Governments that seem to have done best “are led by people who read fiction” she said, naming Nicola Sturgeon in Scotland, Jacinda Ardern in New Zealand, Katrín Jakobsdóttir in Iceland and Sanna Marin in Finland among them.
“They are all people who read fiction. What fiction gives you is the gift of imagination and the gift of empathy. You see a life outside your own bubble. If you’re sitting there reading your endless biographies of Churchill or Attlee or whatever, you’re not looking at the world outside your window. You’re not understanding the lives of ordinary people who populate the country you’re supposed to be governing. My advice to any politician is: go and read a novel and you’ll understand the world better and you can imagine a changed world better.”
We’re probably all familiar with the self-serving delusion among literary types that reading fiction makes you an all-around better person, a delusion that should be swiftly extinguished through familiarity with authors, publishers, and academic English departments. I just appreciate that McDermid adds the fresh twist that reading biographies (and, presumably, other non-fiction) means you’re ignorant and incurious about the world around you. Oh, honey, I can imagine a changed world just fine. By reading history, though, I find myself immune to the fantasy that self-proclaimed agents of change, like the BLM/Antifa brownshirts, are going to be any different from earlier power-hungry, bloodthirsty mobs. My advice to anyone, politician or citizen, is to aim for accuracy, not empathy.