Dead Souls?


Is the political novel dead? Probably not, but Ray Conlogue of the Globe and Mail suggests that it may be in a deep coma. He speculates that "courageous novels about the big issues of war and injustice" is a once-inspiring literary idea that "is now out of fashion."

Most of Conlogue's piece is built around a recent panel of international novelists who sounded bored by the notion that writers have a duty to their readers. "'That sounds so old-fashioned,' said Bosnian novelist Aleksandr Hemon. 'I can't imagine having a political agenda and then writing a book.'"

Writer Maggie Helwig ? a human rights activist -- thinks "it would be death to my fiction to write a novel about one of my causes." Still, she says, "I don't agree that literature doesn't have any effect on history. It does make things happen. Unfortunately, the things that it makes happen are evil."

There are certainly examples of literary works with bad consequences. (Lenin's revolutionary and authoritarian zeal, for example, was fed by his fascination with Nikolai Chernyshevsky's 1863 novel, What Is to Be Done?) The better argument, however, is that in open systems, literature ? especially "popular" literature ? plays a socially corrective role.

Thanks to: ArtsJournal