Anna. A fable about the earth's climate and environment

Gaarder, Jostein: Anna. En fabel om klodens klima og miljø.

ANNA. En fabel om klodens klima og miljø is a typical Jostein Gaarder novel with a crafty build-up of events that makes the reader curious and excited. How is all of this connected?

When Anna turns 16 on 12 December 2012 she receives Aunt Sunniva’s red ruby ring, an old heirloom. Anna thinks about the people who have lived on the earth before her. Perhaps that is why she is so concerned about the fact that the earth is in danger, that with our eyes open and at a rapid pace, we are actually in the process of destroying the biological diversity − and thereby the foundation of existence for future generations. This upsets Anna. She also has a rich imagination. She has an imaginative capacity that is so intense that she has lately begun receiving images and thoughts from another reality, perhaps from another era. It is therefore not so strange that her parents send her to Dr. Benjamin, who is a psychiatrist. But he does not believe that there is anything wrong with Anna; on the contrary, he thinks she is a strong girl who is concerned about important things.

In another reality Nova awakens on 12 December 2082. She is in bed in her room with the terminal that provides her with all of the information her heart could possibly desire. It can retrieve photos from the whole world whenever she wants. She receives all of the information about the earth’s condition subsequent to the global warming that ran amok a few decades before. Nova receives messages constantly about animal species that have become extinct, the Earth is no longer as fertile, green and beautiful, and Nova is furious about the human beings of previous generations who did not succeed in saving the earth in time. But this morning she just wants to enjoy herself and sets the terminal so that it only gives her pictures of the earth as it was before 12 December 2012 – which is the date of great-grandmother Anna’s 16th birthday. Her great-grandmother is still alive and at this moment she enters Nova’s room dressed in a blue kimono and wearing a red ruby ring on her finger. The red ring has magical powers …

ANNA is a fabulous story that glides back and forth between time frames and the two main characters Anna and Nova. The plot of this exciting novel goes beyond the limits of possibility. At the same time, this is a serious story about how things may turn out for the Earth if we do not come to our senses and recognise our responsibility as residents of this planet. It’s still not too late. Is it? We can certainly be given another chance? 

First published: 2013

The time of contemplating the riddles of the universe and the human mind is over, and now all that counts is to save what remains. The question is, what must be done? Anna and the others are the pegs on which Gaarder hangs his answers. Again: can this sort of thing produce good literature? My answer is yes …There are countless reports on what is in the process of happening. The difference between these reports and the novel about Anna is that the novel transports us there, into the future, and confronts us with a 16-year old who has every right to be angry with us. It is a hard lesson that both Anna and the reader learn in the course of this journey through time. The author has drawn a concrete picture of the world and how life might look here in 70 years’ time, if we continue in this way. It is this picture which sticks with us. This novel does not present a dystopia, but a prognosis.”
NRK Litteratur, Marta Norheim

«A very important book...Jostein Gaarder writes about the big questions in life, and in this year’s novel he brings up possibly the greatest one: how can we prevent the earth from being destroyed? ... Gaarder reveals his sharp social criticism in this story. He pokes fun, subtly and mercilessly, at the climate quote system ... Gaarder has a solution to how we should save the environment. And he lets a pupil present this. The solution seems believable because it takes into consideration inherent human weakness, our tendency towards gossip, competition and game-playing ... Gaarder does not mention global political efforts as a possibility, and that would indeed not fit into the fable. His solution must therefore be read as a provocation: So, you don’t think this will make any difference, see if you can think of a better solution. If this is the way the novel works, then it’s really good!”
Barnebokkritikk, Jostein A. Ryen

"Some might think the novel is naive. It isn’t. Unfortunately it paints a quite realistic picture of what might happen to our planet if we do not succeed in limiting the emissions of environmentally harmful gasses into the atmosphere. It may not happen as quickly as it does in the novel, and perhaps the changes will not end up being as described, but the story brings to life and makes concrete the nightmare which may ensue if the worst possible climate changes kick in fully.

The novel is compact and addresses its theme directly. We soon get to know Anna and follow her in her campaign to save the environment in today’s Norway, and we follow Nova in the grim life of 2082. The story is on the surface simple and the characters few - this is a novel which urgently wants to convey something deeply important, and therefore it does not waste time with idle chatter. It is pedagogical; everyone who reads it will learn something from it - both those who don’t know much about the subject yet, but also those who know the field well will derive pleasure from it, and gain a new sense of perspective in a fresh way. At the same time it is a novel which will open the heart of the reader - if one allows it to. One grows fond of Anna and Nova, one fears for their futures, and one’s conviction to strive for a better environment is strengthened.

I recommend everyone to read it."
Ellen Hambro’s blog (Director General of the Norwegian Environment Agency)

"As a reader I grow strongly involved with what the novel Anna is about: the destruction of life on our planet, and whether or not we can succeed in changing our course towards catastrophe.

The slumbering environmental moralist in me awakens, and I feel the same rage which the two 16-year-olds in the novel express.

...the politically engaged, knowledgeable girls stand in sharp contrast to the polished bloggers who strive to perfect their appearances without a thought for the world we share. There is a strong political and intellectual emphasis in this novel.

A part of what is typical of Gaarder is also the confidence in bringing up important topical themes. With Anna he delves straight into the heart of the Norwegian welfare fairytale, which year after year is reaching new heights.

He forces us to question whether the Norwegian oil economy really can be justified, viewed in a global context. For many reasons, a great number of readers will agree with him that this is a crucial question just now in 2013 ..."
Aftenposten, Mette Hofsødegård

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