Good literature can offer an escape, especially in bleak times. When Washington politics feel especially hopeless, say, there’s consolation in a Jane Austen novel. But a new book argues that fiction doesn’t just work as a retreat. It can send us back out into the world revitalized for action, and it achieves this provocation through surprising means: by reflecting bleakness right back at us.
In “Futurity: Contemporary Literature and the Quest for the Past,” Stanford comparative literature professor Amir Eshel looks at many recent examples of unremittingly dour fiction, including “The Road” by Cormac McCarthy and “Children of Men,” the P.D. James novel that was adapted into a 2007 movie starring Clive Owen.