Leading Article: A Pessimistic View of Literature and Politics
THE TITLE of John le Carre's new novel, Absolute Friends, may suggest a zany TV sitcom conflating the worlds of Joanna Lumley and Jennifer Aniston, but is, the author assures us, "a piece of political science fiction" about a neo-conservative junta taking control of US politics. Asked on the Today programme if one can still write "optimistic fiction" in the current political climate, Le Carre said no - he was inspired by "anger and a growing despair about the way things were unfolding".
Who, though, wants optimism from Mr Le Carre? Monochrome gloom, petrified idealism and the rooting out of treachery - these are the reliably pessimistic qualities we seek in his work. An optimistic Le Carre novel would be as disappointing as a sexually fulfilled Anita Brookner.
So is there any place for optimism in the literature? Tales of personal triumph over social hardship belong to the likes of Catherine Cookson and Barbara Taylor Bradford. Inspirational tales of destiny and the benign cosmos ooze from the pen of the Brazilian visionary Paolo Coelho. The thriller, the murder mystery and the Tolkienish fantasy sequence are optimistic genres, in their devotion to the status quo. …