Darkness and the Light, by Olaf Stapledon


A REVIEWER OF an earlier book of mine said that it was difficult to see why such a book should ever have been written. From his point of view the remark was reasonable enough, for the aim of the book happened to fall outside the spot-light of his consciousness. All the same, the fact that the great majority of books ought never to have been written must give the writer pause. To-day, what with the paper shortage and the urgency of war work, the question whether a book is worth writing, let alone publishing, is more pertinent than ever. Whether this book has enough significance to justify its appearance must be left to the judgment of readers and reviewers; but perhaps they will not take it amiss if I offer a word of explanation.

This book is, of course, not meant to be regarded as prophecy. Neither of the two futures which I here imagine for mankind is in the least likely to happen. Historical prediction is doomed always to fail. The most sophisticated sociologist, let alone a writer of fiction, is scarcely a more trustworthy prophet than Old Moore. Certainly I, who entirely failed to foresee the advent of Fascism, cannot lay claim to describe the next phase of European change.

But this book is not concerned to prophesy. It seeks merely to give a symbolic expression to two dispositions now in conflict in the world. For lack of better words I call them the will for darkness and the will for the light. I present in concrete form, but rather as caricature than with photographic accuracy, two kinds of possibility that lie before the human race. The justification for writing such a book depends on the answers to three questions. Is there such a conflict? Is it important? Is the caricature that I have drawn of it well enough drawn to clear the mind and stir the heart?

Olaf Stapledon October 1941


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