Amanda Craig

Arise, Sir David

Consciousness and the Novel


Secker & Warburg 320pp £17.99 order from our bookshop

The closest we may ever come to learning how another human being thinks is reading novels. Despite the advances in science that could assist us to penetrate the mystery of another person’s consciousness, what will always remain is the old-fashioned method of making marks on some sort of surface. Whether the picture this presents is accurate, when philosophers such as Daniel Dennett insist that the metaphor for the brain is pandemonium, in which all the different areas are competing for dominance, is something novelists have been debating ever since Joyce and Woolf. However, there should be no doubt that being given fictional versions of how people see, feel and think renders our own lives richer, more human and possibly more humane. As Ian McEwan wrote after September 11, ‘lf the hijackers had been able to imagine themselves into the thoughts and feelings of the passengers, they would have been unable to proceed … Imagining what it is like to be someone other than yourself is at the core of our humanity. It is the essence of compassion and the beginning of morality.’

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • 'Englishmen Abroad in the Reign of Henry VIII'. Free lecture by Dr Susan Brigden, Thurs 18 Oct, 6.30pm Europe Hou… ,
    • It 'contains twists and near misses and bit-part players, everything you might expect from a true-crime story'. Ian… ,
    • Oh normally a week or two before the ceremony itself - so mid-November. ,
    • Ian Sansom reviews The Real Lolita: The Kidnapping of Sally Horner and the Novel That Scandalized the World by… ,
    • 'It is hard to think of an economist who could craft such an elegantly readable account of postwar failure as this.… ,
    • Frederick Forsyth reviews The Spy and the Traitor: The Greatest Espionage Story of the Cold War by ,
    • . reviews What We Have Lost: The Dismantling of Great Britain by James Hamilton-Paterson ,