The nights are cold, dark, and long, the days short - but the sun glows on, albeit more gently than at blazing midsummer ferocity. The transportive power of fiction came to mind as I stepped out into a pale frost this morning, and I began to think about which novels might serve as salve to the chill. It remains to be seen whether I can warm my way through winter via evocative fiction, but I will be examining my power bills with curiosity.
Here are my selections: three excellent novels that bring solar power, in varying ways, with varying effects, ranging from searing existential discomfort to warm heliacal nourishment.
The Drowned World is set in an ambiguous future, in which solar radiation has rendered the earth a labyrinthine amalgam of super-tropical swamps and primeval lagoons patrolled by Triassic–like reptilians. This novel smoulders with a blazing humid heat, and is an excellent example of Ballard’s preoccupation with the representation of ‘inner space’. Characters share dreams of regression to a primeval, uterine state, in a kind of hypnotic, sultry, ultra-heated irrepressible movement towards the sun (and species demise). Liable to make you sweat, with its strangeness, with its heat, with its vision of an Earth irrevocably changed.
In this classic of New Zealand young adult fiction Jack Lasenby presents a Waikato ravaged by climate change – ‘eaten by the sun’. Protagonist Ish is a member of a nomadic tribe, the eponymous Travellers, cast out alongside the aged, wise Hagar. After a calamity, the pair continue alone ‘the Journey’, the traditional nomadic pathway of their people. A bildungsroman tale of survival, connection and resilience in the face of social ostracization and climate perils, Because We Were The Travellers will having you seeking the kindness of a shady grove, even in the depths of winter
Finally, a vision of the sun-as-god, a benevolent deity, a source of comfort and nourishment. Klara and the Sun is Ishiguro’s latest novel, and characteristically reflects a finely-wrought, deeply affecting emotional tone. Klara is an ‘Artificial Friend’, a model of android purchased by parents as companions for children. Operating via solar power, Klara increasingly develops an affective, spiritual attachment to the sun, supplicating to its power as she searches for help. Ishiguro’s novel is a story of love, of faith, and of the fragility and beauty of the human condition. For heat-seekers, the Sun represented in this novel may too provoke reflection on the on the fragility of the line between nourishment and toxicity.
Let us know which novels you’d choose to evoke heat, or cold, or otherwise!
Interested in reading further?
Here's a handful more titles that bring climate to the fore.
A slippery, labyrinthine, trick mirror of a novel, a vision of an Earth subsumed by encroaching glaciers.
The wild, windy climate of the high moors, perfect for obsessive love.
This bildungsroman classic of English literature evokes the sweaty, close atmosphere of a midsummer heatwave.
A novel that viscerally drips with the strangeness and stasis of winter on a Korean resort island.
Chopin's lushly imagined Gulf coast in the summer is transportive, saturated in soft pinks and languid humidity.