Junot Díaz’s “Apocalypse: What Disasters Reveal”

Recently, the Boston Review published a touching article by award-winning Dominican-American writer Junot Díaz on disasters and the concept of apocalypse.

Referring to the tragic earthquake that struck Haiti on January 12, 2010, Díaz writes, “Apocalypse comes to us from the Greek apocalypsis, meaning to uncover and unveil. Now, as James Berger reminds us in After the End, apocalypse has three meanings. First, it is the actual imagined end of the world, whether in Revelations or in Hollywood blockbusters. Second, it comprises the catastrophes, personal or historical, that are said to resemble that imagined final ending [. . .]. Finally, it is a disruptive event that provokes revelation. The apocalyptic event, Berger explains, in order to be truly apocalyptic, must in its disruptive moment clarify and illuminate ‘the true nature of what has been brought to end.’ It must be revelatory. ‘The apocalypse, then,’ per Berger, ‘is the End, or resembles the end, or explains the end.’”

The author proceeds to “peer into the ruins of Haiti” (which he refers to as “ruin-reading”) and similar apocalyptic catastrophes to try to describe what the earthquake has revealed about Haiti, about us (the world) and our future. In a delicately nuanced, compelling, and masterly prose, Díaz explores the differences between social disasters and natural disasters, the very real problem of global inequality, our modes of evasion, and the importance of not looking away.

Díaz poignantly writes, “After all, apocalypses like the Haitian earthquake are not only catastrophes; they are also opportunities: chances for us to see ourselves, to take responsibility for what we see, to change. One day somewhere in the world something terrible will happen, and for once we won’t look away.”

For the complete article, see http://www.bostonreview.net/BR36.3/junot_diaz_apocalypse_haiti_earthquake.php

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