The Nutmeg’s Curse
‘Do not miss this book’ NAOMI KLEIN, author of This Changes Everything
The history of the nutmeg is one of conquest and exploitation – of both human life and the natural environment – and the origin of our contemporary climate crisis.
Tracing the threats to our future to the discovery of the New World and the sea route to the Indian Ocean, The Nutmeg’s Curse argues that the dynamics of climate change are rooted in a centuries-old geopolitical order constructed by Western colonialism. The story of the nutmeg becomes a parable revealing the ways human history has always been entangled with earthly materials – spices, tea, sugarcane, opium, and fossil fuels. Our crisis, Ghosh shows, is ultimately the result of a mechanistic view of the earth, where nature exists only as a resource for humans to use for our own ends, rather than a force of its own, full of agency and meaning.
Writing against the backdrop of the global pandemic and the Black Lives Matter protests, Ghosh frames these historical stories in a way that connects our shared colonial past with the deep inequality we see around us today. By interweaving discussions on everything from the global history of the oil trade to the migrant crisis and the animist spirituality of indigenous communities around the world, The Nutmeg’s Curse offers a sharp critique of contemporary society and speaks to the profoundly remarkable ways in which human history is shaped by non-human forces.
What do you do when the subject matter of life on this planet seems to lack . . . life? Your read The Nutmeg’s Curse, which eschews the leaden language of climate expertise in favor of the re-animating powers of mythology, etymology, and cosmology. Ghosh challenges readers to reckon with war, empire, and genocide in order to fully grasp the world-devouring logics that underpin ecological collapse. We owe a great debt to his brilliant mind, avenging pen, and huge soul. Do not miss this book-and above all, do not tell yourself that you already know its contents, because you don’t. — NAOMI KLEIN, author of This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the Climate Urgent, beautiful and far-reaching . . . it should be essential reading * TLS * In this brilliant book, aflame with insight and moral power, Ghosh shows that in the history of the nutmeg lies the path to our planetary crisis, twisting through the horrors of empire and racial capitalism. The Nutmeg’s Curse brings to life alternative visions of human flourishing in consonance with the rest of nature – and reminds us how great are the vested interests that obstruct them — SUNIL AMRITH, author of Unruly Waters The creation of a literary mind, linking historical and philosophical themes through the small details and analogies that are the fabric of every good story — Bruno Macaes * New Statesman * My climate book of the year is Amitav Ghosh’s latest, The Nutmeg’s Curse, a beautiful, harrowing historical essay about mass-mobilizing empathy as the way to undermine the centuries-old drive toward targeted extermination of entire peoples and communities out of greed for ever-more natural resources. Ghosh produced a work that reaches your brain and your heart with unforgettable analytic and moral clarity — ERIC ROSTON * Bloomberg * Diagnosing our intricately inter-linked political, economic and environmental crises, The Nutmeg’s Curse is a book like no other in its combination of moral passion, intellectual rigour and literary elegance. And from its effortless synthesis of contemporary scholarship and indigenous knowledge systems emerges an irrefutable argument-that we must rethink our fundamental assumptions about human history — PANKAJ MISHRA Ghosh brings to bear his prodigious skills as both a novelist and an anthropologist, while incorporating insights from an astonishing array of other disciplines – literary criticism, environmental science, botany, history, economics, and more – the kind of omnihumanism necessary to confronting an omnicidal vision — PRIYA SATIA
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