Darkness at Noon
读书笔记 Logical Reasoning and Bureaucracy
The interrogation tactics that Ivanov and Gletkin use on Rubashov and other inmates might seem senseless and cruel, but these two members of the Party bureaucracy—like all its members—pride themselves on their impeccable logic and rational thinking. To them, acknowledging one’s individual opinion or moral intuition by questioning Party tactics or their role within the Party would be anathema to the values of the collective. An ideological commitment to logical reasoning, then, allows these characters to sidestep the question of moral values altogether: rather than decide what is right and wrong for themselves, what is right is defined only by what is most efficient and “reasonable” within the goals set out by No. 1.
Ivanov and Gletkin represent two distinct outlooks regarding the relationship between Party business and logic, outlooks that can be traced back to their experiences of history. Ivanov, the equivalent of an “Old Bolshevik,” or a Party member who was present before and during the Revolution, is willing to simply separate his beliefs—for instance, his belief that Rubashov is innocent—from his commitment to party logic (his recognition of what must be done at Rubashov’s hearing). This act of distinguishing between beliefs and reality is what Ivanov considers to be the epitome of logic.
Gletkin though, has grown up solely within a post-Revolution logic, and he lacks even the ability to separate his personal beliefs from collective necessity. When he replaces Ivanov as interrogator, it signals a shift in the way that the bureaucracy is run: there is no longer room for broader complexity or private belief systems at all. Instead, Gletkin acts robotically, paring down the interrogation process to a series of discrete, straightforward steps, each of which can be applied to an inmate in turn. Other citizens of this society also learn how to apply this utilitarian logic to their own lives. Wassilij’s daughter, at the end of the novel, is on the verge of betraying her father to the Party so that she can move into his home with her fiancé, and she seems to feel no guilt or sense of responsibility for doing so. Within the book, then, a moral set of values has been replaced by a technocratic one: this is what the philosopher Hannah Arendt would, in the context of Nazi Germany, call the “banality of evil.” What counts as right and good is simply the extent to which reasoning has been followed to its logical conclusion.
Rubashov, though, embodies the complexity and pitfalls of Soviet logic. At the beginning of the book, Rubashov, like a good Old Bolshevik, thinks he can simply reason his way out of his predicament. The novel uses flashbacks to illuminate Rubashov’s attempts to determine, step by step and according to the rules of logic, what he has done to make things go awry. This process allows him to uncover contradictions within Party ideology and it foments his doubt about the predominance of the collective over the individual. His memories also lead him to recognize that he himself has always acted according to Party logic, so it’s ironic that he now finds himself trapped within it. Ivanov knows that Rubashov possesses an exquisitely logical mind, and, as a result, he assumes from the start that Rubashov will ultimately confess even without being tortured: the compulsion toward Party logic is that powerful. Rubashov’s tragic fate is to be condemned by an unjust system that he himself has espoused, one whose problems become apparent to him only after it is too late for him to resist them.
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