The Courilof Affair by Irene Nemirovsky
The Russian Minister for Education, Courilof, is notorious for his cold-bloodedness and brutality and has been selected to be liquidated publicly to send a message to the masses that the revolution is coming. It’s 1903 and Leon M is assigned to the task. His initial job is to become part of Courilof’s household so that he is not suspected, and after several months posing as a Swiss doctor treating the ailing Minster, he begins to understand and develop some sympathy for his target and see him as a fellow human. Courilof meanwhile has cancer and wishes ultimately to die on the job with the favour of the Czar rather than be assassinated. I won’t spoil the plot with further details.
For a short novel, this had a slowburn start which rather got me bogged down at first, then once the young revolutionary was in place it picked up. The subject of terrorism versus tyranny is of course very relevant today and this raises many questions – this and the novel’s shortness would probably make it a good choice for a book group. I shall look forward to reading more of this author too. 8/10
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The Courilof Affair by Irene Nemirovsky, Vintage paperback, 176 pages.