Since the appearance of his first novel, Nathan Coulter, in 1960, Wendell Berry’s fiction, poetry, and essays alike have spoken with increasing directness to a single theme: the relationship between man and earth. In the poem “The Old Elm Tree by the River,” he asserts that “In us the land enacts its history”; “An Anniversary” makes clear that the reverse is true as well: “What we have been becomes / The country where we are.” To Berry, a Kentucky farmer who tills the same land his family has worked for generations, man’s proper role is that of steward; yet in his view, most Americans, in this “self-exploiting, world-exploiting age,” are blind to the interdependence of man and earth, and live their lives “in the midst of a ubiquitous damned mess of which we are at once the victims and the perpetrators.” All that technology has done is to “save” us...

 

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