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Scum of the Earth

Scum of the Earth [Kindle Edition]

Arthur Koestler , Roland Laqueur
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)

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Product Description


A powerful and moving story. -- Charles Osbourne, The Sunday Telegraph

By far the best book to come out of the collapse of France. -- The Guardian

Koestler’s personal history of France at war…is, I think, the finest book that has come out of that cauldron. -- The New York Herald Tribune

Some of the finest reportage of the century. -- Adam LeBor, The Literary Review

This is a book in a thousand. -- Byron Rogers, The Standard

Product Description

At the beginning of the Second World War, Koestler was living in the south of France working on Darkness at Noon. After retreating to Paris he was imprisoned by the French as an undesirable alien even though he had been a respected crusader against fascism. Only luck and his passionate energy allowed him to escape the fate of many of the innocent refugees, who were handed over to the Nazis for torture and often execution. Scum of the Earth is more than the story of Koestler’s survival. His shrewd observation of the collapse of French determination to resist during the summer of 1940 is an illustration of what happens when a nation loses its honour and its pride.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 510 KB
  • Print Length: 253 pages
  • Publisher: Eland Publishing (18 May 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B009ZH6VC0
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #174,206 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
97 of 99 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Prison camp psychology and the Fall of France 4 Feb 2002
This is one of the strongest books I have ever read. It details Koestler's internment in France as an "undesirable alien" in the early part of the war, and then his struggle to keep out of the clutches of the Gestapo as the Germans march in and the country collapses in 1940.
It begins almost as travel writing, with Koestler and his girlfriend lazing around in pleasantly bohemian fashion on the Riviera, the increasing tension in 1939 Europe seemingly a million miles away. But back in Paris, Koestler is arrested by the increasingly paranoid French authorities and interned at Le Vernet along with a ragbag collection of other foreigners. Mostly leftists, intellectuals and Jews, they include Spanish Civil War veterans, Russian émigrés, German refugees and sundry unlucky Eastern European immigrants and petty criminals. His description of the people and the hardships encountered during his three months of internment with the dregs of the European Left stands comparison with any other prison camp autobiography, including One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. These are the beaten and bloody remnants of the once heroic International Brigades, betrayed by Stalin, by France and by each other -the titular Scum of the Earth.
The rest of the book follows Koestler through his release, his return to Paris, his attempts to leave for England legitimately, and his final chaotic escape through a disintegrating France. Again, the observations on the mentality of the French people and the French state faced with Hitler are incredibly acute and clear-eyed. However the most vivid feeling you take from the book is the hysterical fear, despair and disgust that grows on Koestler as the Nazis advance.
I'd recommend this book to everybody .
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A band on the run 10 Feb 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I'm aware that telling readers that before they dip into this book, they should read other works by the author, but to really understand Scum of the Earth properly, one has to read some more Koestler of this period. I apologise !

The background of Scum of the Earth is pure autobiography, with only some names changed for protection (including that of his then partner, the Englsh sculptress Daphne Hardy) To put it simply, Koestler was caught in France by the outbreak of war and, as a foreigner (a Hungarian national) and a known anti-Fascist, was promptly arrested and interned by the Daladier Government. He spent the first nine months of war mostly in a prison camp, then, during the collapse of France, escaped and travelled by devious routes to England. These included the remarkable device of enlisting in the French Foreign Legion on the very day of the French surrender, hoping to use his new status to piggy back to French North Africa.

But it is not just this simple. Koestler was known to the French (and to the government of many nations - including Nazi Germany) as a Communist, and a Communist who had taken part in both revolutionary activities and journalism - a dangerous combination.

Indeed, Koestler knew very well what his fate was to be if the German caught him, for some years before he had been imprisoned and sentenced to death as a spy by Franco's rebel Spanish administration, He had been caught 'bang to rights' as he had been using his cover as the British News Chronicle reporter in Nationalist Spain to spy on what was happening behind the lines - including gaining entree to Franco's own HQ - and then passing on the information gleaned directly to the Comintern in Moscow.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars History Come Alive 8 April 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I have just rediscovered Koestler and I'm glad I did. Apart from reading the two volume autobiography, I read this in between. What started out as a browse before finishing my other Koestler volume, I found that I was unable to put this book down. Koestler is so eloquent and is a delight to read. His description of the fall of France in 1939/1940 as an alien is unbelieveable. It appears that foreigners in France at that time were treated abominably. Not only was this reportage of events in France at that sad time, it was also a highly readable adventure story.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Despair in France........1940 3 Oct 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The feeling of being hunted....the germans closing in.....few autobiographical accounts seem as devoid of hope as this classic account of novelist Koestlers attempts to flee the occupying Germans in the summer of 1940.

At the outset,he is another emigrem,supposedly safe in France from the fascist hordes on all three sides but then the Germans are coming, flight to Spain is out of the question, the Italians are expected in Provence where he is staying, so he sets off for Paris...

From then on its amazing stories of the appalling treatment of France's refugee class even before surrender to the Germans. Koestler waits for days to be spoken to, sleeping in a barn ,waiting with hundreds of other anti-facists,.

Then the incarcerations begin, the tone becomes heavier, the germans start to over-run France, the allies are in tatters and Koestler is on the run again, remembering Spain where he saw the Fascists win a few years before.

Well worth reading as another viewpoint on the disasters of 1940...
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Gives you an amazing insight into France's capitulation to Germany...
Incredible book. Gives you an amazing insight into France's capitulation to Germany during world war II from the view point of foreigners there at that time. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Juan C. Grana
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 3 months ago by Mrs Virginia L Holly
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
thank you
Published 5 months ago by rosie2
4.0 out of 5 stars A very personal perspective
Hungarian born journalist, writer, sometime communist and anti nazi Arthur Koestler, charts the outbreak of the Second World War through his own experience. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Mel Powell
5.0 out of 5 stars READ IT NOW
Brilliant. powerful, history that's as timely as ever. If Koestler were alive today, he would no doubt have much that would be incisive to say about our surveillance state.
Published 5 months ago by BKBabe
4.0 out of 5 stars Has come good bits
Of course this is a classic. The actions and thoughts of the French in the run-up and invasion in 1940 are better shown here than in any other writing I think. .. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Mr. M. Macrae
5.0 out of 5 stars Good book
Interested why France capitulated so quickly at the start of 2nd world war well worth reading by someone who was there
Published 13 months ago by Peter Spence
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Memoir from 1941 during the French Capitulation
Arthur Koestler was a known Communist that turned anti-Communist and anti-Fascist. He wrote several works that acted as memoirs from various time periods in this life. Read more
Published on 13 Oct 2010 by Burgmicester
5.0 out of 5 stars Forgotten classic of wartime
..What lends this book its immediacy is that it was written, and published, while the war was still in progress and the good guys weren't winning; also that instead of the usual... Read more
Published on 21 Mar 2002
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