Throughout my adulthood, I felt alien in Britain, never properly settling there but returning for a few years at a time. I have sometimes aired my criticisms about the ways in which even the supposedly liberal elites have failed to regard immigrants as properly British. Since 2016, though, I have grown closer to my country. For that, I owe something to the referendum for revealing deeper schisms in British society than the lines between native and immigrant, schisms that had, in a very British way, been papered over for years. Brexit has thus created space for other British identities.
Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts, as United States Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan was fond of saying. But it is not merely facts that are under assault in the polarized politics of the US, the UK, and other nations twisting in the winds of populism. There is also a troubling assault on reason. Authoritarian tendencies know that warping the facts is only a start. Warping reason and logic and clarity of thought is the holy grail.
Great television is taking over the space occupied by many novels, and taking with them many excellent writers. And by and large, it’s delivering the same rewards to its audience. But what about novels that exploit the opportunities that are available only to the form of the novel, such as novels that explore interiority, or rely on the novel’s versatile treatment of time and causation? Who will speak for such novels?