Top positive review
24 January 2017
There is no denying that Amitav Ghosh is a brilliant writer. I have had many moments of amazement on this book, each necessitating a re-read of the portion. Of course, the re-read is often also necessary to understand what is being said. Ghosh is not for lazy readers; he demands that you make the effort to engage with his work constantly. No distraction and skipping of lines is possible. If your mind strays, as it sometimes will, the writing requires you to start over. With Ghosh, there is rarely half-hearted reading. It’s pretty much all or nothing.
Of course, it should be that way, given you have the privilege to read not just a wordsmith but also someone who is immensely well-read himself. The Great Derangement references writing genres as varied as philosophy, climate change, literature, literary theory, evolutionary theory, cultural theory, anthropology, and more. There are even references to movies. There is, of course, as a result, a certain exclusion inherent.
The book is divided into three sections—Stories, History, and Politics. Stories with its play on words and contemplation on the absence of climate change in serious literature might not be for everyone. It is too much like literary theory to engender universal appeal. With History and Politics, he discusses at length the reality, political negotiation, and the reportage of climate change and his anecdotes, brilliantly rendered as usual, are more widely appealing.
After I finished the book, I looked for a Preface but couldn’t find one. Ghosh dives right in to what he wants to say. The Acknowledgements, however, told me what I wanted to know. The book has grown from a series of lectures delivered at the University of Chicago. It explains the intellectual exclusivity, the seemingly meandering form. A climate change primer it is not. However, for someone like me who has never read anything other than the odd news article or two (and what he has to say about media makes this all the more appalling), this offers much food for thought and is of course, a marvelous example of some fine writing.