If you are like me, you have a very tenuous grasp on what led to the worldwide financial meltdown. I try to listen and read but my brain goes a bit mushy and I end up resorting to –“Well we all knew capitalism would crash and burn some day”.
I don’t think your average Joe Plumber would be seeking me out to ask for assistance in understanding the financial mess, but that doesn’t mean a fiction writer can’t have a go at explaining it all. Booker Prize winner Margaret Atwood took the bull by the proverbial horns and seems to have steered the bovine quite successfully as she is now up for winning Canada’s National Business Book Award. In a fiction writer’s way, she pulled far away from the problem to get a clearer vision, so far in fact she went back to the early days of humanity to take a look at the way wealth has always been intricately linked to debt.
Her book, Payback- Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth, looks at how debt has played a role in ancient civilisations in commerce, but also in literature, culture, and religion. Reported in the Guardian she says, "Debt is part of the human condition. Civilisation is based on exchanges — on gifts, trades, loans — and the revenges and insults that come when they are not paid back.” The current mess we’re in seems to have been started by dividing debts into smaller and smaller pieces until no one could see who owned them.
Atwood is short listed with more traditional business writers and could win the prize of 11,000 British pounds.