Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The Courilof Affair by Irène Némirovsky

In 1903 Léon M - the son of two Russian revolutionaries - is given the responsibility of 'liquidating' Valerian Alexandrovitch Courilof, the notoriously brutal and cold-blooded Russian Minister of Education, by the Revolutionary Committee. The assassination, he is told, must take place in public and be carried out in the most grandiose manner possible in order to strike the imagination of the people.
Posing as his newly appointed personal physician, Léon M takes up residence with Courilof in his summer house in the Iles and awaits instructions. But over the course of his stay he is made privy to the inner world of the man he must kill - his failing health, his troubled domestic situation and, most importantly, the tyrannical grip that the Czar himself holds over all his Ministers, forcing them to obey him or suffer the most deadly punishments.
Set during a period of radical upheaval in European history, The Courliof Affair is an unsparing observation of human motives and the abuses of power, an elegy to a lost world and an unflinchingly topical cautionary tale.
Irène Némirovsky is a Russian Jew, that grew up in Kiev, spent a year in Finland before making her way to France where she build a family and home. She is an author that brings the world into your palms and leaves you wrapped in a blanket of words that need a while to settle down; to sink in and truly make sense. She makes the obvious mysterious and the mysterious mundane... What I mean by that is that she summaries her entire novel in its very first sentence, yet it kept me glued to the pages, leaving me reluctant to put the book down until I have reached the very last page. 
I loved discovering the human behind the terrorist assassin... It was gruesome and left me stupefied, yet I felt so connected with the topic maybe because it is so up-to-date. Sometimes, I find myself trying to justify people's evilness and The Courilof Affair helped me to a great extent. I have always been drawn to literature of such kind... You might call me perverted for it, but criminal minds fascinate me.3FOXGIVEN
Anyway The Courilof Affair is a little book, trying to cover a giant theme and I am not sure whether it did so successfully or not. It is a novel that is both delicate and grim, peppered with descriptions of rain on the streets and the first blossoms of spring - I must be heartless to resist that.BUT in between the drops of simplicity you find philosophical treatise on the hypocrisy , morality and uselessness of terrorism... The Courilof Affair is a pretty sweet cup of tea, but not my most favourite.