Petroleum Prophecies

The latest issue of the American Book Review focuses on ‘petrofictions’. Edited and introduced by Imre Szeman, it includes a review article by Graeme Macdonald on ‘Oil and World Literature’ and reviews of key works responding to the place of petrol in contemporary culture, spanning photography, installation art and philosophy as well as literature.

My review of Gustav Meyrink’s novella, ‘Petroleum, Petroleum’ is included in this issue under the title ‘Petroleum Prophecies’. First published in German in 1913, the novella depicts a fictional oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the imagined magnitude of which was infinitely greater than the spill from BP’s Deepwater Horizon platform that took place in 2010. Like UEBERMORGEN.COM, who produced a series of digital oil paintings from the footage of the oil spill, Meyrink offers a form of critique that demonstrates fascination with the destructive. In form as well as content, Meyrink’s fantasy begins to reveal the complexities of the nascent global oil assemblage, evoking the awe-struck fascination that characterizes our ongoing self-imposed dependence on fossil fuel.


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