“There is no one else in this hard world of today who can look upon the trivial with such tender sympathy and wring such a delicate pathos from futility”
– W. Somerset Maugham, “The Alien Corn”, 1931
Rereading some of Somerset Maugham’s short stories, I was struck again by his note of life’s futility as he represented it in that difficult period between the two World Wars, a futility that gives his work a certain pathos. And yet, and yet. Why did he write if he did not think there was some reason to hope? Can literature, even when reflecting the despair of an age, also point to a way through the fog?