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His friends told stories, in religious form, about the origin of everything, about how God wanted them to live, about what would happen when they died, and why, while alive, they were persecuted. They were old and useful stories, except today, they could be easily mocked and undermined by more demonstrable tales, which perhaps made those who held to ancient ones even more determined.

The problem was, when he was with his friends their story compelled him. But when he walked out, like someone leaving a cinema, he found the world to be more subtle and inexplicable. He knew, too, that stories were made up by men and women; they could not be true or false, for they were exercises in that most magnificent but unreliable capacity, the imagination, which William Blake called ‘the divine body in every man’. Yet his friends would admit no splinter of imagination into their body of belief, for that would poision all, rendering their conviction human, aesthetic, fallible.

Hanif Kureishi, The Black Album (1995), ed. Faber and Faber, 2010 (p. 133)

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