When Brazilian literary critic Sergio Augusto wrote about a new cli-fi novel in Brazil by compatriot Joca Reiners Terron titled “Death and the Meteor,” he wrote the essay, of course, in Portugese. I was lucky enough to find a translation platform in France that was able to decipher Mr. Augusto’s article for me, and I read it in English, with both terror and delight.
When ”A Morte e o Meteoro” (”Death and the Meteor”) was published in Brazil last year, Mr. Terron imagined the Amazon region destroyed, with dozens of hectares of “agonizing trees in the process of being burned by the sun..” That’s how Mr. Augusto put it.
When the novel came out and began to be praised around the country by Brazilian book reviewers and cultural critics, the real Amazon of course still existed, but instead of it being burned by the sun in a series of unspeakable heat waves, the Amazon seemed doomed to die in a process that was characterized as ”charred by burning.”
Mr. Augusto, a veteran cultural commentator now in his late 70s with his own Twitter feed (@SergiusAugustus) in Portugese, concluded: “Death and the Meteor” is the most outstanding contribution to cli-fi Brazilian literature in 2019.
That’s quite some praise.
One of the consequences of the destruction of the Amazon in Terron’s timely novel is the ”exodus” of 50 indigenous people from the ”kaajapukugi” Indian tribe, taken to Mexico as political refugees. That’s part of the plot. (For now the book remains unavailalbe in English but that may change in the future, according to author Terron.)
“Forget the obvious Hebrew Bible connotations of the ‘Exodus’ from Egypt story,” wrote Augusto. “Their historical, cultural and political resonances are more relevant.”
Mr. Augusto not only reviewed Teron’s popular Brazilian novel in his essay, he also talkewd about non-fictional books about the Anthropocene, zeroing in on the now-famous hyphenated David Wallace-Wells’ longform essay titled “The Uninhabitable Earth.”
Wallace-Wells tells his readers that “it’s worse, much worse than you think” — this ongoing climate emergency we are in in the 2020s — and extends his ”alarmism” for 100 more uears and for 300 pages. The book has become became a global bestseller, translated into 25 languages, including Portugese for readers in Brazil and Portugal.
“What is the meaning of entertaining ourselves with a fictitious apocalypse when we face the possibility of a real one?” Wallace-Wells has asked. His own answer, in plain English: since distraction, sublimation and catharsis is one of the functions of pop culture and literature, cli-fi has a role to play here. By the way, Wallace-Wells was literature major at college and he mentioned the power of cli-fi novels in his book, too.
Mr. Augusto puts in his own two cents: “I want to believe that cli-fi is the most urgent and engaged fictional aspect of our time, the literature of survival, above and beyond ideologies.”
Although new cli-fi writers like J.G. Ballard or Margaret Atwood haven’t come along yet in the first part of the 21st century, such writers may very well emerge in the 2020s or 2030s,or later, Augusto envisions. He sees hope and promise in the way modern literature in many countries is raising many voices in a variety of tongues, and he puts a lot of his hope in Brazil, his native country.
I, for one, salute Sergio Augusto for his vision and his calm. There’s so much at stake here.