Monday Quote: Amitav Ghosh

A black bear in the skunk cabbages. Photo taken by my husband when we lived in Black Creek and this guy rambled down through our lower field.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how we represent climate change to the world through literature, and have managed to slip questions about this into my interviews with Barbara Kingsolver and Tessa Hadley – both of whom had a different approach to the issue.

Kingsolver thought it could be included specifically, so that people are talking about it and trying to figure it out. Sort of like in her book Flight Behaviour. Hadley, however, thought that a book that included climate change would be polemical, that the best a writer could do was put climate change in the background, as part of the setting against which the story takes place. This also makes sense.

I read Amitav Ghosh’s book, The Great Derangement, last fall and ordered my own copy because it’s so good. He tackles the hard questions about how the arts should engage – or not – with climate change. He provides my quote of the day:

“When future generations look back upon the Great Derangement they will certainly blame the leaders and politicians…for their failure to address…climate…but they may well hold artists and writers to be equally culpable – for the imagining of possibilities is not after all, the job of politicians and bureaucrats.”

–Amitav Ghosh, The Great Derangement

As a writer or artist, do you feel compelled to cover climate change? Or do you see that as the purview of non-fiction writers who want to share facts? How do we imagine the possibilities of a climate change future? Cli-fi is a genre that’s emerged as a champion for climate change in literature, and writers like Charlie Jane Anders are pushing for more scifi authors to write about climate change.

As a side note, I’m looking forward to reading Jane Anderson’s Meander Spiral Explode, in which she explores alternative narrative forms to the traditional plot arc. I wonder if I will find new ways to write about climate change in her book.

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