Virginia Woolf once wrote: “The future is dark, which is on the whole, the best thing the future can be.” This is what Rebecca Solnit’s ‘Hope in the Dark’ is based upon. It is, for me, an essential read for times like this.
Rebecca Solnit is a historian, a writer, and an activist. (Many of her other essays can be found on her website – they’re really interesting, I would highly recommend them). Similarly, ‘Hope in the Dark’ is a historical text, a philosophical treatise, and a call to action in times of great uncertainty.
I don’t pretend to understand all of it. But I’m 100% okay with that – this is the sort of book that I can see myself reading and re-reading throughout the years, picking up nuances on my 14th re-read that I’d never noticed before. It is difficult to summarise, really – a lot of the protests she discusses happened before I was born, so they felt a bit distanced, to me. What I really enjoyed were her philosophical meanderings about history, protest, and the political left.
My favourite passages are those that really make you think about the process of revolution, and what it really means. She creates the idea of the Angel of Alternate History (based on Walter Benjamin’s concept of the Angel of History), which can see all the terrible things that would have happened if people hadn’t stood up and taken action. It is easy to focus upon the wars we haven’t won, and the challenges that we have yet to take on. This really makes you look at what we have achieved, and how bloody proud we should be of ourselves because of it.
This is the epitome of realistic hope – and at times like this, I think that’s the very best we can ask for.
(I was lucky enough to receive a copy from Canongate Books, who released it – for 50p! – a bit earlier than originally planned, due to recent events. This edition should be available by the 28th July, however.) You should get it.