Petrofiction is a term created by Amitav Gosh to describe the few books written about the oil relationship between the United States and the Middle East. Petrofiction has expanded its reach to include petro-modernity, petro- criticism and an energy unconscious (petro-unconscious).
It started as a negative term: but is now being researched to reveal the link between the oil industry and English Literature. Who has the oil? Who wants the Oil? and how did they get the oil? are questions which are not easily answered due to the universal use of fossil fuels and their impact on the last 60 years of global civilisation.
Cities of Salt was the first novel to be written about the oil industry from an Arabic perspective. The idea being that cities built on salt can be easily washed away by the sea. Cities that rely on the revenue of oil are cities that offer no sustainable existence. The novel is culturally specific meaning that it can be judged in terms of Arab culture not Western culture. It has an insight into Gulf Politics and Culture that is translated from the Arabic into English.
It relates what happens to a small Bedouin community when oil is discovered by the Americans in the 1930s. The upheaval that is caused by the American Colonisation. It was banned in several Middle East Countries including Saudi Arabia.
Gosh claims that global warming has frozen fiction. Where the spice trade as a global commodity inspired countless works of fiction oil has produced little.
Gosh comes to the idea that “the materialities of oil and coal have led to very different political effects in the two economies, he moves, by way of a reflection on John Updike’s 1988 New Yorker review of Abdelrahman Munif’s novel Cities of Salt, to commenting on the privileging of the individual over the collective that has occurred in the conception of the novel, both in theory and in practice. The connections are at once inevitable, surprising and dazzling, the conclusion unimpeachable: “. . . at exactly the time when it has become clear that global warming is in every sense a collective predicament, humanity finds itself in the thrall of a dominant culture in which the idea of the collective has been exiled from politics, economics and literature alike”.
The 21st Century has become so individualistic that we do not notice. It is all around. it shapes our world – pervasive and unnoticeable.Yet immensely powerful.
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This article is designed to provoke argument and critique