This essay considers the unworldly setting of Jean Rolin’s novel Ormuz (2013), composed around the attempt by a shadowy character named Wax to swim across the Strait of Hormuz. This twenty-one-nautical-mile-wide stretch of sea separating Iran from the Arabian Peninsula, through which is shipped 35 percent of the world’s petroleum, is a waterway of the utmost geopolitical importance, its harbors built not for dreamy swimmers but for giant oil tankers and the elaborate maritime-military infrastructure assuring their passage. Such a setting would seem to stand as a bleak other to the novel as genre. Yet if one thinks of the history of the novel as inseparable from that of carbon capitalism (as Amitav Ghosh has argued), such a claim is reversed—this site where powerful strategic interests drive the flow of oil, capital, and power is the place of the continual making and unmaking, by night and day, of the world order, and thereby of the modern novel. The essay reflects on what Wax’s weird wager—as an emblem for a remarkable narrative wager—may owe to such intertexts as Google, Descartes’s Meditations, and Jules Verne’s Tour du monde, and argues for reading Ormuz as an ecological novel for our times.

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