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Cli-Fi

A Companion

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Edited By Axel Goodbody and Adeline Johns-Putra

What is Cli-Fi?

Climate change fiction is a new literary phenomenon that emerged at the turn of the twenty-first century in response to what may be society’s greatest challenge. Climate change is already part responsible for extreme weather events, flooding, desertification and sea level rise, leading to famine, the spread of disease, and population displacement. Cli-fi novels and films are typically set in the future, telling of disaster and its effect on humans, or they depict the present, beset by dilemmas, conflicts or conspiracies, and pointing to grave consequences. At their heart are ethical and political questions: will humankind rise to the challenge of acting collectively, in the interest of the future? What sacrifices will be necessary, and is a green dictatorship our only hope for survival as a species?

Each chapter in this volume offers a way of reading a particular literary text or film, drawing attention to themes, formal features, reception, contribution to public debate, and issues for class discussion. Popular novels and films (Kim Stanley Robinson’s Science in the Capitol trilogy, Michael Crichton’s State of Fear, Ian McEwan’s Solar, and The Day after Tomorrow) are examined alongside lesser known writing (for instance J. G. Ballard’s «proto-climate change» novel The Drowned World and Antti Tuomainen’s Finnish thriller, The Healer), and films not generally thought of as being about climate change (Frozen and Take Shelter).

The book, which includes an introduction tracing the emergence and influence of cli-fi, is directed towards general readers and film enthusiasts as well as teachers and students. Written in an accessible style, it fills the gap between academic studies and online blogs, offering a comprehensive look at this timely new genre.

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Ilija Trojanow’s The Lamentations of Zeno (2011/2016) – Prophetic Cli-Fi (Axel Goodbody)

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Axel Goodbody

Ilija Trojanow’s The Lamentations of Zeno (2011/2016)

The Lamentations of Zeno (2016; originally published in German, 2011) portrays a man whose anger at the public’s blindness to the consequences of climate change and desperation over the destruction of the environment lead him to commit suicide, in a dramatic act which he hopes will shake people out of their lethargy. The story unfolds through successive entries in the diary of Zeno Hintermeier, a glaciologist working as lecturer and expedition leader on board a cruise ship in the Southern Ocean. Eloquent in his indictment of the slaughter of animals, the disfiguring of landscape and above all the impact of global warming, which have all reached the last great untouched wilderness on the planet, Zeno also comments critically on the discrimination of indigenous peoples and the economic exploitation of the developing countries. At the same time, however, he reveals a degree of complicity in both respects, and voices views which are troublingly misanthropic. Zeno is therefore a flawed hero, and, we may suspect, a not entirely reliable narrator – for example, in the passages relating to his conveniently commitment-free, seasonally renewed relationship with Paulina, a Filipino waitress on board the cruise ship.

While he functions as a persona of the author, in a narrative drawing attention to the unsustainability of our way of life, Zeno simultaneously demonstrates the inadequacy of moralizing prophecies of doom as a way of responding to the crisis, since...

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