Publications from the Berlin Family Lecture Series

Each lecture series is developed into a publication with the University of Chicago Press. This collaboration with one of the premier university presses in the world gives the ideas and words of each lecture continued life in print form.

Amitav Ghosh, The Great Derangement

Lawrence Lessig, America, Compromised (2018)

Is losing faith in American institutions justified? The renowned academic, attorney, and activist Lawrence Lessig captures a sweeping, well-documented indictment of U.S. government, politicians, and citizens in his new book. What the Harvard Law School professor shows, brilliantly and persuasively, that we cannot blame the problems of contemporary American life on bad people. The problems come from compromises that have corrupted America’s economic, social, and political life. University of Chicago Press

America, Compromised began as Lawrence Lessig’s 2014 Berlin Family Lectures.

Amitav Ghosh, The Great Derangement
“Ghosh is one of the most important living writers writing in English”
Los Angeles Review of Books

Amitav Ghosh, The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable (2016)

Are we deranged? The acclaimed Indian novelist Amitav Ghosh argues that future generations may well think so. How else to explain our imaginative failure in the face of global warming? In his first major book of nonfiction since In an Antique Land, Ghosh examines our inability—at the level of literature, history, and politics—to grasp the scale and violence of climate change.

The extreme nature of today’s climate events, Ghosh asserts, make them peculiarly resistant to contemporary modes of thinking and imagining. This is particularly true of serious literary fiction: hundred-year storms and freakish tornadoes simply feel too improbable for the novel; they are automatically consigned to other genres. In the writing of history, too, the climate crisis has sometimes led to gross simplifications; Ghosh shows that the history of the carbon economy is a tangled global story with many contradictory and counterintuitive elements.

Ghosh ends by suggesting that politics, much like literature, has become a matter of personal moral reckoning rather than an arena of collective action. But to limit fiction and politics to individual moral adventure comes at a great cost. The climate crisis asks us to imagine other forms of human existence—a task to which fiction, Ghosh argues, is the best suited of all cultural forms. His book serves as a great writer’s summons to confront the most urgent task of our time.s—University of Chicago Press

The Great Derangement began as Amitav Ghosh’s 2015 Berlin Family Lectures.