Feature Article: Modern Crisis and Literature

by | Jun 9, 2021 | Featured Article | 0 comments

ReadersMagnet talks about crisis stories and how we can understand more about crisis through literature.

A crisis will always be an essential part of every story, both fiction and non-fiction. Throughout history, storytellers have used crises as one of their main recipes, be it a natural crisis, technological crisis, a crisis of misconduct, a crisis of deception, a confrontational crisis, and so on. Today, modern cries have been the center of great and timeless novels. Some of them may be fiction but nonetheless based on real ongoing and possible crises. Many are based on actual crises, such as The Bells of Nagasaki (1949) by Takashi Nagai and The Face of Hunger (2016) by Dr. Byron Conner. The first former is a detailed chronicle of one man’s survival of the Nagasaki atomic bombing. At the same time, The Face of Hunger by Dr. Conner is a memoir on the Ethiopian famine. Today, we will talk briefly about how crisis contributes to timeless storytelling and, on the other hand, how literature can make readers understand more about real-life crises, past, present, or possible future.

Crisis Creates Great Narratives 

In literature, a crisis is defined as the point in the story where the character is faced with a dilemma and must force to make a decision. In this article, we refer to crisis as a situation that has happened or possibly to happen. We mean disasters, tragedies, and phenomena by crisis, be it natural, political, or manufactured. Incorporating a major crisis in a novel creates a considerable impact. Whether a novel centers on a nuclear crisis (stolen nuclear codes, nuclear bunker under siege, stolen nuclear missiles, etc.) or a natural crisis (impending volcanic eruption, a major earthquake, an asteroid heading towards earth, etc.), the crisis automatically creates a stimulating effect. It also unifies all the other elements in your story. Whether it’s non-fiction or memoirs, crisis stories have almost always gained an instant following. It stimulates readers quickly because a crisis is always a shared experience. Whatever narrative arc with an element of collective experience, especially one involving human tragedy, always interests readers. The two titles that we’ve mentioned earlier are two grand narratives, both memoirs. The atomic bombing of Nagasaki in 1945 and the infamous 1983-1985 famine of Ethiopia are examples of real crises made into grand, timeless narratives.

Understanding Crises via Stories

Literature always reflects life. The human tragedy, our collective and personal journeys, our faith, dreams, struggles, and imagine adventures are the inspirations of great novels, fiction or not. The great thing about crisis literature is that they allow us to discover past tragedies, present situations, and possible futures we want to avoid. For non-fiction novels about crises presented as memoirs or biography allow us to look at what really transpired. Many details surrounding a crisis, not on news and tabloids, but only those who have witnessed or encountered them firsthand can tell. For example, Dr. Byron Conner’s The Face of Hunger. The book covers his three years of experience in the African continent. For many of us, we think that famine is all just about food shortage and hunger because of drought. Reading Dr. Conner’s memoir will make us see a bigger picture that includes state abandonment, corruption, tribal wars, the absence of a health care system, malaria, and other diseases that all contributed to the death and suffering of the Ethiopian people.

There are also fiction novels that feature crises such as the nuclear crisis that results in apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic scenarios. They educate us about the perils of a nuclear disaster and why we should avoid tampering with nature as early as now, and powers that might be the end of humanity. Political crises that feature wars and international conflicts also offer us invaluable lessons such as the value of human life and the importance of diplomacy.

Overall, crisis stories make us understand lessons of the past and provide us with wisdom for the future. Hopefully, after this, we will better appreciate crises novels, whether they are fiction or based on past events that shaped our history.


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