Looking at the Next Global Catastrophe | ‘The Great Derangement’ Book Review

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Did you ever stop to notice all the blood we’ve shed before? Did you stop to notice this crying Earth, these weeping shores?

‘The Earth Song’ by Michael Jackson

Are we living in times where ‘The Earth Song’ by Michael Jackson has become a reality? Has our ignorance become our greatest enemy? In ‘ The Great Derangement’ Amitav Ghosh explores these questions.

About ‘Great Derangement

‘The Great Derangement’ is a non-fiction account on climate change penned down by one of India’s renowned authors, Amitav Ghosh. The name resonates with an unmatched writing style, heart-wrenching characters, and profound themes. The book marks Ghosh’s return to the non-fictional world after ‘Incendiary Circumstances’. Divided into three parts: Stories, History, and Politics, flowing from personal accounts to the current climate crisis and the human involvement in the global environmental scenario.


Ghosh has been a prolific author of stories around our immediate environment. Any person who is familiar with his pattern of work is aware of the recurring theme of ecology. Emphasizing Climate Change, Ghosh has done a witty job at naming it ‘The Great Derangement’.

In the literal sense, deranged means insane, and hence the book elucidates the level of insanity humankind has reached, and how it is all coming back to us in the strangest ways. Derangement can also be understood in a mathematical light, as a permutation that has no fixed points. The book has an underlying essence of humankind and nature working in absurd ways where there are no fixed points to meet, but their rhythm of co-existence shouldn’t be disturbed, and if this happens it calls for a catastrophe.  

A fire on the surface of the ocean in Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula sparked by a gas leak from an underwater pipeline.
Ocean Fire Because of Oil Spill. From July 3, 2021. Source: Guardian.

The first part of the book covers stories; Amitav Ghosh has captured the first-hand feeling of witnessing a Tornado that swept clean the area of Maurice Nagar, New Delhi in 1978. The account is a chill down the spine. He has expressed his incapability of bringing this experience in literary fiction, no matter how hard he tried to do that. Interestingly so, he dedicates the book to the memory of the 1978 tornado.

The author has pointed out one of the important flaws in the reportage of climatic events i.e., the usage of words ‘uncanny’ and ‘unprecedented’, no event in the world is out of ‘fluke’ or ‘unlikelihood’, whatever is happening globally has a greater reason behind it. 

If you are enjoying the review, you can check out ‘The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable’ here.

The second part of the book is a little theoretical in flair. it follows the course of industrialization, capitalism, early patterns of global warming to the current UN policies and negotiations in the Paris Climate Summit, 2015.

Climate change is addressed as a classic example of how money flows towards short-term gain and the over-exploitation of unregulated common resources. These tendencies are like the invisible hand of fate, guiding the hero in a Greek tragedy towards his inevitable doom. Hunger for world dominance and power has devastated the best of us, which is elucidated in the third part.

The third part talks extensively about global climate politics. Asian politics have been highlighted concerning highly populated areas of China and India contributing majorly to climate change. We have policies for economic and industrial development which outweigh the policies targeted towards conservation and sustainable development.

Another highlight was the mention of Laudato Si, something not many people know of. It is the second encyclical of Pope Francis which harshly critiques consumerism, unreasonable thirst for development and targets the parts of our society which need a dynamic change. The narrative ends on a hopeful note however, the future continues to look bleak.

Stand-out Factors

‘The Great Derangement’ by Amitav Ghosh is not a preaching piece of literature that only tells you about our collapsing environment. On the contrary, it is a call for climate justice and addresses climate change as a cultural crisis. Written in a time of pre-activism and before Greta Thunberg became the face of climate justice, Amitav Ghosh’s transformational literary marvel is a call for prominent action, since all of us have become prisoners here of our device. 

My Rating

Must read if you’re interested to know about Climate Change and Development Challenges, in a political and ecological light.

Other Books by the Author

The Hungry Tide (link), The Calcutta Chromosome (link), and Gun Island (link).

If you enjoyed the review, you can check out ‘The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable’ here.

Check out our other Book Reviews here.

To submit a book review or any write-up, email umang.poddar@lawctopus.com

Disclaimer: We try to ensure that the information we post on Lawctopus is accurate. However, despite our best efforts, some of the content may contain errors. You can trust us, but please conduct your own checks too.

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