Book #8-Darkness at Noon by Arthur Koestler

Darkness at Noon was a heavy read that piqued my curiosity about the real life of Arthur Koestler.

Koestler lived with a zest for righteousness and he was disappointed over and over.  Having survived his own death sentence, he was able to take the reader into the psyche of an imprisoned man, who realizes, too late, that it is his mind that has been imprisoned all along.  Sadly, he and his wife ended their lives together in 1983 in a joint suicide pact.

I’d love the opportunity to meet this man, though I’d have some fear of not knowing which man I’d be actually meeting since Koestler seemed to possess a variety of personalities.

Quotes that left a strong impression follow:

…”A long time ago we stirred up the depths, but that is over.  In other words”—he paused and put on his pince-nez—“In those days we made history; now you make politics.  That’s the whole difference.”

…”So consequent, that in the interests of a just distribution of land we deliberately let die of starvation about five million farmers and their families in one year.  So consequent were we in the liberation of human beings from the shackles of industrial exploitation that we sent about ten million people to do forced labor in the Arctic regions and the jungles of the East, under conditions similar to those of antique galley slaves.  So consequent that, to settle a difference of opinion, we know only one argument; death, whether it is a matter of submarines, manure, or the Party line to be followed in Indo-China…”

…”You wrote:  ‘I have thought and acted as I had to.  If I was right, I have nothing to repent of; if wrong, I shall pay.'”   He looked up from the dossier and looked Rubashov fully in the face:  “You were wrong, and you will pay, Comrade Rubashov…”

While acknowledging the dismal subject matter, I was disappointed that there were no details as to how so many were seduced by the Communist party with the ultimate loss of lives at such an astoundingly high number.  Rubashov was rather shallow and with no empathy whatsoever even when he recalls memories of his former lover, Arlova, sent to her death when he does not come to her aid.  He also shows no signs of humanity when a colleague’s son is dragged to his execution nor when a former friend, Ivanov, tries to prevent his execution, and he himself is shot.  Perhaps Koestler wanted to portray that side of man that was no longer human and only then revealed his true feelings through the other characters.

My rating for Darkness at Noon is an 8 out of 10.

Please visit Modern Library’s 100 Best Novels to view the entire list.

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Next up, D. H. Lawrence’s Sons and Lovers



Filed under Darkness at Noon

3 responses to “Book #8-Darkness at Noon by Arthur Koestler

  1. There is a really interesting article published a little while back in Harper’s Magazine on Koestler and his political/religious ideals and how they changed over time. He had many enemies due to his personality.

    That said, I found the book to be one of the greats… it was largely based on personal experiences.

    My review here:

    • vsudia

      You definitely appreciated Koestler much more than I did!

      While I agree with your review that the writing was poetic, I felt he never shows us the true Rubashov, but perhaps that was his intent and how he felt people did not truly understand him.

      What I forgot to mention in my review and what screamed out as symbolic was Rubashov’s dropped pince-nez during the execution march and the brashness of the guard who pockets them. My take was that Rubashov was blind to all he’d been responsible for and that perhaps the future generation would see things more clearly.

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