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The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable

4.12  ·  Rating details ·  1,840 ratings  ·  304 reviews
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 ...more
Hardcover, 196 pages
Published September 14th 2016 by University Of Chicago Press (first published July 12th 2016)
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Aug 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is an absolutely brilliant book. I’d describe it as something like “A People’s History of Climate Change.” There are three major reasons why I consider it so vital, which I will outline below.

“The Great Derangement” is our collective inability to come to terms, or even imagine, the catastrophe that is currently staring us in the face from climate change. Depending on how bad it gets, present generations will remember our failure to confront reality with bafflement and probably rage. Why can
David Schaafsma
Jan 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
Most people seem to agree that humans are on the verge of climate disaster, with this decade a crucial one in making decisions about how the planet may survive., centrally by drastically reducing carbon emissions. Then we go and elect Trump, a climate denier, who removes any mention of climate change from the Presidential website, and one of the first of his Presidential acts is to “deregulate” the process by which two major and hotly contested pipelines are allowed to go forward.

I awake as
I have been lamenting the lack of novels about climate change for a long time, so was delighted to see that Amitav Ghosh had written a book on the subject. Although the reasons for this deficiency in modern literature are the central enquiry of ‘The Great Derangement’, there is a great deal more to it than that. Ghosh advances a resolutely Asian-centric perspective on climate change, which is refreshingly different from the US and European narratives that dominate climate change writing. As he ...more
This extended essay is both huge in scope - giving detailed attention to topics from the Victorian view of nature as reflected in Madame Bovary to the Chinese industrial revolution of the 11th century, to the forecast effects of sea-level rise on Mumbai and New York - and very narrow in its ultimate focus, which is the culture of "literary fiction", i.e. the Booker-and-broadsheet-review sort, more so than the experimental oddities popular in vocal circles of GR. If you enjoy seeing the results ...more
Harshad Sharma
Oct 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: hist-nonfiction
Naomi Klein has this to say about this book-"On very rare occasions, a writer marshals such a searing insight and storytelling skill that even a well-trodden subject is blown wide open. Ghosh is that kind of writer, and this is that kind of book."

I cannot agree more, I consider Amitav Ghosh to be one of the greatest fiction writers India has ever produced, his IBIS Trilogy and "The Glass Palace" are one of the greatest works of fiction, and that is because he has always kept the social
Aug 15, 2016 rated it really liked it
History will judge this as the age of derangement, because collectively we have chosen to ignore the greatest challenge of our times - climate change. When Ghosh paints the frightening picture he does, it amazes us that this has remained so much in the periphery of our current discourse. We experience catastrophic floods, we know rivers that have dried up, heat waves kill thousands... yet there is so little of it in literary fiction; and there is so little pressure on politicians and governments ...more
Dec 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Fiction, History and Politics of Climate Change

Some months ago, I saw my Goodreads friend's review of this book. His review and rating made me buy this book. Meanwhile, I finished another book of Amitav Ghosh, The Shadow Lines. I became a fan of his prose after reading that novel. Same thing is true for this book.

The book is divided into three parts. In the first part through different stories, he tells the relationship between fiction and climate change, the development of realist novel and
Jan 03, 2019 rated it liked it

The world was void,
The populous and the powerful- was a lump,
Seasonless, herbless, treeless, manless, lifeless-
A lump of death- a chaos of hard clay.
The rivers, lakes and ocean all stood still,
And nothing stirred within their silent depths.
- Lord Byron, ‘Darkness’, written in 1816- sometimes referred to as 'the year without a summer.'

Amitav Ghosh's general idea here is to try to explain why it is so difficult to tackle- but not exactly tackle, to conceptualize, to accept- the problem of global
Jan 22, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

We should not wait till the time entire mumbai city is washed away. Mumbai is sitting on the edge. It is like a time bomb ticking to explode at any moment...
This might of nature is evident to you as you read the book.

The reason I stumbled upon this book is probably because I was looking for some fiction written by Amitav Ghosh. This title grabbed my attention more than the other books. I am glad I chose this one.
Honestly speaking, I did not expect such an in-depth analysis and review from a
Oct 13, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Amitav Ghosh takes a break from fiction to write this non fictional account on a topic that is close to his heart. The looming threat of climate change due to human activity, and the dire consequences that humanity and nature is probable to face in the near future as well as currently facing is something that he brings to the forefront. More prominently, he showcases the lack of discourse about it in literature and fiction and how it would be seen in hindsight as an avenue where we were left ...more
Jul 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A searing analysis of how the turn to individualism in literature - specifically in the dominant literary form of the novel - and its feedback loop imprint on culture and politics during the last century leaves humanity unprepared to deal with the gravest problem of the commons we face; climate change. Ghosh wonders whether historians of the future from some other planet might look back upon our times as an age of the great derangement. Although the tone is despondent , Ghosh ends on a positive ...more
Easton Smith
Feb 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
If I had to suggest to anyone a single book about climate change, it would be the Great Derangement. I have never read someone so succinctly, eloquently, and urgently explain the roots-- capitalism and imperialism-- of the climate crisis and how those roots grow up into the forest of our culture/popular imagination. Ghosh locates the birth of climate change and climate denialism in a single nexus of concurring cultural and economic phenomena; a view of history that is, to me, brand new and very ...more
Feb 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
"The Great Derangement" is an insightful and sometimes provocative engagement with climate change and culture. Ghosh's main concern is to figure out why climate change seems to elude the sustained cultural attention and serious political consideration that he thinks it merits. Indeed, he thinks the situation is so dire that the historians of the future (if there any any...) will wonder if the humans of the early 21st century were deranged.

The book has three parts of varying strengths: stories,
Katie Long
Interesting insights, but I think there was a bit too much repetition and speculation. Perhaps it would have worked better at essay length rather than book length.
Sep 12, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Very rarely does a book appear with the quintessential element of relevance crying out from every page. Amitav Ghosh's"The Great Derangement" is exactly one such book. In a time characterised by an undesirable and unfortunate transmogrification where Riparian states wreak vengeance upon one another over what has been contrived into a contentious issue such as water sharing, and where fossil fuels are recklessly and rampantly exploited to the point of abuse, this work by Amitav Ghosh serves as an ...more
Sanjay Varma
Sep 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
This is such a beautiful book, and a dazzling display of knowledge and wisdom by the author, who is clearly a great man. The experience of reading this book reminds me of reading Jared Diamond's early books, in which he drops brilliant insights every few pages.

But I have to say, this book is not for everyone. The title suggests that the author is more of a lateral thinker. Frankly, unless you have pre-formed ideas about literature, history, colonialism, industrialization, and climate, then you
Aug 07, 2016 rated it really liked it
The Author brings his intellect and erudition into the issue of climate change. He is scathing of people in power and like many others feels that a climate disaster is upon mankind and it's unlikely to escape without great damage to itself and the Earth. He is particularly devastating on the Paris Climate Accord and bluntly tells that it's just a can kicked down the road; a clever obfuscation of issues in its desperate efforts to please everyone. On the other hand, he is laudatory of the Pope's ...more
Jul 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Book-length essay about the limitations of contemporary cultural discourse in addressing climate change; a compelling read.
May 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This proved to be more insightful, rigorous in its assessments, and inspiring in its call for the arts to rise to the occasion than I had anticipated. The Great Derangement is outstanding and required reading in the environmental humanities. One of the most important books about climate change available.
Dec 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing
In The Great Derangement, novelist Amitav Ghosh offers powerful and lucid explanations about why we, the global population, have so much difficulty facing the reality of climate change, much less dealing with it.

He begins with a wide-ranging, stunningly informed analysis of the miniaturization of literary fiction's preoccupations over the last two hundred years, citing John Updike's comment that the novel is essentially a form devoted to the moral perturbations of the individual. He links this
Andrea McDowell
Jan 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
The Great Derangement is Amitav Ghosh's attempt to understand why we make such terrible decisions when it comes to dealing with climate change. His thesis, if it can be summed up, is that both capitalism and colonialism created global inequities of power and wealth that would need to be dismantled for climate action to succeed, at least without compromising the freedom-and-progress narrative that legitimizes them.

I enjoyed the book greatly and his writing is beyond gorgeous, but I'm not entirely
Twiggy VG
Aug 17, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
Shelves: 2016, non-fiction
It is an important book, and it needs to be the read. The discussion it begins needs to be taken forward, especially in this time when the Presidential candidate for one of the most influential nations in the world just casually denies the very existence of man-made climate change.

Ghosh's greatest strength is the ability to articulate what we all subconsciously acknowledge but never delve into deep enough to understand fully. He is able to word those facts of human nature and history in a
52nd book for 2017.

When climate change really starts biting, the most vulnerable groups will be the global poor located closer to the equator. As such it's very refreshing to read about climate change from someone writing from an Indian perspective as opposed to the more standard US/European voices that populate the literature at the moment.

His ultimate point is that it has become very difficult to effectively address a collective problem like climate change, as modern societies have placed the
Dec 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Ok, I think I will have to mark this down as my top #1 nonfiction book of the year. I love Ghosh. This is my first non-fiction by him though.... was not disappointed. He writes so intelligently and so elegantly. What does current fiction have to do with global warming? And how does one approach the idea that imperialism is as fundamental to this issue as neoliberal capitalism? There is also a fascinating discussion of how politics has become a forum for the secular venting of opinions, “a ...more
Nov 06, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Ghosh highlights on lack of fictional works addressing this (climate change) issue and evaluates the concept of derangement in literature: a form of escapism, romanticizing ignorance (Madam Bovary) and purposeful misinterpretation of a serious issue. He starts the book by narrating natural disasters that he has experienced personally and those that has happened in our lifetimes.

Ghosh doesn't believe Paris accords is going to make a big difference because self interest and general disregard for
Rahul  Adusumilli
Jun 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book made me feel like a Trump supporter. There were numerous occasions when I had to go back and read the sentences over again trying to understand what he was getting at. I didn't enjoy that at all. I didn't enjoy that he's capable of thoughts much more deeper than I am. I was of the mind to throw the word "highfalutin" at it and be done with it.
Feb 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
A deep and though provoking book on the alleged derangement that plagues the human civilization - its unpreparedness for climate change. Ghosh writes on climate change from three angles, and the book is thus divided into three parts - story, history and politics.

In the first part, he writes about the absence of climate change as a subject in arts and literature, and argues that the modern concept of fiction, in its demand for the individual moral adventure, precludes the possibility of a
Rohan Arthur
The biggest problem I had with Ghosh's latest foray is not that it is nebulous about its message. There are several important and even valuable insights in this long piece of journalism that are worth the read. Much of this is, of course, well-worn material by now, and there is not much novel that Ghosh can say on the issue. The biggest difficulty I had with the book is that Ghosh arrogates to himself (as member of the tribe of novelists) too much importance in his ability to alter the course of ...more
Jeremy S
Jan 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: owned, big-thinking
To be reading this book during the days that Trump has rolled back a ton of ecological progress in the US, it was a tough and emotional read at times. Amitav Ghosh, because of his fiction backgrounds, weaves a wonderful narrative about the prevailing issue of our time (and potentially, the last big issue of mankind).

I found that as the book bounced between sections, there was a constant thread that was easy to follow, the arguments made sense and were from a perspective I had never looked at
Tanuj Solanki
Nov 25, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The gradual secularization of literature - a millennia-spanning, as-yet-incomplete project - meant, more than anything else, a suppression of the epic modality: consider a juxtaposition of Homer's Ulysses with Joyce's Ulysses, separated by over 3000 years. But it is the epic that can best address the kind of planetary crises that climate change causes over lengths of time and over entire continents. How does the fantastic, the catastrophic, the improbable return to literature, Ghosh asks, ...more
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Amitav Ghosh is one of India's best-known writers. His books include The Circle of Reason, The Shadow Lines, In An Antique Land, Dancing in Cambodia, The Calcutta Chromosome, The Glass Palace, Incendiary Circumstances, The Hungry Tide. His most recent novel, Sea of Poppies, is the first volume of the Ibis Trilogy.

Amitav Ghosh was born in Calcutta in 1956. He studied in Dehra Dun, New Delhi,
“Contrary to what I might like to think,my life is not guided by reason;it is ruled rather by the inertia of habitual motion.” 5 likes
“Recognition is famously a passage from ignorance to knowledge.” 5 likes
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