“And This Is How We Will Live”: Douglas Kennedy, Prophet of Doom

The American writer Douglas Kennedy, in Saint-Malo (Ille-et-Vilaine), in May 2023.

“And this is how we will live”, by Douglas Kennedy, translated from English (United States) by Chloé Royer, Belfond, 336 p., €22.90, €10.

May 2045. America lies in tatters. A hundred years earlier, the United States defeated fascism and saved the free world. Now the country no longer exists. The Middle States have seceded, becoming an infernal Puritan stronghold, a theocratic confederacy headed by twelve self-proclaimed apostles. Divorce and abortion are prohibited there. Heretics and other blasphemers are burned at the stake. The East and West Coasts find themselves in a republic that is hardly more cheerful, where social progress is accompanied by widespread surveillance: a totalitarian state disguised as a democracy. The two blocs no longer have anything in common except their mutual hatred and the spies they sometimes exchange. “And this is how we will live”prophesies Douglas Kennedy with his new novel, as if to better ward off the nightmare.

The only son of ill-matched parents, the most European of American writers has long been haunted by spouses who tear each other apart. He is equally concerned about the growing tensions in the United States and the rise of Christian fundamentalists, at the heart of his story. In the land of God (Belfond, 2004). The two obsessions come together today in a brilliant science fiction story. The “Disunited States” are depicted there as “what remains of a couple after the most bitter and violent divorce ever”. Here are two countries as crushed as human beings “previously very close, who ruined everything (…) and now look at the devastated land between them, inhabited by a deep sorrow that none can express”.

Despite a fairly flat writing that does not avoid certain clichés, Douglas Kennedy’s fiction proves to be doubly terrifying. First, because the near future that it draws only exacerbates the current fault lines within American society. Its new secession more or less follows the dotted lines that appeared during the 2022 elections, when the “multi-millionaire gangster” Donald Trump lost the White House while dominating the center of the United States. The writer takes care to detail the stages, very realistic, which lead the country to burst. In 2024, Joe Biden wins in votes, but loses in number of seats and gives way to a clone of Trump, a Republican re-elected in 2028 thanks to massive manipulations. A massacre in Cleveland in 2033 ignites the powder, followed by an assault on the Capitol and, a year later, thirty-eight “Christian states” officially gain their independence. In the center of this torn America, the city of Minneapolis finds itself cut in two, like Berlin during the Cold War. Credible, right?

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