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Darkness at Noon [Paperback]

Arthur Koestler , Daphne Hardy
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)
RRP: 8.99
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Book Description

1 Dec 1994 Vintage Classics
Darkness at Noon is set in an unnamed country ruled by a totalitarian government. Rubashov, once a powerful player in the regime, finds the tables turned on him when he is arrested and tried for treason. His reflections on his previous life and his experiences in prison form the heart of this moving and though-provoking masterpiece.

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Darkness at Noon + The Sound And The Fury (Vintage Classics)
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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 1.5 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 5,840 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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"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

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
41 of 46 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A book about death 16 Nov 2004
"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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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The view from inside the dustbin of history 11 May 2009
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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent examination of Stalinism 25 July 2006
Koestler was a leading British communist in the first half of the twentieth century. Like many other leading left-wing voices at that time (such as George Orwell) his enthusiasm for the USSR had given way to disillusionment at the excesses of Stalinism, with its purges and oppressions. He was personally acquainted with many of the party officials who had suffered imprisonment and death at Stalin's hands, and `DAN' was his literary response.

`DAN' follows the thoughts of Rubashov as he awaits his fate in prison. Rubashov was previously an important figure in the ruling party, a leading cog in the revolution and government of his country (unnamed in the book, but obviously representing the USSR). He had also personally denounced saboteurs and traitors, and was responsible for many purges. When he is, in turn, arrested, he is force to grapple with the rights and wrongs of the course the communist revolution has taken, and confront the battle between personal tragedy and historical necessity. His opinions and role are examined through his interactions with his interrogators (his former friend Ivanov and the menacing Gletkin), his cell neighbours and his memories.

`DAN' is very similar in themes (and story) to Orwell's `1984', although it is set very much in the real world. What sets it apart, however, is that its protagonist (Rubashov) is not a rebel or an opposition figure. Instead he is a willing supporter of the regime and, though his arrest and imprisonment causes doubts, he is able to rationalise his fate in terms of the ideology that he believed, and still believes in. Thus, despite his position as a victim of oppression, Rubashov is actually able to give a balanced account of the rights and wrongs of his fate, as far as party orthodoxy is concerned. This made `DAN' unique among the views of Stalinism I have read. Aside from this it is very readable, although bleak, and an important and informed comment on European history.
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Still readable at 3 o'clock 3 Jun 2009
By reader 451 TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Totalitarianism isn't as scary or fascinating as it used to be. With the Cold War over, the horrors of the twentieth century receding, the selection has begun among novels that treat of it. Not all will survive; my feeling, for instance, is that Nabokov's Bend Sinister isn't a masterpiece after all. But Darkness at Noon will make it.

The novel begins slowly and somewhat conventionally; in fact, the first few chapters prompted me to the interrogations above. Rubashov has been arrested, even though he is a hero and a party cadre (in all but name, the setting is Stalinist Russia); he is in jail, and it looks as though he is about to be tortured. But Koestler's novel is a political book much more than a treatise about concentration camps or institutional violence. The real struggle takes place within the protagonist's conscience. And we are skilfully, compulsively drawn in.

Koestler's strength is that he is able to voice the Party argument cogently, even convincingly. The debate is real; this is not the trite denunciation we might expect. The ideological dilemma, increasingly hard to appreciate with distance, becomes clear again. If one criticism can be made, it is that Darkness at Noon only denounces left-wing totalitarianism as perversion, not as project. But Koestler was a member of the Communist Party; he fought in Spain and indeed was captured by the Franquists. Like Orwell, he became disabused. His credibility is immense. And what is perhaps most amazing is that this was written in 1940, when Stalinism remained hugely popular. Whether as historical refresher or simply as an absorbing book about conscience, morality, and choice, Darkness at Noon demands to be read.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Darkness at Noon made me feel heavy
It seemed to be a series of character studies and a comparison of reactions to similar problems and moral issues. This book I'm told inspired Animal Farm which I loved. Read more
Published 6 months ago by M E Salmond
5.0 out of 5 stars Great unknown / unlauded book for thinkers.
Ever found yourself compromised by past convictions, hopes and faith?
The characters in the pages of this book don't come alive for me, but the ideas do. Read more
Published 13 months ago by D. E. Pawson
5.0 out of 5 stars Powerful prose produces perfectly poignant play
I arrived at Koestler via Huxley's BNW and Orwell's 1984 - that is to infer I was lead here by supposed similarities in subject matter (despotism) viewed through a distopian lens. Read more
Published 13 months ago by ARWoollock
5.0 out of 5 stars A Haunting and Unsettling Novel
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... Read more
Published 16 months ago by s k
4.0 out of 5 stars One man's death a tragedy...
Koestler's fine book, written at a time when the world was still in disbelief about Stalin and his henchmen, presents the horror and perversion of the ideals of the Revolution in... Read more
Published 18 months ago by Dr. G. SPORTON
5.0 out of 5 stars The dream goes sour..
'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,... Read more
Published on 18 Feb 2012 by os
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
This is a deeply philosophical and mediative book that considers the role of the state in the affairs of its citizens, the rights of the individual and to what degree human... Read more
Published on 23 Feb 2011 by aus_books
5.0 out of 5 stars Depressingly good.
If you want to see despair and disillusionment put onto a page convincingly then read this book.
Published on 30 Jun 2010 by Dick Pearson
5.0 out of 5 stars Darkness at Noon - Vintage version
It's a novel following the character Ruboshov and his imprisonment in an unknown communist country. He was a well known and respected official party member but is held on the... Read more
Published on 12 Mar 2010 by Owen Hughes
4.0 out of 5 stars gripping book with logical fatalism of totalitarian regimes
This relatively short book portraying the rather stark and torrid life of a suspected political deviant under Stalinism. Read more
Published on 1 Jan 2010 by Mr. J. Chick
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