Monday, January 8, 2018

Du « nature writing » à la « climate fiction » by CLAIRE PERRIN in FRANCE


At the turn of the years 2010, the American press reminisced about the emergence of a new literary genre, the "CLI-fi" (for climate fiction), a term coined in 2008 by the writer and blogger Dan bloom. The novels of "Climate fiction" generally take the form of stories post-apocalyptic views where the characters are evolving in a world ravaged by the effects of climate change.
If the novels of CLI-fi are praised by the American press to the sympathy ecologists, they remain stationed in France to a niche audience.
The "nature writing" to the "climate fiction" in
the United States, the popularity and the number of the novels of CLI-fi can be explained first by the cultural importance of the nature in this country. Include here the poet Walt Whitman and philosophers Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson, who were among the first helped to make the nature The main character in the novel American national.
By contrast, French literature is passionate about the city: at Victor Hugo, Honoré de Balzac or Charles Baudelaire, it is Paris, interiors, the arts, in short everything that falls under the "culture" and "civilization" which seems worthy of fiction. The nature and the campaign - that this either in the fields of Guy de Maupassant or well in Madame Bovary Gustave Flaubert - are the theater of the debasement morale.
If the nature becomes a subject of interest for the french readers, which is reflected in the return in vogue works of Henry David Thoreau, the subject seems to remain confined to the literature of test or to travel stories as in Sylvain Tesson.
The late arrival of the Cli-fi in France can also be explained by a certain literary elitism disdaining still largely science-fiction, which approximates quite naturally this new kind.

The question of the dangers of over-exploitation of nature and the dream of terraforming other planets is indeed at the heart of many science fiction novels, in the image of Dune (1965) of Frank Herbert. Also include J.G. Ballard who published a year before the classic of Herbert drought, the third component of its quadrilogie of worlds devastated; there depicts a revelation caused by the disappearance of the terrestrial them under the effect of the industrial pollution of the oceans.
But it is possible to raise the climate fiction even further. With the Grapes of Wrath of John Steinbeck (1939), for example. There discovers the social consequences of the climate episode of the "dust bowl" of the 1930s during which dust storms pounded the American Great Plains. Climatologists and historians of the environment agree today to say that the Dust Bowl was the direct consequence of agricultural techniques deleterious.
Against the Crazy dreams of the Geo-engineering
Another characteristic of the science-fiction is to denounce societies grayed out by their innovation capacity, control of the nature, scientific and technological progress. Derived from the Sci-Fi, the CLI-fi does not escape the rule.
One of the most striking examples is found in the American Paolo Bacigalupi. Crowned in 2010 by the prices Nebula and Hugo for his first book The Daughter plc, Paolo Bacigalupi was long a journalist within the review ecologist High Country News. The author depicts in his novel A world struck by a shortage of petroleum resources and a rise of the levels of the oceans due to climate warming.
In 2015, Paolo Bacigalupi publishes a second novel of CLI-fi, the Water knife. There described, in a context of apocalyptic drought linked to human activities, the struggle between the States of the American Southwest for the access to the water of the Colorado River. Under the crushing sun of the Arizona desert, the inhabitants of Phoenix are reduced to drink their own urine recycled…
The more fortunate, as to them, survive comfortably under domes artificially recreating of ecosystems paradise. This type of construction, project in several major cities of the world poses for Bacigalupi several essential questions: who will have access? And what about the nature outside of these structures?

Denouncing both capitalism and the dreams of geo-engineering of multinational firms, the novels of Paolo Bacigalupi illustrate the fringe of the Cli-fi the most politicized and the more invested by the question of human responsibilities in the climate change.

Meeting with Paolo Bacigalupi (Laurence Honnorat/YouTube, 2016).
A response to the Climatic scepticism
in a context where climatic personalities-skeptical occupy in the United States The highest functions, a literary genre such as the Cli-fi can truly do the work of resistance.
In seeking to awaken consciences to the help of apocalyptic narratives, the CLI-fi thus joins the rhetoric of environmentalists Americans and Europeans denouncing the overexploitation of the nature and the absence of suitable reaction in the face of climate change.
These eschatological accents expose however the novelists of the criticism of environmentalists more moderate : represent the global warming phenomenon as an apocalyptic returns to cut the grass under the foot in risking to ignore the public of the question, convinced by these works that there is nothing more to do.
The stories rather than of the curves of CO2
If the CLI-fi is often catastrophiste, it is not limited to the stories of prefabricated apocalypses.
In 2017, appeared in French The Sands of the Amargosa (of the clear Caliornienne Vaye Watkins. While the Climate Change comprised the central subject of the novel of Paolo Bacigalupi, they appear here as a rear-realistic plan of the story featuring a torque of Californians trying to survive drought in joining the followers of a guru water witch and manipulator.

Another amazing aspect, Claire Vaye Watkins lists, in chapters pastichant the great naturalists and American explorers, new animal species emerged with the climate change.
For this which is of the Cli-fi French, we can cite the novel distant land of Pierre-Yves Touzot. Post-apocalyptic without pay in the sensationalism, this novel begins on the awakening of a character, who know neither his identity nor its past, in an environment populated by strange creatures and familiar to the time in which it will attempt to survive and to understand what happened during his sleep. On 300 pages, Pierre-Yves Touzot presents accurately and accessible all theories and scientific data to take the measure of the environmental crisis.
Achieve the imaginary
C is the whole challenge of the climate fiction: expose the magnitude of the environmental crisis and civilizational to mobilize consciences. The common point between the works of CLI-fi is not both the place accorded to the environment that this direct link that they trace between human activities and climate change.
The fiction climate may today constitute an effective weapon for the defenders of the environment: after having heard the multiple cries of alarm researchers, read with horror the IPCC reports and followed all the campaigns to raise awareness of the issue of climate, it may be surprising - with Bruno Latour (face-to-Gaia), Clive Hamilton (Requiem for the human species) and all other thinkers of the environmental question - that nothing has yet been done to the extent of the problem. Using the medium of the story and that of the literature, it was to be hoped that the authors of CLI-Fi will bring their stone to this necessary awareness.
It is very possible that those who read the CLI-fi are already sensitive to these issues, it may be hoped that readers of science-fiction still little responsive to the dangers of climate change will have a change of opinion by immersing herself in a novel of Paolo Bacigalupi, Claire Vaye Watkins or Pierre-Yves Touzot.
In any event, it must rejoice in the growing presence of the climate issue in all forms of art. In populating now the imaginary, it becomes more and more difficult to ignore.


 Robin MacArthur publlished a

collection of short stories, HALF WILD, published by ECCO (Harper Collins) in 2016. She is a freelance writer, educator, musician (Red Heart the Ticker) and mother of two who lives on the rock-studded hillside where she was born in southern Vermont.

Now in her early 40s, Robin got an MFA in Fiction from 
Vermont College of Fine Arts  and a BA from Brown University.

 When not writing, she spends her time prying rocks out of unruly garden soil, picking blackberries and raspberries outside her back door, and traipsing through woods with her big-hearted and half-wild children.

Vermont ''cli-fi'' novel debut by Robin MacArthur illuminates ''spiritual substance during dark times''

Kevin O'Connor reviews for

Book excerpt:

Robin MacArthur

The darkest night of the year. An ice storm. A party! She puts on her warmest boots and coat, gathers the champagne she bought three days ago for this occasion. She’s about to leave when she sees the deer vertebra and her mother’s sneaker on the kitchen counter. An unbearable shrine. She places them in a paper bag, tucks it under her arm, and sets off up the hill to Hazel’s house.
She has to punch through the crust with the heel of her boot to not slide, barely makes it up the already ice-slicked field. But if there’s going to be an ice storm, the old house is the place to be. She wonders how many ice storms its bones have stood through. And isn’t this what people have always done — will continue to do — during dark times: gather?
— Robin MacArthur, from her novel “Heart Spring Mountain”

Robin MacArthur won the publishing lottery when HarperCollins offered her a book contract to pen a novel that depicts how climate change — and, specifically, 2011’s Tropical Storm Irene — can alter the course of land and life.

Then the 2016 presidential election hit her with an equally hard wallop. Could a leader of the free world actually doubt the science behind her book, the Marlboro writer wondered, and who would want to read fiction when reality had turned so surreal?

Nevertheless, she persisted.

“I realized this is very relevant,” MacArthur says, “because it’s about how we find spiritual substance during dark times.”

 “Heart Spring Mountain'',
tackles global warming — as well as heroin addiction and women’s struggles — at the most local level.

She wrote some short stories as a teenager and take her first writing class in her 20s. But juggling marriage, music, two young children and a hammer to build a family house in Vermont, she kept her words confined to her computer.

Then an editor at HarperCollins contacted her and offered to publish a collection of her short stories, 2016’s PEN/New England Award-winning “Half Wild,” with the contract calling for a follow-up book -- a novel.

“There is no better way to force oneself to write a novel,” she says, “than to have a contract to write one.”

And so the author came up with a three-generation family of characters — including a farming widow, a back-to-the-land dreamer and an owl-loving hermit — and a plot set in the days and weeks after the Aug. 28, 2011, storm that ravaged her southeastern Vermont hometown.
Robin MacArthur

“I quote writer Evan Pritchard in the novel, who says, ‘To do damage to the earth does spiritual damage as well.’ This book is, in some ways, about that spiritual damage — what does it feel like to live in this time of disconnection — from community, from the land, from families — and this time where the most basic of givens — seasons, food cycles — have been upended? Will we have apples? Will there be honeybees? When and where will the next catastrophic storm strike?”

MacArthur labels the book “a meditation on what we do with this spiritual malaise.”

Others have called it a poetic cli-fi novel,part of the new literary genre of climate fiction, dubbed cli-fi, about global warming and climate changes memes.

“I wrote the first fragments of this book 9 years ago when I was first becoming a mother. The concerns then were how to love and give of oneself and do so well. I picked the book up 6 years later and my concerns were different. All I could think about were the ailments of the world and how they were linked. How the machinations of capitalization had led to a loss of connection to one another and to the natural landscape, to the wisdom of our ancestors. At that point the question of the book became we are so broken, everywhere. How do we heal?”

Library Journal may sum up her novel as “soberingly relevant,” but the book also contains what Kirkus Reviews calls “a sliver of optimism.”

“We find community and connection where we are,” MacArthur says. “We find communion in the most old-fashioned of ways — with food, and wine, and music, and art and candlelight. Ultimately, this is a story about hope. Dark times are here, and more dark times await us, but love and connection and resiliency can be found, and will hold us when they are.”

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