February 1, 2014


There is No 'I' in Utopia (SOHRAB AHMARI, Jan. 31, 2014 , WSJ)

Communism's resemblance to religious faith was an enduring theme in Mr. Koestler's work. He contributed to and was instrumental in the publication of "The God That Failed," a 1949 anthology of essays by influential ex-communists, including André Gide, Stephen Spender and Richard Wright. In "Darkness at Noon," Rubashov recounts how an unnamed, Lenin-like figure was revered by the party as "God-the-Father, and No. 1 as the Son" (history was presumably the Spirit in this unholy trinity).

Authentic faith, Mr. Koestler suggests, is a bulwark against the nihilistic substitute-religion of Marxism. A Pietà painting, which he never had the chance to fully inspect, reminds Rubashov of his sins. "Perhaps it did not suit man to be completely freed from old bonds," he concludes, "from the steadying brakes of 'Thou shalt not.'" Yet almost till the end Rubashov bends himself to the party's logic of terror, unable to abandon his intellectual's vanity.

In this respect, too, Rubashov was like many of his real-life counterparts, not just in the Eastern Bloc but also in postwar Western Europe, where rare was the progressive thinker who didn't contort common sense and decency to justify Soviet crimes. A decade after the publication of "Darkness at Noon," as news of more show trials broke through the Iron Curtain, the writer Marcel Péju editorialized in Jean-Paul Sartre's journal, Les Temps Modernes, that "the charges...are not prima facie implausible." One shouldn't speak of Soviet repression, the surrealist poet Paul Eluard said, lest it "discourage" the working class in the West.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Posted by at February 1, 2014 7:31 AM

blog comments powered by Disqus