Apocalypse: what are the latest visions of “climate fiction”.

KIf you could stick a thermometer on a book like a roast meat, then you would measure: it is warming up in contemporary literature, almost hot to the limit of patience. In “Morgenstern”, Karl Ove Knausgård’s new novel, for example, which takes place in Bergen, which is usually rainy, the sweaty characters constantly complain about the terrible heat. Sure, Norway’s hot in the middle of summer, too, but in a book heading for imminent apocalypse, it’s no coincidence that there is a drought of fairly biblical proportions.

Continuous heat also prevails in Judith Hermann’s latest novel “Daheim”, which tells of a woman being dragged to a North Sea seaside town. “Since I was here, it has not rained once, it does not rain anymore”, says the narrator, who falls in love with a farmer and should be afraid for the fate of about 1000 of his animals with him. Because the meadows have been burned, the fields neglected, the old father can no longer remember “how the rain opens small holes in the sand. How much wind a field holds when it has rained.”

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Elsewhere in Daheim he says: “I say it’s actually too late for world travel.” The title of the novel can also be understood as a rejection of constantly moving and careless characters from Judith Hermann’s classic stories.

Arnold Stadler, who tells of a trip to Kilimanjaro in “On the Seventh Day I Flighted Back,” pulls the rug out from under his trail, constantly reflecting on his ecological balance: “In the future it would probably be better if people would take over the world and no longer explore yourself at all, to save neither them nor themselves … »Thus, travel literature becomes the song of the swan itself.

weather and reality

A novel does not function as a meteorological station, it does not have to describe what is changing in reality and what defines social debates. Activism in the sense of the “Fridays for the Future” or “Last Generation” movement would nevertheless be more detrimental to literature than any political record.

And yet it would be even more strange if one of the greatest threats facing humanity were not reflected in literature. Because our horror fantasies and nightmares have always been important drivers of the story, as have hopes for salvation and utopian visions of a better world. Therefore, speculative fiction does not necessarily have a field advantage over narrative realism: Fears, fantasies, and dreams are also part of reality.

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However, the new field of “climate fiction”, as expected, is initially set in science fiction: what was once the world destroyed by a nuclear war has become more and more recent. global warming the earth turned to hell.

TC Boyle’s Dystopia A Friend of the Earth (2000) or Cormac McCarthy’s latest novel The Road (2006) are two prominent examples of many post-apocalyptic scenarios that refer directly or indirectly to climate change. With her trilogy “Torn Toka” (the first volume was published in German in 2018), American author NK Jemisin created a high point of climatic fiction in the realm of high fantasy.

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TC Boyle tells a dark and funny story at the same time

Climate Fiction classic

German-language literature has long attracted attention because of its tendency towards the end times, with examples ranging from Leif Randt and Matthias Nawrat to Dorothee Elmiger. Climate is not always a dominant motif as in Helene Bukowski’s debut novel “Milchzahn” of 2019, which tells a mother-daughter story in a remnant civilization that has fallen back into archaic. People here only know the cool and rainy weather from the videos and with challenge speak with hope: “You have to be patient. “Summer can not last forever.”

In German In climate fabrication, climate change causes social and political outbreaks. Her scenarios are often, as in the case of Helene Bukowski, social experiments that narratively simulate a return to a state of nature in which the values ​​and structures on which coexistence is based must be renegotiated. For this reason, climate change does not appear primarily as a scientific and technical problem, nor as a moral issue for the life of the individual. It’s about dealing with the consequences, about zero hours, of pressing the reset button of evolution – as in the biblical story of the flood, where Noah’s ark just faced hard ground at one point.

Dystopia in the Maldives

Another example of this is Roman Ehrlich’s Malé 2020, set in the Maldives in the near future. In the paradise-ravaged tourist paradise, a commune of fugitives from all over the world has risen amid drug looting militias seeking pervasive happiness under their own rules. Storytelling becomes a survival strategy here, while barter, drug smuggling, and naked violence reign supreme.

Such plots fit the boom of human histories like those of Yuval Noah Harari, in which milestones such as sedentarization, urbanization, the emergence of hierarchies and empires are retrospectively subjected to a critical revision. If world history has led us politically, technically and economically into the abyss of self-destruction, where would the branches of salvation be possible?

The Austrian Christoph Ransmayr has always asked such fundamental questions in his novels. In “The Casemaster. A Brief Tale of Killing” from 2021, he sends a hydroscientist through a flooded world in search of his father.A network of water unions dominates a Europe divided into small states; the fight for drinking water has become global. Despite the sinking of the coast and the disappearance of the entire archipelago, “the pollution caused by the poisons of the industrial and civilized flow … of groundwater, in all its abundance, had led to a dramatic shortage.”

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Similar to Ehrlich or Bukowski, Ransmayr’s return to a state of the Hobbesian nature of the war of all against all provides the backdrop for a pessimistic reflection on humanism: how does violence arise and how does it spread? Violence against nature, which is often invisible, is just another form of violent relationships between people.

Such connections are quite difficult to draw in theoretical treatises or to assert in political manifestos. But novels should not provide evidence, according to the motto that climate change is the fault of capitalism or patriarchy. Stories have their proofs and this does not necessarily require a bleak scenario of the future.

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Later was: Judith Hermann, born in 1970 in Berlin

Judith Hermann’s “House”

In Judith Hermann’s “Daheim,” violence against women and children and the ecological threat are linked to the myth of a mermaid coming out of the sea, raped by fishermen, and avenged by a storm.

And the same woman who tells this horrible legend becomes the guide of the narrator who does not know the area: “She explained to me the ebb, the words dirty tide, spring tide, waterfront. She took me to the port flood indicator and explained to me how high the water would have been if we had been here in 1967. She told us about it, she said, after fifty years it will no longer be there. All this will disappear. ”

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Climate apocalypse or normal German wine?  Deploying the fire brigade in a field fire in the Börde district

Is this the last word in literature? The promise of books has traditionally been to stand the test of time. What is written is beyond offense. It may seem cynical to address this particular kind of poetic persistence in the face of a global threat.

In the bizarre community of Roman Ehrlich poets and thinkers in the face of the rising floods in the Maldives, the story is the ultimate and weak consolation. The stories of the fall must also be recorded, even if, as in the old stories of the Flood, it is about the new beginning of humanity.

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