Our code-red present

Keeping score of planetary suffering
by
October 2021, no. 436

Bewilderment by Richard Powers

William Heinemann, $32.99 pb, 278 pp

Our code-red present

Keeping score of planetary suffering
by
October 2021, no. 436
The American novelist Richard Powers (photograph by Pako Mera/Alamy)
The American novelist Richard Powers (photograph by Pako Mera/Alamy)

In August of this year, when the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Sixth Assessment Report was published, the UN Secretary General, António Guterres, described its findings as ‘code red for humanity’. For those of us working in climate change communication, the alarm was familiar, another scream into the void to punctuate the prevailing astonishment at a world so insouciant in the face of its imminent environmental collapse. The aptly titled Bewilderment, Richard Powers’ first book since his Pulitzer Prize-winning The Overstory (2018), examines our code-red present with unnerving clarity, testing the viability of human life on this planet. As with The Overstory, a novel to which Bewilderment is very much a companion, humankind is on trial. Even by the gruelling standards of Anthropocene literature, it makes for unsettling reading.

J.R. Burgmann reviews 'Bewilderment' by Richard Powers

Bewilderment

by Richard Powers

William Heinemann, $32.99 pb, 278 pp

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