Franzen: yet another Malthusian

In: Uncategorized

24 Oct 2010

I regret not having time to read many novels, let alone follow the literary scene, but it is hard to avoid the phenomenon that is Jonathan Franzen. He recently became the first living novelist to appear on the cover of Time magazine in a decade, where he talked about Freedom, his long-awaited novel.

I was therefore struck to come across a video interview with him on Grist, an American green publication, where he revealed himself as a Malthusian. He evidently shares the views of one of the characters in his latest book who is fearful about overpopulation.

Even worse, the video originally appeared on the Oprah Winfrey’s website. Franzen is scheduled to appear on the show next month talking about his book.

Like so many Malthusians he makes the bizarre claim that the discussion of overpopulation is a taboo. Fortunately some have criticized Franzen on this point including Kwame Anthony Appiah, a Ghanaian who is a professor of philosophy at Princeton, in an article in Slate.

Elsewhere one of the characters in freedom is quoted as saying “the whole point of capitalism is the restless growth of capital” and “Capitalism can’t handle talking about limits”.

It looks like this is one novel I will have to read. Not only is it likely to be a global bestseller but it touches on some of the key themes in Ferraris for All.

If anyone has already read the book and has insights on the text I would be interested in hearing from you.