What feelings are you left with when you’ve finished reading the latest bestseller?
If I’m being honest I have to say that I often feel quite depressed. I might have enjoyed the story and the writing style but, more often than not, I find that the message many fictional books convey is ultimately pessimistic – bittersweet, perhaps, but without any lasting hope.
One of the first things I was told when I started writing stories in school was that I should never conclude with: “He woke up and it had all been a dream.” My teachers said that everybody finished stories like that because it was an easy way to tie up the loose ends.
The apparent futility of our existence seems to have become a trite convention in writing much like: “He woke up and it had all been a dream.” To my mind, a pessimistic ending is often seen as an acceptable means of tying up the loose ends in a way that will please the critics by tapping into what is perceived to be people’s jaded outlook on life.
Obviously, literary fiction is a reflection of reality. If it were not, nobody would empathise with it and nobody would buy it. So if novels quite often end on a pessimistic note it must be because life does too.
As I thought it over I started wondering, why should I have to accept this? True, life is sometimes unbearably tough and contains any number of painful “loose ends” – even for those who have a relatively easy ride, but that doesn’t mean to say that it is ultimately meaningless.
The reality which I live in – and which is no less real than anyone else’s reality – contains a hope that is ever present and that is far greater, and far more powerful, than even the bleakest low point. And this hope that I have is available to anybody who wants to reach out and make it their own.
The main reason I decided to write Swimming in the Red Sea is because I felt current literary trends simply do not reflect what I know in my heart to be true of life, which is this: whatever temporary sadness and pain we may face, there is a much stronger hope and a lasting joy, available to all and always present through the good times and the bad. By writing, I simply want to share the little that I know about it with other people.