Humanities scholars have given renewed attention to capitalism’s externalizations on our environment. The Anthropocene is a speculative epochal shift proposed by geologists to mark the accumulated effect of human industry on Earth’s future. The Anthropocene adds a layer of geological time to human history, challenging traditional theories of historical change. Drawing on this notion, Dipesh Chakrabarty outlines three theories of history. History 1 and 2 refer to liberalism and its postcolonial and postmodern critique, respectively. History 3, or post-Anthropocene history, marks the horizon of historical consciousness. This article proposes “History 4°” to synthesize History 1–3 into a new totality in which the historical present is defined as internal to an imminent catastrophe. History 4° poses a challenge to the historical novel: somehow it must reveal the intimate causal linkages between human and nonhuman across time, while remaining within the bounds of literary realism. David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas is read as a contemporary historical novel adequate to this task. The character Sonmi-451’s encounter with a natural landscape ravaged by human industry encapsulates the increasing indistinction between human and nonhuman worlds. The novel’s structure rejects linearity as its protagonists are linked to one another and themselves over all of human history.

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