Last weekend’s Guardian Review (Sat June 1st) reads like a sign of the times short story or novella. The beginning section is about the imminent destruction of the buried classical city at Mes Aynak, which is to be found in eastern Afghanistan. This vast city was the crossing point between East and West for more than a thousand years after Alexander the Great passed through and a Greek city was founded, and now famous for the fabulous Gandhara Buddhist and other treasures that are being found there since its redicovery in the 1960′s. The narrator is an old-boy British patrician writer/explorer called William and the unfolding story of imminent destruction is due to the “rescue dig” being organised by a French team lead by a man called Marquis – what else could he be called? – who is also famous in Kabul for the quality of his wine cellar. Everything must be dug out in the next year or in order to allow the Chinese who have “leased” the equally vast copper reserves to be extracted. Except of course for the presence of the Taliban who have more explosive ideas how most thoroughly to destroy the remains of the city and its Buddhist relics, or to flog them “illegally” through the bazaars of northern Pakistan to the western Art World for huge sums in order to finance the purchase of more weapons . I long to go.
This story alone is worthy of the beginning of a Wu Ming collective book, and another section the Guardian Review (P 11) in fact has a review of Altai. The new narrator of this section describes the highly successful (“uputdownable”) Wu Ming writing style, which they have created for themselves, as “feuilleton fiction”. I long to write like that.
The next section is an account of a book called Spam, about the internet stuff (the stuff we don’t want but, like the best nineteenth century novels, appears ‘to have life of its own’) in which the teller of the story wonders how our online life might be different if we thought of it as “Weeds”. On the same page there is a review of Italo Calvino letters.
Of course I wont be buying any of these books I tell Calvino, but I know, like once on a winter’s night, that I have already fallen into the story. The next section is called The Burning Question. About the book by Mike Berners-Lee and Duncan Clark, it has a question for us: What will happen if we try to burn all the world’s currently known and extractable fossil fuel reserves. The answer is that we will asphyxiate ourselves long before this is possible (the science suggests that anything more than about 30% extraction will be our certain suicide note).
And so the story continues – But you need to be patient with me. I’ll get there, in fact the novel has already started, we are all, so to speak, in the middle of it, you just haven’t noticed yet: there is a muddled atheist professor (Steve Jones) who pleads about being misunderstood; there is a history of Werner Herzog novelistic view of our plight as “frail, vulnerable humans between indifferent nature and punishing God”; there is a short vignette about ‘cli-fi’ writing.
That is ‘cli’ for climate, I tell LULU, and ‘fi’ for fiction .