Rebecca Solnit, Hope in the Dark

It was with some degree of trepidation that I picked up Hope in the Dark; another semi-activist, sociological chronicle in the wake of 9/11. I was, however, pleasantly surprised. Rebecca Solnit weaves together significant political events in the period leading up to the new millennium in a thought-provoking and enlightening manner, gradually guiding the reader to a refreshingly ambiguous climax.

The first chapter begins with a Virginia Woolf quotation, “the future is dark, which is on the whole, the best thing the future can be, I think”. This is to become a recurrent theme throughout the book; the idea that the unknowability of future events is indicative of the positivity of human choice.

Solnit’s philosophy is that the individual can make a political difference, and dedicates her work in part to Wes Niskes, a US radio presenter who famously said “if you don’t like the news, go out and make your own”. She chronicles her personal beliefs on direct action and political movements in a witty and mature way which more than makes plausible connections between Solnit as a cultural historian and the likes of Simon Schama and Susan Sontag. Well worth the read.

Ben Wilcock