THE ENDS OF THE WORLD, by Déborah Danowski & Eduardo Viveiros de Castro, translated by Rodrigo Guimaraes Nunes.
…trying to bring out the various aspects of the feeling of “disconnection” that paralyzes us in the face of present events: “Nothing [is] at the right scale.” We are therefore not only dealing with a “crisis” in time and space, but a ferocious corrosion of time and space…
That is the condition in which to read a book about the ends of the world, yes?
The Anthropocene, or whatever else one might want to call it, is an “epoch” in the geological sense of the word; but it points toward the end of epochality as such, insofar as our species is concerned. For it is certain that, although it began with us, it will end without us: the Anthropocene will only give way to a new geological epoch long after we have disappeared from the face of the Earth. Our present is the Anthropocene; this is our time. But this present time progressively reveals itself a present “without a view.”
It is, as you may imagine, not a cheerful book. Academic in tone, but blissfully free from much technical language, and footnoted well – the joy of the good footnote is that it adds to the text at your leisure without disrupting the flow of or thinning the information in the main text. It’s cold work, written with a flinty eye, but shot through with marvellous little observations and references:
Jorge Luis Borges’ well-known quip on metaphysics being a branch of fantastic literature… requires that the converse be true – fantastic literature and science fiction are the pop metaphysics (or the “mythophysics”) of our time.
Maybe, as Lévi-Strauss often remarked, science, which started out by separating itself from myth around three thousand years ago, will eventually encounter it once again at the end…
I’d been looking around for something to delight the part of my brain that demands to be warped and electrified by the strange, and there it is. Mythophysics!
This chilly book is actually full of new ways of looking at the world and new ways of perceiving and considering what comes next. It’s remarkable and I’m enjoying it much more than I probably should.
Taken from my weekly newsletter, ORBITAL OPERATIONS, which goes out on Sundays. You can subscribe here.