Thursday, April 06, 2006

Darkness at Noon

This morning I finished reading Darkness at Noon by Arthur Koestler a Hungarian born but British naturalised writer. Published in 1940 the book is considered one of the greats of the twentieth century and having read it, I understand why. It is a powerful story about a Russian Revolutionary of the old guard who in the 1930s is arrested by Stalin’s secret police in the dead of night for Counter Revolutionary activities. Through the story of one man the book is both a sociological and psychological portrayal of the Soviet State and the appalling things the State did to its own citizens in the name of the Revolution. Moreover, the book explores beautifully the old political maxim: the end justifies the means.

Having studied Russian and German politics in first year university (and consequently suffering from a mini emotional breakdown which resulted in the decision not to continue with politics as my major), I understood the historical and political backdrop to the novel. In fact, I believe I was encouraged to read Koestler’s book along with Solzhenitsyn and Dostoevsky as a complement to the academic texts we were studying. Due to the mini emotional breakdown, I never got around to it but now, nine years later and with sufficient emotional distance, I may now be able to read these Russian classics (Dostoevsky awaits on my bookshelf). However, upon reading the final chapter, I could feel the emotions welling up inside of me and I shed a few tears for the main character who I knew, was based on a real person(s).

I told a newly arrived AVIer recently that I was reading Koestler’s book and although she had not heard of it, when I told her what it was about, she said why on earth would you want to read it here in Timor when you’re already suffering so much? I replied because in some respects it makes me happy, for all the myriad of problems that besets this country, at least it doesn’t have a totalitarian dictatorship!

I highly commend this book to you.
Category: Timor-Leste (East Timor)

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