To understand geopolitics, you have to read novels

If immersing yourself in a tourist guide or a history manual is often the first reflex to understand a country, a perfectly logical and useful reflex, diving into its literature is often the side step that changes everything in our outlook and our understanding.

Copyright Gilbert Garcin
Copyright Gilbert Garcin

If you set up your activities in France, my country of origin, I would recommend that you first read Zola to understand the economic, political and above all human changes that crossed France at the start of the industrial revolution and shaped the mining North of yesterday or the Paris of today. And which sheds fundamental light on all the social debates that often cross this country.

If you want keys to understanding today’s Russia, I would tell you without hesitation to immerse yourself in this incredible novel that is Le Mage du Kremlin by Guiliano da Empoli, which borrows from the Russian literary gesture its structure and which offers a vertiginous dive behind the scenes of Putin’s accession and the economic and social context that allowed it. But I would also tell you to reread Nina Berberova to remember that there was a time when the links between Europe and Russia were of a different nature.

If you look with fascination at Nigeria, the country where I lived all my early childhood and did all my kindergarten in an Ibo school in Owerri, I would tell you that I am just beginning to discover its literature and I would warmly recommend two recent novels on Nigerian youth, its energy but also its questions: Nigerian Night by Mélanie Birgelen and The Death of Vivek Oji by Akwaeke Emezi.

Of course, each of these novels offers a certain look and a particular point of view, but geopolitics is precisely a multitude of particular facts and weak signals that we must be able to successfully analyze and understand in a systemic way in order to draw the consequences and the solutions.