child-44-2

Child 44 Author : Tom Rob Smith
Country : Russia

The killer would continue to kill, concealed not by any masterful brilliance but by his country’s refusal to admit that such a man even existed, wrapping him in perfect immunity. (Smith 2008: 362)

Child 44 is the first of the Leo Demidov trilogy and starts with the great famine in the Soviet Union in 1933 and then moves to the last months of Stalin’s dictatorship in 1953. In this context, Leo Demidov, an ex-soldier who works for the Soviet Union’s secret service, the MGB (later to become the KGB), and who never questions the Party line, investigates a series of child murders in a supposedly perfect Soviet paradise where crime does not exist. As he conducts his investigation and witnesses the abuses conducted by the government, though, Leo loses faith in the system. If, at the beginning, he believed that “the survival of their political system justified anything … [for t]he promise of a golden age where none of this brutality would exist, where everything would be in plenty and poverty would be a memory” (Smith 2008: 85), Leo progressively changes his views. The novel works as an exposé of Stalin’s politics of fear and his evil state machine, whose only objective was to guarantee the self-preservation of the system at a high cost in human lives in a country where anybody who showed disagreement against Stalin was regarded as an enemy of the Party: “Enemies of the Party were not merely saboteurs, spies and wreckers of industry, but doubters of the Party line, doubters of the society which awaited them” (Smith 2008: 29). In a context in which “[t]error was necessary” since it “protected the Revolution” (Smith 2008: 77), the novel portrays how MGB operatives cultivated fear to keep the population subjugated to the Soviet yoke while the government used propaganda to convince its citizenry that everything worked well in the country since “murder, theft and rape were symptoms of a capitalist society” and did not exist in the Soviet Union “because there was equality” (Smith 2008: 192).

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