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Darkness at Noon Paperback – 1 Dec 1994

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Product details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Classics; New Ed edition (1 Dec. 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099424916
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099424918
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.4 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 17,888 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"A remarkable book, a grimly fascinating interpretation of...all revolutionary dictatorships, and at the same time a tense and subtly intellectualised drama of prison psychology" (Times Literary Supplement)

"[Darkness At Noon] is written from terrible experience. From knowledge of the men whose struggles of mind and body he describes. Apart from its sociological importance, it is written with a subtlety and an economy which class it as great literature. I have read it twice without feeling that I have learned more than half of what it has to offer me- Koestler approaches the problem of ends and means, of love and truth and social organisation, through the thoughts of an old Bolshevik, Rubashov, as he awaits death in a GPU prison" (New Statesman)

"Along with Animal Farm and 1984, this book formed part of the essential bookshelf of those intellectuals who repudiated their early illusions about the Soviet Union" (Christopher Hitchens The Week)

"It brilliantly portrays the chilling tyranny of Soviet Communism" (Sandy Gall The Week)

Book Description

'One of the few books written in this epoch which will survive it' New Statesman

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

42 of 47 people found the following review helpful By Christopher Turtle on 16 Nov. 2004
Format: Paperback
"Darkness at Noon" describes the last days of Rubashov, a former communist party official in an unnamed regime. While waiting for execution, he kills time tapping out coded messages through the walls to fellow inmates, gets interrogated periodically by a former colleague and reminisces about some past experiences.
Accompanying this character on his final steps towards death, the novel is a powerful and terrifying meditation on how this experience feels and what it means - to Rubashov himself, to Koestler's audience and to the world at large. Is he a traitor to the regime or a convenient scapegoat? Will the regime benefit from his death? If it does, does that make death worthwhile? Does his death mean anything at all?
Koestler's answer to this final question is a resounding and crushing 'no' but there is something awe-inspiring and ultimately uplifting about the nihilistic finale, and the journey there is thoroughly absorbing.
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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful By M. A. Krul on 11 May 2009
Format: Paperback
Arthur Koestler's "Darkness at Noon", his magnum opus, is more than just a book. It is not a novel, nor is it an essay; it is a memory and an experience, a warning and a vision. It takes the reader into a nightmare world that is nevertheless real, an alternative history that is more history than alternative, and if he has a sensitivity to questions of history and politics, it is sure to be imprinted on his mind forever. In summary, it's one of the most powerful political books of the 20th Century.

The theme of the book is the experience of Stalinism, in particular the Stalinist Great Purges and the show trials during the late 1930s. Arthur Koestler himself was a Party socialist for much of his life, and only left the Soviet Union in 1938. Having known many of the Old Bolsheviks personally, he saw the state of the revolution taken over by Stalin and his henchmen, and witnessed the slow (and sometimes fast) destruction of the revolutionary old guard.

It's the experiences of this infamous Great Terror of communism, seen from the eyes of a communist, that form the basic of this book. The plot is rather limited in scope: the protagonist, N.S. Rubashov (probably loosely modelled after Bukharin), is arrested for 'counterrevolutionary crimes', and spends the rest of the book in prison, being interrogated and prepared for the inevitable show trial. This of itself is not particularly clever, but that is not the core of the book.

The real core of the book is Rubashov's fundamental theoretical paradoxical position: all his life he has believed in submitting the "subjectivity" of the individual to the demands of the Party, in the knowledge that they were building a future for mankind.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By s k on 1 Dec. 2012
Format: Paperback
Arthur Koestler's Darkness at Noon is a haunting and unsettling novel. Ostensibly telling the tale of Nicolas Salmanovich Rubashov, the narrative is a dialectical exposé of Koestler's own faltering Marxism. Published in 1940, and predating George Orwell's Nineteen Eight-Four by nine years, Koestler had witnessed the communist dream disintegrate firsthand. The Russian manifestation of the Promised Land had descended into paranoid totalitarianism and Rubashov picks through the ashes to find some salvageable embers for the future. But there are, alas, none to be found.

Rubashov is arrested and tried in an unnamed country (although the Russian names and moustachioed, infallible Leader give an unsubtle hint to the USSR). He is, however, a hero of the revolution, although his politics, predicated on world upheaval, paint him as a Trotskyite. As this was a period of consolidation against the pernicious forces of reaction, his beliefs are redundant, and therefore trumped-up charges are issued to effect his physical 'liquidation'. So begins Rubashov's spiritual awakening, and his apostasy, both to the Leader and his own unexamined principles, leads to an ethical renewal.

Totalitarian regimes surrender morality in the service of logic, and it is a fault Rubashov has wilfully enacted in the past. But he now views the skewed logic of ideological oppression as fallacious. Do the ends really justify the means? And what exactly happens beyond the frontier of logical reasoning, the point at which the emotions become involved, the so-called 'grammatical fiction'? Rubashov ponders these questions in isolation and also in dialogue with his captors. He is too old for the Party, his views outdated, his burgeoning morality a terrible weakness.
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By os TOP 500 REVIEWER on 18 Feb. 2012
Format: Paperback
'Darkness at Noon' is the story of the state that devours it's own. It is a short, powerful book that examines the meaning of identity and purpose of the individual and the state, when that state or rather it's leadership have no-one else to answer to but themselves. The book follows former state hero Rubashov as he finds himself first in prison and then facing interrogation knowing that ultimately his fate is already sealed.He knows that as he denounced, betrayed and ignored the plight of others, so he too will go the same way, unmourned, unnoticed and forgotten except to a few former colleagues. His death is (as was his life) ultimately pointless, in except as far as he serves the needs of the party. This is the conclusion he reaches at the books end, but could there be any other way?

Rubashov is not a warm character. In serving the revolution he has shed all his bourgeois sentimentality, he is a creature of the party. Morality and preoccupation with the self and conscience are seen as deviant philosophical position that our (anti) hero has no problem in initially agreeing with. At first he could see that sacrifice and morally dubious decisions were necessary in order to preserve the revolution. Eventually he comes to question the need for many of the party's policies and its treatment of the citizens under its care. It is from this twinge of conscience that the book starts gain its momentum.

This book is a tough read- Rubashov is unsparing of himself as he was of others. There are little rays of hope to be gleaned. But Rubashov realizes that times will change. His role and that of his revolutionary colleagues in history may be reviled today but there may come a time when history is revised.
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