The drama of World War III in a new novel.. Ken Follett’s pessimistic prophecies for the future of humanity

Welsh novelist Ken Follett says that “this book must be published quickly, it must appear before things happen.” By things he means a global political shock, when “a small spark can set off a thunderbolt”.

British novelist Ken Follett’s new epic is a globe-spanning action drama set in the present day; In a fictional world that resembles ours harshly, and in which the balance of power between economic forces seems more realistic than life, the writer of the historical story “Pillars of the Earth” faces the present to warn us about the future, pressing the need to ask a question: Will the Third World War break out?

“Every disaster begins with a small unresolved problem.” So says US President Pauline Green in Follett’s drama about international tension.

In several scenes of the novel, events shift between a shrinking oasis in the Sahara, a stolen US Army drone, an uninhabited Japanese island, and the secret hideout of deadly chemical toxins; All of these scenes play out in a relentlessly escalating crisis, as a young female intelligence officer struggles to prevent the outbreak of a new world war, along with a spy working undercover with presumed jihadists, and Pauline finds herself cornered by a populist rival for the next president’s election.

The idea of ​​a world war suddenly emerging is not new; In the fifties of the last century, many novels dealt with the world sliding into a new war that arises by chance, however, Follett’s novel deals with the new geopolitical situation and its writer benefited from many contemporary analyzes to build the plot of the novel.


Le Point magazine says (PointThe writer in this new novel “Never” – unlike his historical novels: the Gifted, the Vortex and the Pillars of the Earth – does not write about the past, but about the alternative present with confusing realism, like the prophet of the biblical ages who predicted what would happen if things did not change, and he tells what Could it happen if the world remained reluctant to ask this question: Will the third world war break out?

The Welsh writer says (relative to Wales in western Britain, where some of its people speak their own language) that “we must publish this book quickly, it must appear before things happen.” By things he means a global political shock, when “a small spark can be able to set off a thunderbolt”, as Julie Mallor offered to the French magazine.

Ken Follett was born in 1949 and his novel “The Eye of the Needle” about espionage and thriller became one of the world’s most famous (European) novels.

Lake Chad Basin

The story begins in the Lake Chad Basin, that “dangerous” area that the writer expresses his pleasure not to visit because the epidemic prevented him from going there, but he reviewed it on Google Earth maps and traced its outlines, after he saw a video report published in “Paris Match” magazine. A year or two ago, “it is a bleak lake, its area has shrunk from 10 thousand to 500 square meters,” which the writer sees as “an incredible contraction,” and an expression of an environmental disaster with tragic human consequences.

Then – as the magazine says – the book puts us in another entry to the novel, in the footsteps of Pauline Green, who is closer to US President Joe Biden than to his predecessor, Donald Trump. She is a strong woman subject – because of her responsibility towards the state – to populist pressures and her role as a mother and wife.

America lives – in the novel – in an atmosphere of confrontation with China, Korea and the Middle East; The jihadists live and the global smuggling center, according to the orientalist stereotype that the novel does not avoid.

The writer and the baroness

Follett discovered – according to the magazine – “important information about the state of the world in a London club”, as he listened to Baroness Anne Elizabeth Oldfield Butler Sloss, a former judge responsible for the new modern slavery law in the House of Lords, who is also charged with overseeing the investigations into the death of the Princess Diana and Dodi Al-Fayed in Paris, she revealed to him what provided him with the material of the 3 most profitable books on the world of business and crime on this planet, such as human trafficking, money, drugs and weapons.

In the jihadist-dominated Sahel region, the novelist found – according to information given to him by his friend Kim Darroch, the security advisor under former British Prime Minister Tony Blair – migrant buses leaving at a specific time every week in the Sahara towards the north, where the jihadists are represented. Barons” of the new criminal trade in this region, so that the writer unleashes his wild imagination, free from realistic narratives.

The magazine warned that Follett – who has sold more than 160 million copies of his novels globally – had discovered the great impact of history (on literature) through the “Fall of Giants” trilogy, especially the first volume on World War I, where he says “by studying the events of the year 1914 I saw that no one wanted this war. The political leaders made reasonable decisions, I mean, moderate decisions and not at all irrational. Nobody was angry, but the result was as we know it.”

Sarajevo equivalent

In order to write this book – according to the magazine – he discussed what is equivalent to the attack on Sarajevo today, saying, “There are many places from which the event can start, such as Lebanon and Iran with the Strait of Hormuz that tankers must cross, and such as the border between India and China or perhaps Kashmir,” but Lake Chad was the clearest. It helps link the climate crises and the humanitarian crisis.

Talking about population migration and tracing this “path” that leads migrants to the UK is also “to bridge the distance between a distant problem and our actions here, on a daily basis”, says Follett.

The magazine concluded that the idea behind this masterful work – according to the author – is to stop the progress of this infernal mechanism that has the effect of a butterfly (a metaphor that refers to what a simple, distant event can cause, as indicated by saying that “the flapping of a butterfly’s wing in Brazil can happen.” Storm in Texas”) so it wouldn’t be a disaster now.

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