Arthur Koestler (1940)
A classic of “fictional history”, focusing on the Stalinist counter-revolution of the 1930’s. The protagonist, Rubashov, struggles to understand what’s happening to him as he is imprisoned, set up for a show trial, and eventually executed.
Koestler brilliantly captures something that often seems inexplicable in the history of the period: why did so many of the main characters collude in their own destruction? He makes a convincing case that they were captured by their own revolutionary logic: having professed the supremacy of the revolution, the creative use of obviously unjust violence, and the subordination of the individual, they found themselves unable to argue or act in their own defence, and even found solace in performing one last act that aided the revolution even as it consumed them. Still inexplicable, but also somehow admirable that individuals could become so devoted to a cause, no matter what one thinks of it.
4/5. Finished Wednesday 20 July, 2016.
(Originally published on Goodreads.)