I needed something short after the slog that was That Awful Mess on the Via Merulana. I got that with The Just Assassins, a five scene play. Considering how much I enjoyed The Outsider, I was very much looking forward to reading more of his work. So were my expectations met?
The plot of The Just Assassins centres around a group of revolutionaries in Russia, presumably some time at the beginning of the 20th century, as they plot to assassinate a prominent member of the nobility in order to bring Socialism to the land. This is one of those problematic plays, as it makes one question their own personal moral code. It puts forward the question of “Is murder justifiable, if it is for political reasons?”, and that is a question that is rather uncomfortable to consider in a post-9/11 and 7/7 society; granted, the murder committed in The Just Assassins has its limits, but my point still stands. What makes it an especially uncomfortable question is that it doesn’t really give us any answers. On the one hand, the revolutionaries are very much dedicated to the ideal of social justice, which is admirable considering that they mention the tsars, a regime not much remembered for its fairness; additionally, the majority of them draw a line at casualties including children. On the other hand, we get to see the personal damage that this man’s death creates on his loved ones, specifically his wife; at no point does a man become purely a symbol, and that is a fact that the revolutionaries seem to forget.
It’s definitely an interesting play, so if you happen to see an adaptation of it advertised, I would definitely recommend it. There’s only one thing that bothered me, and that was the way in which the revolutionaries are referred. They’re referred to in the stage directions as terrorists. While this is a legitimate view of them, it seems a bit too emotionally loaded a word to use, especially in such an oddly neutral play. I don’t know what kind of word was used in the original French version, but it seemed a bit leading to use the word in the translation.
So, to finish. This is definitely a play that I would recommend seeing, or at the very least reading, if you’re looking to have your perceptions played with. I’d also recommend it if you’re looking for something to mentally stimulate you, but at the same time not be too taxing. 4/5
Next review: The Fall by Albert Camus