- Paperback: 273 pages
- Publisher: Scribner (Oct. 17 2006)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1416540261
- ISBN-13: 978-1416540267
- Product Dimensions: 13.3 x 1.5 x 20.3 cm
- Shipping Weight: 227 g
- Average Customer Review: 46 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #29,585 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Darkness at Noon Paperback – Oct 17 2006
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"One of the few books written in this epoch which will survive it."
-- New Statesman (UK)
"It is the sort of novel that transcends ordinary limitations. Written with such dramatic power, with such warmth of feeling, and with such persuasive simplicity that it is as absorbing as melodrama."
-- The New York Times Book Review
"A rare and beautifully executed novel."
-- New York Herald Tribune
"A remarkable book. A grimly fascinating interpretation of the logic of the Russian revolution, indeed of all revolutionary dictatorships, and at the same time a tense and subtly intellectualized drama."
-- The Times Literary Supplement (London)
About the Author
Born in Budapest in 1905, educated in Vienna, Arthur Koestler immersed himself in the major ideological and social conflicts of his time. A communist during the 1930s, and visitor for a time in the Soviet Union, he became disillusioned with the Party and left it in 1938. Later that year in Spain, he was captured by the Fascist forces under Franco, and sentenced to death. Released through the last-minute intervention of the British government, he went to France where, the following year, he again was arrested for his political views. Released in 1940, he went to England, where he made his home. His novels, reportage, autobiographical works, and political and cultural writings established him as an important commentator on the dilemmas of the twentieth century. He died in 1983.
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“The ultimate truth is the penultimately always a falsehood.” So begins the ‘The Second Hearing” potion of “Darkness at Noon”. The novel is ostensibly written about the Soviet show trials of the 1930s. However, in my opinion, it goes much beyond that to questions that are universal in politics. How does humanity define or better determine what is true and valuable? How is political truth found and used? That is the question that this novel addresses and that question spans all forms of politics from a rights-based democracy to a collectivist autocracy,
Koestler examines the issue from the perspective of the conflict between the divergent interests of the individual and the collectivity. In reading the novel, I thought of Raskolnikov in Dostoyevsky’s “Crime and Punishment”. Koestler then presented the example himself in the musings of the novel’s hero Ruboshov. Raskolnikov reasoned that he is entitled to murder and rob the pawn broker because he will sue the proceeds for better ends that she would. The means justify the ends. And yet he was plagued by conscience. He murdered not only her but her innocent sister in the commission of the crime. What justification could he provide that made his life more valuable than theirs? This is the conflict in the revolution between the “We” and the “I” that Koestler presents. It is the monologue or dialogue with the silent partner that the points out. It is the conflict between the visceral emotion and the cerebral reasoning. How is truth and ethics defined.
One can see the issues discussed here in the political questions of our time. Globalization has increased world wealth incredibly and yet it also has caused great hardship to individuals. The answer to this dilemma ca only be found politically and that is the major political question of our day. “The ultimate truth is the penultimately always a falsehood.” Answers to this question compete in the political sphere. Society will select one of these answers and declare it to be the “truth” and all others to be “false”. This “truth” is politically constructed and selected. It is the product of both collective reasoning and individual emotional assessment.
Written by Aurthur Koestler, a Hungarian by birth, a Communist by choice until he realized the true nature of Stalinism, "Darkness at Noon" (1940) is a look at this transition from hopeful revolution to repressive dictatorship. I have never read a better account of the changing of the guard from the old Bolsheviks to the young Stalinists, from philosophers with dreams to bureaucrats with guns.
The protagonist in this novel is a man named Rubashov, an old Bolshevik who is arrested during the Great Purge of the late 1930s. Koestler created Rubashov from several people that he had known who were arrested, tried and executed. "Darkness at Noon" is a very thought-provoking book; it poses many questions on both the personal and the political level. The reader can sense Koestler's sense of betrayal by and his disappointment with the Soviet Union under Stalin and also his disgust with what Stalinism did to individual human beings.
I'm fairly sure that George Orwell must have read "Darkness at Noon" before writing "1984" - Orwell knew Koestler from their time spent in Spain during the Civil War and later in Britain. In both books one can see the same abhorrence of totalitarianism and of politics based on "the end justifies the means". Like Orwell's book, "Darkness at Noon" is an indictment of Stalinism and totalitarianism in general. The brutality, the inhumanity and the vicious mindlessness of a true totalitarian system are portrayed brilliantly in Koestler's well-written novel.
You don't have to be an expert on Soviet history to read this book, just remember that events like this really did happen and that Koestler served as an observant witness of the events of the 1930s & 1940s and as a witness he deserves a hearing so that we can learn from him. Stalin's Russia may be gone but totalitarianism still exists. We should learn from history and "Darkness at Noon" is a great place to do so.
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