Benjamin Kunkel

  • After the Flood

    BENJAMIN KUNKEL: The scenario of your book is different from our own world, although our present is increasingly resembling the future of The Wall (Norton, $26). Could you outline the world of the novel?

    JOHN LANCHESTER: It’s about an island nation where climate change and massive displacement of population mean that the whole island is surrounded by a five-meter-high concrete wall. Everybody in the country, every citizen, has to spend a two-year period standing guard on the wall to prevent what they call the Others, displaced people from other parts of the world, from getting into the country.

  • culture February 24, 2017

    The Capitalocene

    How is the ecological predicament of the 21st century to be conceived of? Politically, how is it to be confronted, and by whom? The basic features of the problem are plain enough, when you can stand to look. Universal carbon pollution, known by the mild term ‘climate change’, is already distempering the seasons with bounding extremes of heat and cold, and magnifying storms and droughts; increasingly, it will spoil harvests, spread tropical diseases, and drown coastlines.

    How is the ecological predicament of the 21st century to be conceived of? Politically, how is it to be confronted, and by whom? The basic features of the problem are plain enough, when you can stand to look. Universal carbon pollution, known by the mild term 'climate change', is already distempering the seasons with bounding extremes of heat and cold, and magnifying storms and droughts; increasingly, it will spoil harvests, spread tropical diseases, and drown coastlines. (Less well known is the threat of more frequent earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.) Excess carbon dioxide in the air, partly

  • What We Learned From Sebald

    In literature, too, imports testify to appetites unsatisfied by the home market. Over the past decade and a half, literary people in the US have developed passions for a series of foreigners: W. G. Sebald, Roberto Bolaño, Karl Ove Knausgaard, now Elena Ferrante. The genius and originality of these writers is evident enough but can’t explain why they, and not others of comparable stature, became examples, obsessions. Is there something we’ve needed that we could only get from abroad?

    An answer might start with Sebald, the German writer of poetry, criticism, and, above all, simultaneously lyrical

  • culture March 27, 2014

    Autobiography of Red

    To the disappointment of friends who would prefer to read my fiction—as well as of my literary agent, who would prefer to sell it—I seem to have become a Marxist public intellectual. Making matters worse, the relevant public has been a small one consisting of readers of the two publications, the London Review of Books and n+1, where all but one of these essays first appeared, and my self-appointed role has likewise been modest.

    Benjamin Kunkel reflects on what led him to his preoccupation with Marxist—or "Marxish"—political economy, in this excerpt from Utopia or Bust: A Guide to the Present Crisis, his new collection of essays.

    To the disappointment of friends who would prefer to read my fiction—as well as of my literary agent, who would prefer to sell it—I seem to have become a Marxist public intellectual. Making matters worse, the relevant public has been a small one consisting of readers of the two publications, the London Review of Books and n+1, where all but one of the essays in Utopia or Bust first appeared,

  • culture May 03, 2012

    Forgive us our debts

    Most analysts divide postwar capitalism into two periods. The first extends from the late 1940s into the 1970s. The end of the second appears to have been announced by the crisis – at first a ‘financial’ crisis, now often a ‘debt’ crisis – that broke out in 2008. The precise boundary between the postwar eras gets drawn differently depending on which feature of the terrain is emphasised. In terms of overall growth rates, it was with the recession of 1973-74 that the surge after the Second World War gave way to deceleration across the wealthy world. Intellectually, Milton Friedman’s Nobel Prize