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Lagraziana's Kalliopeion

This is a blog about my reads as well as everything related to them.

My taste is for good quality literature - old and new. Some of it I review here or on my main book blog Edith's Miscellany.



The Doubting Terrorist: The Courilof Affair by Irène Némirovsky

Der Fall Kurilow: Roman - Irène Némirovsky The Courilof Affair - Irène Némirovsky

Abridged version of my review posted on Edith’s Miscellany on 19 September 2013


Russia is a huge country with a rich history. Lamentably, it has also been a history of recurring violence. Outside Russia little is known today of the forerunners of the Bolshevik revolution in 1917 and the victims on either side. The Courilof Affair by Irène Némirovsky is a fictitious novel based on real events of Russian history.


In 1931 the first-person narrator León M. feels the urge to write down the true account of a fatal bomb attack in St. Petersburg in which he was involved in 1903. When he is twenty-two, the revolutionary committee to which his mother belonged until her death charges him with the liquidation of Valerian Alexandrovitch Courilof, the Minister of Education under the last Russian Tsar Nikolai II. In St. Petersburg León M. lives under the name of Marcel Legrand, a doctor of medicine from Geneva, and goes into service with Courilof for the summer. The more he knows about the real Courilof the more he perceives him as a human being. He instructed assassin is plunged into an inner conflict about his task, but there are still a few months left to sort things out.


Irène Némirovsky managed to write the invented autobiography of a political assassin in tsarist Russia without demonizing or canonizing anybody along the way. The first-person narrator unfolds the whole story in the matter-of-fact language of someone who has long done with the past. The depicted characters are human beings with strengths and weaknesses like people in the real world around us. They have hopes and fears, they have desires and aversions, they have a conscience and they have a past which moulded them. The atmosphere of tsarist St. Petersburg just after 1900 feels very authentic and the plot which is modelled after history seems very realistic.


All things considered, The Courilof Affair by Irène Némirovsky has been an interesting and rewarding read. She was a great author. How many more wonderful novels could she have finished, hadn’t she been deported to Auschwitz by the blind followers of fanatics and hadn’t she died a senseless death in the concentration camp like too many others.


For the full review please click here to go to my blog Edith’s Miscellany.

Source: http://edith-lagraziana.blogspot.com