I seek the truth wherever it lies.
In a recent news article in the weekly Friday newspaper in Rome, reporter Paolo di Paolo looked into how and why cli-fi novels are being published more and more in Italy. His article was published in Italian, and with a little help from a free translation machine at Deepl.com, I was able to “read” his article in internet time.
He told his readers that ”more and more novels are talking about a climate apocalypse.”
From Oprah Winfrey’s magazine “O”, an article by American literary critic Amy Brady lists “seven novels that deal with climate change in a provocative way,” including a future New York submerged by water (a cli-fi novel by Kim Stanley Robinson, ”New York 2140,” published in Italy by Fanucci publishers), he noted.
Di Paolo also discusses the novels of the British sci-fi writer J.G. Ballard who had seen it coming for a long time: almost 60 years ago, in the pages of ”The Underwater World”, Jonathan Franzen, Barbara Kingsolver, W.G. Sebald and Italian novelist Bruno Arpaia.
“The difficulty of making different social ecosystems interact is real”, according to Italian writer Niccolo Scaffai, who in his recent nonfiction book titled ”Ecology and Literature. Forms and themes of a narrative relationship,” goes in search of writers capable of representing “a non-subjective landscape, an ecological space”.
Don’t forget the Don DeLillo of ”Underworld”, whose protagonist perceives everything in terms of rejection, waste and rubbish, Di Paolo notes.
And he gives a shout out to the post-apocalyptic cli-fi novel by Cormac McCarthy who in ”The Road” shows the worst that can happen and how two survivors — a father and a son — ”make an endless journey into nothingness.”
“The heartbreak is above all remembering what the world used to be like. How it was to drink a Coca-Cola, for example. Bad or good that it did, to the stomach and to the planet,” Di Paolo writes.
While Italian novelists are lagging behind a bit in terms of writing cli-fi novels, there are some who are doing it already, with more to come.
Bruno Arpaia, for example, wrote a cli-fi novel titled ”Something, Out There”, also translated now to Spanish, where he tells the story of a group of human beings committed to saving themselves in a Europe devastated by climate change.
”The Great Derangement,” as the Indian-American Amitav Ghosh calls it, is convinced that climate change “casts a much smaller shadow on the landscape of literary fiction than it casts on the public arena”.
The Stockholm Museum of Natural History asked a Swedish writer some years ago to design a major climate exhibition.
“My proposals were probably unworkable, perhaps even stupid,” he said. He intended to place in the center of a room the life-size faithful copy of a woolly rhinoceros, with a very small sign as the only comment: ”Extinct 10,000 years ago due to climate change.”
If cli-fi is a literary genre that is on the rise in English-speaking countries, and it is, it is also gaining ground in Italy, France and Germany, too, according to Di Paolo.
Cli-fi is borderless, endless, breathless.