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Arrival And Departure (Vintage Classics) Kindle Edition
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The story follows Peter Slavek, an Eastern European communist, who after being tortured by the local regime that already sided with Nazi Germany, manages to escape to a neutral country. While the initial plan is to join the British in fighting Germany, a moral dilemma of sorts develops, where an alternative of a life in the US, free from obligations presents itself.
In the process Koestler has him submit to a round of psychotherapy, to establish his motives for becoming a communist in the first place, and where the desire to fight for the lost cause (of sorts) comes from. This is by far the most interesting aspect of the book and Koestlers widespread knowledge of the field (a modern reader will need to keep in mind that the book was written between 1941 and 1943) clearly shows. In a way it comes across as the author searching and justifying his own championship of lost causes, something he continued to engage in till the end.
In addition to this the book also brings to the modern reader another discovery, namely it shows the marketing message the Nazis used for intelligentsia - not so much based on racial superiority per se but on an efficient, state influenced (but with private ownership) distribution of resources and products and on a technology led new beginning - something much more appealing (even if it was only propaganda) than the message for the 'common man', and a message mostly forgotten today. In essence it very much previewed a vision of the European Union but based on conquest rather than co-operation, the justification being that co-operation with sovereign states was difficult or impossible.
Another element was also of interest - even though the book was written before the end of WW2, when Allies actually got factual evidence of the extermination camps, it contains many very precise descriptions of what was going on there, showing that in-depth knowledge of the holocaust actually existed earlier than was subsequently admitted to.
In conclusion, I would not say that the book is better than Darkness at Noon, it is much more a logical complement to it, written to the same, excellent standard. Reading Koestler: The Indispensable Intellectual (much recommended) in parallel to it will also provide the reader with a bit of perspective on how this book fits in with the author's own life and experiences.
the best thing about it is the way that it pulls apart what drives people to hold certain political views, getting beyond whether they think a certain political philosophy has the correct answers into what psychological factors are at play. why do many people on the Left come from relatively good background when the project of the Left is to improve the lot of the poor and disenfranchised?
it ends with the main character aware that non-political indidents have formed his political outlook, and that his views are as much about his character as about whether he believes in the communist ideology, but he decides in any case that some things are worth fighting for.
well worth reading whether you are political or not if you're interested in what makes political types tick.
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