down to earth, heading in my direction.” Crouched on the floor behind a parapet, Ghosh bears witness to “an extraordinary panoply of objects flying past — bicycles, scooters, lamp posts, sheets of corrugated iron, even entire tea stalls”.
It’s a powerful scene of devastation, expertly described. Still, the author admits that he has been, for all these years, at pains to translate this first-hand experience into the fictional domain: “... no tornado has ever figured in my novels.” And here we return to the creative anxiety that hinders writers from depicting grand catastrophes in literary fiction — a condition that the author of the present book, by his own admission, also suffers from.
In the latter half of the book, the focus shifts from literature to the history and politics of the climate crisis. The attempt throughout is to actually establish links between the cultural, historical and political interpretations of this subject — an approach pioneered by the historian Dipesh Chakrabarty, whose work Ghosh routinely draws upon in The Great Derangement.
Another recent document explored a similar approach. It was written not by a poet or novelist or historian, but by a religious leader. Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical letter on climate change, called Laudato si’, was acclaimed the world over for its clear-sightedness and honesty. It remains required reading for anyone choosing to seriously engage with this subject. The closing pages of Ghosh’s book present a comparative literary analysis of sorts, with the Laudato si’ held in contrast to that other landmark climate-change document of our age, the Paris Agreement.
“The Encyclical,” he writes, referring to the Pope’s letter on climate change, “is remarkable for the lucidity of its language and the simplicity of its construction; it is the Agreement, rather, that is highly stylized in its wording and complex in structure.” The level of complexity and postmodern chicanery found in the Paris Agreement — one sentence in the document, Ghosh tells us, runs to 15 pages — are all products politico-corporate machinations, of vested interests pushing their case. The Agreement is composed with the kind of language that draws its vocabulary from Orwellian doublespeak. As The Great Derangement emphasises throughout, the crisis of language is at the heart of every human predicament. And now, if our writers are not leading the way, we’re more than doomed.