Darkness at Noon by Arthur Koestler

Darkness at noon by Artur Koestler

Hungarian fiction

Translated by Daphne Hardy

I ve held off on read Koestler for a number of years never quite sure why but recently saw a old penguin modern classic and thought it was about time I read it ,this book  is his most famous .It was on the Modern library’s hundred best english language books ( strange it is a translation ).Arthur Koestler was born in Hungary in the early years of the twentieth century into a Jewish family he lived all over the world in Palestine ,Paris and Berlin then in mid thirties he went to Soviet russia for five years to report on the country this was a the hit of the Stalin show trails and the great purge  and spent time in Spain in the Spanish civil war .On the outbreak of war he was caught in france but eventually made it to England .Shortly after arriving  ub the uk  he wrote this book which is considered his best work  first published in 1940 .

“Put that gun away ,comrade 2 said Rubashov to him .”what do you want with me anyhow ?”

“you hear you are arrested ” said the boy “put your clothes on and don’t make a fuss “.

“Have you got a warrant ?” asked Rubashov

How it all started .

Now darkness at noon is a dark ,dark book it is really an insight into totalitarian regime through the eyes of a little man caught in a party machine ,although when it was written it seems Koestler’s time spent  in both in spain and Russia inspired the book . (He had a lucky escape in spain when he was still a communist and he  got caught in Franco’s camp but avoided being put to death.)The book is one mans story Nicholas Rubashov ,this man is in late fifties and really comes across as an everyman ,in looking up on the book Koestler Said he made him out of a large number of Soviet prisoners of the time .Any way he is arrested suddenly by some men and but in a cell by him self ,the other people we meet along the way are people in the same part of the prison a cell mate called 402 they communicate via taps ,a old ,old man who has spent more than twenty years in solitary confinement  he calls Rip Van Winkle .We follow him as he has four hearing this loyal man who has risked his life on many occasions for the party (it is never called the communist party ) and thus not placing the book in russia as we are never told where the trails are taking place .It is Obvious the madness of the trails there are four in all this makes up the parts of the book  as they unfold  they are a direct reflection of Stalin’s show trails in the thirties. But in the years since , how many times have we seen dictators run trails with no reasons and people arbitrarily killed for no real reason .This book still rings true seventy years after it came out .

“Asked whether he pleaded guilty ,the accused Rubashov answered “yes” in a clear voice .To a further question of the public prosecutor as to whether the accused has acted as an agent of the counter-revolution ,he again answered “yes” in a lower voice ….

The broken man near the end not the man from the early quote .

This Book is a true modern classic and all I can say if you’ve not read it yet , you should you can see its  standing  in  twentieth century writing .A s a child of Kafka obviously this is a more realistic take of what Kafka did with the character  K in his book   The trail and you can see its influence on Orwell in particular 1948 and works by Solzhenitsyn like the gulag archipelago and one day in the life both have the similar anti-Soviet feel .also the recent book by Elias Khoury Yalo has elements owing to this book the dark brutalness of men being broken by the regime . Daphne Hardy the translator  was Koestlers lover at the time she worked with him on this translation from German and gave  the book it’s  English title, the original title  in german meant solar eclipse .But I feel the English title has so much more meaning than the  German one as in the cells there is no real light at times so darkness at noon fits to me .

Have you read this book ?

Do you have a favourite book set in a prison ?

May 2012


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