Economics in fiction

For relaxation this week, I read two novels featuring economics. One was Don Delillo’s (2003) Cosmopolis, which I spotted in the (new?) fiction section of the Marshall Library here in Cambridge. The capsule description that comes to mind is J.G. Ballard for the era of FinTech squillionaires – vastly excessive wealth, cars and gadgets, sex and violence. An enjoyable romp with an uncomfortable edge of plausibility.

31SX+HU5wkL._AC_UY436_QL65_The other is the new installment of E.J.Barnes’ fictionalised life of Keynes, Mr Keynes’ Dance (a follow up to Mr Keynes’ Revolution). These are excellent novels, bringing to life the personalities (Lydia Lopokova is central in this one, alongside various members of the Bloomsbury Group), and also the feel of the times and the intellectual debates in economics. This is surely the only work of fiction featuring Richard Kahn’s development of the concept of the multiplier. They would be very good enrichment reading for students who will get too little history of thought in their formal courses, illuminating the way ideas in economics are shaped by events rather than universal truths. And also a terrific read for anybody else: Mr Keynes’ Dance stands up firmly in its own right as a novel.

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