Are Novels Good At Explaining The World’s Problems?

Or better than academic reports, perhaps?.

Fiction – including poetry – should be taken just as seriously as facts-based research, according to the team from Manchester University and the London School of Economics (LSE). Novels should be required reading because fiction “does not compromise on complexity, politics or readability in the way that academic literature sometimes does,” said Dr Dennis Rodgers from Manchester University’s Brooks World Poverty Institute. He said: “Despite the regular flow of academic studies, expert reports, and policy position papers, it is arguably novelists who do as good a job – if not a better one – of representing and communicating the realities of international development.

I’d say it depends hugely on the fiction itself, perhaps. At least I suppose novels can actually drop the reader in a social situation in order to really see how people might be affected, rather than just see a bunch of statistics of any number of social issues. But is that limited to naturalism, I wonder, as the report seems to imply. That is, can more surreal authors such as Salman Rushdie not be considered good at this sort of thing, when he was writing at his best? Just a thought. I don’t think you can really limit acts of the imagination in such a way, because you could reduce that to “Why write fiction at all?”

I’d say my only reservation would be the perspective of the author in representing the “real world”, because to me an author is only representing their own version of the world. Then again there’s no reason that academic reports couldn’t be biased, depending on what money is behind a report…

By Mark Newton

Born in 1981, live in the UK. I write about strange things.