View on Margaret Atwood’s The Year of the Flood

Shelley Ettinger’s views on the recent novel by Margaret Atwood, The Year of the Flood:

…the big problem with all these speculative fictions whose speculation consists primarily of prophesying doom is that when they look at the current state of human society and conclude that it’s all downhill from here, they don’t take into account the most important variable of all: the class struggle. It’s as though the workers and oppressed have no role in the world’s future, whereas in fact the opposite is true–we have the decisive role. The fate of the planet, of the many species threatened with extinction, our own above all, is in the hands of working class, the oppressed and all those who end up as allies. Will we succeed? In time? No one can foresee the future so no one knows. But to simply omit the possibility of real revolutionary change seems to me to be a failure of the literary imagination. A failure to recognize workers and poor people as central to the story, as, not to put too fine a point on it, the agents of history. Which failure is to be expected, sure, from any but the most explicitly class-conscious writers, and can be chalked up to the death-grip bourgeois ideology has on most, but still registers as a disappointment each time I come upon it.

Especially with a writer as good as Atwood, and one so obviously political in her own well meaning way. This book is a warning. Here is what capitalism has brought the world to, or rather what it will bring the world to if things continue this way, she’s saying, here are the results of the rule of profit, here are the even worse horrors to come. Yet she doesn’t delve all that deeply into the implications of what she does clearly identify as the cause of the crisis. Nor does the fact that capitalism is the root of the problem seem to have set off any light bulbs for her about what direction to look for the solution.

Given this major failing, it’s not surprising that page by page there are lots of littler ones. …

Continued at Read Red: “On Atwood’s dystopia.”

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