I cannot remember any other book I have recently read which so deeply touched me than this one. Perhaps Vasily Grossman's Life and Fate. It could be so because I myself went trough similar experiences in the USSR in the nineteen seventies Koestler went through in the nineteen thirties. He was there during the peak of the Ukrainian famine 1932-1933 which claimed several million victims, one of the most horrific periods in Soviet history ( brilliantly demonstrated in Grossman's Everything Flows ), so my comparison may seem inappropriate, yet it is his reaction to the reality of everyday Soviet life which reminded me of my own.
The crux of the whole book is Koestler's disappointment with Communism and the agonizingly slow and painful process to change the mindset of a true believer, himself. The incredible counter arguments one comes up with to explain the Soviet excesses and to justify the unjustifiable are so vivid that they can be applied today to the West's attitude towards Islamist terror almost without change. For this reason alone The Invisible Writing should be widely read, and not read only by nostalgic men in their 50s and students of political science, as one critic put it .
Sometimes a paragraph in a book illustrates better what transpired in a certain historical period than all the books on history one reads. Here is Koestler's take on German women, 1932:
During the carnival season Of 1932, Ehrendorf went to a dance and picked up a tall, pretty blonde. She wore a large swastika brooch on her breast, was about nineteen or twenty, gay, uninhibited and brimful of healthy animal spirits-in short, the ideal Hitler-Madchen of the Brave New World. After the dance, Ehrendorf persuaded her to go back with him to his flat, where she met his advances more than half-way. Then, at the climactic moment, the girl raised herself on one elbow, stretched out the other arm in the Roman salute, and breathed in a dying voice a fervent 'Heil Hitler'. Poor Ehrendorf nearly had a stroke. When he had recovered, the blonde sweetie explained to him that she and a bunch of her girl friends had taken a solemn vow, pledging themselves 'to remember the Fuehrer every time at the most sacred moment in a woman's life'.