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Darkness at Noon Paperback – 1 Dec 1994
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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)
'One of the few books written in this epoch which will survive it' New StatesmanSee all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.Read more ›
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.
Arthur Koestler (1905-1983) was a person that believed in the progress that Communism was supposed to bring, but that became disillusioned in the way in which that dream was being carried out in the URSS. He wrote many books that give expression to his feelings of disenchantment, but "Darkness at noon" is probably the most popular one.
Not overly long, and very easy to read, this book is the story of Rubashov, an old communist who took part in the revolution and who is very loyal to the "Cause". Strangely enough, he is accused of treason, and taken to jail, where he must face harsh interrogatories. While he is in jail, Rubashov experiences flashbacks that allow us to know more about him, and the things he did due to his devotion to the Party. He betrayed people he loved, and those he appreciated, for no other reason than obedience to the Party and fear of going to jail.
We can have an idea of Rubashov's feelings and ideas all throughout his ordeal thanks to the fact that "Darkness at noon" is written in the first person. After a while, we are Rubashov, and like him we are surprised, outraged, desperate and ultimately resigned to our luck.
In the beginning, Rubashov says that he isn't a traitor and that he hasn't done the things he is accused of. But slowly our main character starts to come to terms with the idea that the truth of the accusation isn't really important, what matters is to serve the country.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
harrowing account of life after revolution where initial idealists are executedPublished 22 months ago by eilsel