Jenny Offill: “Writing ‘Weather’ I thought a lot about the end of the world”

What I wanted is for the reader to end up reflecting on “how, with such terrifying future projections as we have, we can keep moving forward without being paralyzed”. (Photo from twitter)

Without nails, due to the nervousness after the North American elections, the writer Jenny Offill, finally smiles and talks about her new novel, “Climate”, a portrait of today’s world that comes after the success of “Department of Speculation” ago six years.

With her characteristic fragmentary style, which could refer to some of the Twitter threads, although she does not participate in social networks, her latest title stars a Brooklyn librarian, Lizzie Benson, a woman concerned about what is happening in her environment, helping a former teacher with her podcast on climate change.

The book, published in Spanish by Asteroide, also shows the relationships that Lizzie maintains with her husband Ben, her son Eli and her brother Henry, who is recovering from his drug addiction.

In a videoconference, Offill confesses that, while putting together the novel, he thought a lot “about the end of the world.”

“I was considering,” he continues, “many terrifying circumstances, although the story, what it has, is that it ends right at the present moment, without the reader ever knowing if what falls on the roof of Lizzy’s house are nuts or a few shots. “

What I wanted is for the reader to end up reflecting on “how, with such terrifying future projections as we have, we can keep moving forward without being paralyzed”.

It does not hide either that when he began to write “Climate”, once published “Department of speculations”, finalist for the Pen Faulkner, International Dublin and Folio awards, and considered by critics as one of the best novels of the last decade, the The atmosphere was “like one of impending catastrophe.”

These bad omens, some of them related to the destruction of the planet, ended up taking a toll on the “porous Lizzie” character.

Asked if she thinks that, with Joe Biden in the White House, the policies related to climate change will be modified, Offill responds that, “at the very least, with him we will be able to stop the destruction to which we have been led in recent years.

Despite this, he is realistic and believes that “the process will be very long, because we have lost a lot, but it will be an important improvement because in the course of the last four years something happened every day that made us worse.”

Crossing his fingers, he hopes that Donald Trump will end up leaving the office of US president because, otherwise, “we are going straight to an autocracy, to the end of democracy.”


Regarding the fact of telling their stories in small paragraphs, he specifies that this allows him “to give equal importance to all the elements of thought” of his characters.

For Offill, that each of these texts is separated with blank spaces, “is an invitation to the reader to insert their own thoughts and ideas.”

At the same time, he specifies that he wanted the reading to “be like the weather, which sometimes causes many things to happen at the same time, that whoever faces the story is involved in a kind of whirlpool.”

He also warns that he has spent a lot of time “distilling” his thinking and writing, and achieving that “characters like Lizzie are able to think about something huge like climate change and, at the same time, on the shopping list” .

On the other hand, as was the case in its celebrated previous title, here there is irony and a particular sense of humor.

“I think that when you manage to incorporate humor into a novel, you transform the way you see things, even if you are dealing with sad and dramatic events such as a marital separation, the addiction of a brother or the crisis of a country,” he says.

When all this permeates the story, “you manage to bring out the absurdity of everything and imply that we are all in the same boat.”

She is very fond of libraries, both in her city and in other places she visits, she remarks that in her country they play a “very important role, because as the social fabric is so deteriorated, many times they are a refuge for homeless people. or where children go after school, with great importance for civil society. “

Certain that the coronavirus pandemic will end up being reflected in one way or another in her future stories, she recognizes that in this time it has not been easy for her to sit at the computer, with a teenage daughter who has barely gone to high school, and with a state of spirit that did not lead to fiction. EFE

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