In his monograph The Great Derangement (2016), Indian writer Amitav Ghosh pointedly asks why society, and more specifically literature, has almost entirely ignored climate change: ‘ours was a time when most forms of … literature were drawn into the modes of concealment that prevented people from recognising the realities of their plight’. This was, Ghosh concludes, because ‘serious prose fiction’ had become overwhelmingly committed to versions of literary realism that rely on notions of quotidian probability. The irony of the realist novel, then, is that ‘the very gestures with which it conjures up reality are actually a concealment of the real’.
Set in an unsettlingly convincing near future, James Bradley’s fourth novel, Clade, opens with climate scientist Adam Leith walking along an Antarctic coastline reflecting on the state of the world and on his relationship with his partner, Ellie. After six years together, their relationship is under pressure as Ellie undergoes fertility treatment. Adam is ambivalent about bringing a child into a world that he has recently conceded to himself is ‘on a collision course with disaster’, while Ellie is fiercely determined to do so. Now, as the ground both literally and metaphorically shifts beneath Adam’s feet, he waits for Ellie to call him with the results of her latest round of treatment.