7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Thank you Michael Scammell,
This review is from: Koestler: The Indispensable Intellectual (Hardcover)
I have been an ardent admirer of Koestler's ideas and writings for 25 yeards now. As you can guess, I was rather shocked when I read David Cesarani's biography of Koestler ("The Homeless Mind" : 1999).
Using the story of one woman 50 years after the event as a case for proving that Koestler was a "serial rapist".
I have read a lot of biographies in my life and I am convinced that a decent biographer would have been more careful and just mentioned it and left it at that.
Nobody will ever be able to prove what happened; but after this book nobody will be able to disprove it either. The book utterly destroyed Koestler's reputation when it came out. And mine as well...
Michael Scammel has just published a new biography of Arthur Koestler : "The Indispensable Intellectual".
Thank you Michael Scammell for putting things in a clearer perspective and raising some very convincing question marks around the whole story. Thank you also for writing the first biography that goes beyond retelling Koestler's own autobiography.
We must never forget that Koestler has always been despised as a 'renegade' by jews and communists alike. Cesarani, in the introduction of his book mentions the revulsion the name Koestler provoked when his own father heard Koestler's name; his father still being a dedicated communist.
I don't know whether Cesarani is a Jew, but he surely has strong Jewish sympathies if you look at his literary output. I am convinced that Cesarani, while writing his biography of Arthur Koestler, could not withstand the temptation of settling a score. Offcourse I can not prove any of this...
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Initial post: 20 Oct 2010 21:00:42 BDT
Great review Edwin, I find it interesting what you say about Cesarani because those were my conclusions exactly. 'The Homeless Mind' is a disgraceful attack on Koestler disguised as biography. This is an excerpt from my scathing review of the book:
'Leaving aside the validity of his statements regarding the Jewish people, it is quite clear when looking at all his works, mostly with absolutely no connection with Judaism, that his Jewishness was not a personal obsession. This is where the author's personal feelings come into play and prevent his assessment of Koestler from being objective. As an important writer of books on Jewish-related themes, he has made a great contribution in that field, and I believe initially his intentions were good in helping keep Koestler's memory alive. Sadly, the removal of Koestler's bust from the University of Edinburgh following the belief that Koestler was a 'serial rapist' show just how alive and well Koestler's favourite concept of Bathwaterism is. One does not label another a serial rapist until that individual has been found guilty in a court of law, and Cesarani's evidence for this is seriously lacking. Thus, he may have brought Koestler's name back into the public eye, but at the great cost of blackening a great man's life.
It must be remembered that Cesarani is a typical specimen of the species 'Homo Castratus', who sees female abuse in one-night stands, tolerates female adultery but not male (many of his Koestler's girlfriends were two-timing him, or were married women cheating on their husbands), and sees debauchery in an all-nighter at a nightclub. How he'd judge half the people I know, male or female, would be interesting. What is evident though, is that one would have to live the life of a saint to come through the Cesarani PC-analysis unscathed. The bigger problem, though, is that Cesarani allows his disapproval of Koestler's lifestyle (which one can't help wondering if he secretly envies, so extreme is his criticism) to cloud his judgement of Koestler's work too, resulting in him giving a negative slant whenever possible, while glossing over Koestler's good side, like his extreme generosity (such as setting up a fund to support penniless emigrant writers, helping out a number of strangers who asked for financial help through the post, being overly generous to ex-wives and girlfriends, etc). According to Cesarani, Koestler's greatest work is his journalism, this despite the impact The Act of Creation and The Ghost in the Machine had on the academic world, and the multitude of symposia and congresses he was invited to as a result, besides the doctorate and honorary degrees he later received. It seems Cesarani is saying the hundreds of academics who respected Koestler's contributions to science were all wrong, were all fooled by a novelist turned pseudo-scientist. But in fairness to Cesarani, one must compare his life as a modern American university professor, living in the PC-minefield that is the modern American university, with that of Koestler's, a seemingly endless round of drinking, partying, women vying for his attention, as well as artistic and commercial success, all a result of his unique talent plus a charismatic and sociable personality. When one makes this comparison, the reasons for Cesarani's envy become only too clear.
As far as the allegations of hating women go, keep in mind that Koestler maintained close relations with most of his ex-girlfriends and ex-wives until his death, and helped out his ex-wives on numerous occasions long after their separations. The most vigorous supporters of Koestler were often women, including many who Cesarani accuses of abusing or raping! On the contrary, Koestler both loved and needed women in his life. Far from hating them, if anything, he simply loved them too much...'
In reply to an earlier post on 30 Oct 2010 01:56:27 BDT
Edwin Camerlynck says:
As a voice alone in the desert, I started having doubts; began to think I was seeing ghosts.
Thanks Michael for reassuring me...
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