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 ?

14 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. parrish lantern
    May 18, 2012 @ 18:51:21

    loved Koestler’s writing when I read it years ago, haven’t in years, not sure why, maybe time to investigate this writer again.


  2. Penny
    May 19, 2012 @ 04:48:28

    Darkness at Noon was a landmark novel in my reading life. It was a book to never forget. When I read the book as a teenager, the book helped me to understand totalitarianism & political power. I was impressed by the quality of his writing and the depth of his thoughts, especially about idealistic social movements. He was wholly interested in how governments make the world a better or a worse place for the individual. A play was created of Darkness At Noon, and Koestler donated all profits to a fund for struggling writers. When young he lived in a commune and wrote idealistic political articles. Among the ideals he upheld included very forward thinking ideas at the time — pro-Communism, anti-Semitism, anti-Fascism, anti-capital punishment, pro-euthanasia. As a journalist, he was arrested and jailed several times, by Generalissimo Franco for one. He was not without serious problems —he was a rapist with women in an era when rape was never publicly discussed; his wives repressed their own opinions & interests in order to serve him wholly; and he ignored his only child, refusing to ever see her. At 78 Koestler committed suicide with his fourth wife. He had Parkinsons which was progressing; he had leukemia; and he had a large growing tumor. His suicide note is on his wiki bio. IMHO, like Ernest Hemingway, he was taking medications that induced depression as a side effect. He also loved chess and the paranormal. His brain never stopped exploring interesting ideas.


    • winstonsdad
      May 20, 2012 @ 15:55:58

      I wish I read it as a teen can imagine it inspiring as a youngster with more ideals on the world ,but less so these days ,although I found it still very thought provoking ,all the best stu


  3. Lisa Hill
    May 19, 2012 @ 05:21:03

    I read it many years ago when I was at university and probably far too young to get much out of it then. The Spouse is a big fan of Koestler, I think Christopher Hitchens was a fan too? (I’m not sure about this).
    Anyway, love your review and the way you’ve placed it in context with Orwell and Kafka.


    • winstonsdad
      May 20, 2012 @ 15:57:33

      I think Hitchens was sure heard him mention it in a interview to Salman rushdie a few years ago ,yes it fits neatly between them two sure he must known Orwell was in london at same time both on the lit scene ,all the best stu


  4. Caroline
    May 22, 2012 @ 17:55:25

    I bought this not long ago and am really looking forward to reading it.
    I love Solzhenitsyn’s Yvan Denissovich. It’s one of my favourite books.


  5. Max Cairnduff
    Jun 15, 2012 @ 13:36:00

    I was into parapsychology as a teenager, so I’m very familiar with Koestler, but not his fiction.

    Would you suggest reading The Castle before reading this Stu, for context?


  6. Max Cairnduff
    Jun 15, 2012 @ 13:37:23

    Forgot to say, my favourite Solzhenitsyn was always Cancer Ward. Can’t remember why though, I just recall being blown away by it.

    Denisovich was rather spoiled for me by being chosen by my rather left wing school to be the subject of the school musical, which I was forced to participate in (anonymously, in the choir).

    Trendy as many parents were, they did rather struggle with songs about keeping moving to avoid freezing to death during the hard Siberian winters.


  7. SilverSeason
    Dec 29, 2013 @ 14:31:54

    I read this book many years ago and was impressed by it then. I wonder how I would find it now, with all the changes in the world since my earlier reading and yet with the same issues recurring. After reading Darkness at Noon I read a couple of Koestler’s autobiographies/memoirs and found them provocative. Forgive me for not remembering the titles, but I do remember a number of incidents from his turbulent life and thing those books might interest you now.


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May 2012


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