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Decent but Predictable
on 21 September 2017
For the most part I enjoyed reading this novel, but it was not quite as riveting as Ihad expected it would be (based on reviews here and elsewhere).
I found it had some broad similarities with Kafka's 'The Trial'. The sense of futility, inevitably, frustration and oppression. In some ways it is like an enclosed, more confined version of that.
In the same way that the claustrophobic atmosphere Kafka creates can be quite heavy going for the reader, 'Darkness at Noon' can be a bit difficult to get motivated to return to due to its endless deliberations on ideology. It's not that either of these books are dull or uninteresting, just that the content and tone is pretty unrelenting and their is little in the way of gentle relief between weighty dialogues and mournful reminiscences.
Unlike 'The Trial', I never really had the sense while reading it that 'Darkness at Noon' was going to end any other way. For much of the book the main character seems resigned to his fate and there is never any real suggestion that things will end in any other way than that of which they do.
No doubt this book would have been a lot more impactful and important when it was first written, but these days there are numerous other publications and productions which have explored the futility of the situation Rubashov, the protagonist, finds himself in and the way in which truth can be twisted to suit the needs of any party that has come to prominence under the premise of revolution. To a considerably larger extent the much altered political landscape has also taken a great deal of sting out of Rubashov's tale.
That said, I think it's still an important read, and I was particularly struck on several occasions as to how closely some scenes reminded me of what I have read elsewhere of the awful nature of the regime in North Korea and its dreadful purges and constant pivoting to suit its leader's latest whim.
All in all, a decent read, but lack of characters, relentless ideological deliberations and the never absent sense of inevitability throughout detract from its overall appeal.