Published: 15 June 2017
First Published in English 2001 Harper Collins.
Translated by Amanda Hopkinson and Nick Caistor
Had I written this review within days of reading "the Devil and Miss Prym" I would, I think, have been quite effusive regarding what I then thought were it's undoubted merits. A challenging philosophical examination of good and evil, an honest evaluation of man's propensity to commit the most appalling of sins in pursuit of self interest and wealth. I would no doubt have pondered upon the idea that murder of a blameless individual in the pursuit of the perhaps misidentified self interest of the many, could not only be justified but might be thought comparable to the death of Christ to the benefit of mankind.
Now with some weeks distance from the turning of the page and after a series of, at least in part, religiously motivated attrocities in the UK, Germany, Turkey, Egypt, Syria, Afghanistan and else where, I view the whole thing rather differently. Now I think it rather trite and shallow.
I do not believe that a man who has lost his wife and children to the actions of criminals will seek out villagers in remote places in order to persuade them to murder one of their number so that he might prove to himself that evil is commonplace and that all might be corrupted. Such a man, such a victim, might well attempt to wreak a horrible revenge on the perpetrators of the crime or their ilk or on any that share some resemblance or commonality with the hated, as indeed is done by powerful western states. Whilst I can well believe that many might be turned by the prospect of gold,I don't believe that such a small and cohesive community would be so untroubled by the requirement for a collective conspiracy of silence and fair dealing for all by each. Nor is it I think, likely that they might all be so easily dissuaded in the end by bureaucratic obstacles and a common lack of ingenuity.
There are far more interesting examinations to be written regarding the motivation to commit evil for the advancement of a good and more morally advanced society, whether that society is defined in terms of democratic liberalism and economic well being or by obedience to the instructions of God.
It is hard to sustain interest now in the sterile debate about implausible philosophical dilemnas when we are faced with the realities of trying to determine an appropriate response to murders carried out in the defense of religious or ethnic communities against the infidel. The state asks us to support the defense of privilege and wealth against acts of revenge, as often as not the poultry retaliation of knives or home made explosive devices in response to drones, ballistic missiles and smart bombs whilst claiming the right to visit death upon millions with the massively self destructive retaliation of nuclear weapons. Now that is a moral dilemna,.