John Lanchester: Hope in an age of division

John Lanchester started writing his novel, The Wall, long before walls became a talking point. "The image it starts with occurred to me in a dream," he said. "I couldn't get it out of my head and it turned into a book." 

The result is a dystopian novel about a "catastrophically altered world" of 'us' vs. 'them'. It's a story of division, suffrage, slavery and inequality. "Everything about the wall," he said, "means you have no choice." 

The talk was punctuated with readings from his book, readings that exemplified his primary concern with all of our futures.

Lanchester talked of his mental dotted line that stretches into the unknown, allowing him to keep one eye on tomorrow and the other on today. As a result, his fiction is founded in fact, touching on political tensions, climate change and poverty. 

"My main ambition," he said, "is for the book to be wrong...We can't bequeath that world." 

Above all, Lanchester championed the idea of hope in the face of global chaos. "I think acting as if we have a future is very, very important." 

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Picture by Marsha Arnold.