Thursday, June 12, 2008

The audacity of honor

NOW READING: Darkness at Noon by Arthur Koestler

Man it's nice to not be in the thick of a terrible semester, and thus have lots of time to zip through my novels. I am already nearly finished with my 'K' author and just this evening picked up my 'L' author book because I'll probably start tomorrow. Zip-a-dee-doo-dah!

So, Darkness. I've hardly told you anything about it. Well, I'd always heard of it and never really knew what it was about. It's basically about what Koestler had to say about Russia and the Communist revolution gone wrong, and he throws in a few novel-like elements (a character or two, a setting, some names) to make it a story instead of just his random spewing of thoughts. He is yet another author who would have benefited by being able to blog, I think. But it would have left us with less, because people spew a lot into the blogosphere and we all take it for granted and then maybe some great books don't get written because the writers are all cybered out. (I'm looking at you, Self.)

Koestler is REALLY good at that ol' trick of following a theory/political idea through to its logical conclusion and showing how poorly that turns out. In fact, his main character, Rubashov, is kind of being forced to falsely confess for that very reason. He's basically admitting to crimes that his interrogators can logically deduce would happen based on what he believed.

This is all very interesting, and it's a pretty good read, especially the latter half. One interesting idea I've been pondering is the notion of why one prisoner might never be willing to confess to something he didn't do, will never feed the interrogators what they want, insists on dying with honor and integrity. Rubashov asks, what is honor, really? And isn't it the most vain thing of all to be so caught up in not smudging yourself, when the people and the revolution may require this sacrifice of you? It's really interesting.

It's also full of irony.

I think readers of The Prince would enjoy this book, as well as readers of 1984 and Brave New World. I think Machiavelli's work has some major overlooked sarcasm. This book puts it out there like that, too. Frankly, this whole country of Bushwashed and Obamified people could use a dose of this kind of political pondering as well, but they're probably too busy attending to all the important issues of the day to read a novel...

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