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on 28 November 2017
Without doubt the very best performance by John LeCarre. The story is beautifully rendered and this excellent work is presented quite brilliantly.
John LeCarre has read many of his own books but this is his very best.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 18 October 2009
The book is a masterpiece - one of the few authors who manages to so plastically portray the mindset of the pre WW2 years - in this case one of the Communist party. It puts both the brutality of the regime, as well as the complicity of many of its victims into perspective, without either condoning, or demonising it.

The book has clearly been written by a master of intellect, writing, as well as someone who has, like Koestler gone through all the phases of infatuation with and then later understanding of the ideology. I have never before read such a logical description of how a completely moral and intelligent individual could justify the participation in the Stalinist (I assume the same holds for other dictatorships of the time) regime, right till the bitter end of their own downfall.

Another book which I found similarly haunting was Anthills of the Savannah (Penguin Modern Classics) by Chinua Achebe, possibly one of the best comparisons.
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on 21 September 2017
For the most part I enjoyed reading this novel, but it was not quite as riveting as Ihad expected it would be (based on reviews here and elsewhere).

I found it had some broad similarities with Kafka's 'The Trial'. The sense of futility, inevitably, frustration and oppression. In some ways it is like an enclosed, more confined version of that.

In the same way that the claustrophobic atmosphere Kafka creates can be quite heavy going for the reader, 'Darkness at Noon' can be a bit difficult to get motivated to return to due to its endless deliberations on ideology. It's not that either of these books are dull or uninteresting, just that the content and tone is pretty unrelenting and their is little in the way of gentle relief between weighty dialogues and mournful reminiscences.

Unlike 'The Trial', I never really had the sense while reading it that 'Darkness at Noon' was going to end any other way. For much of the book the main character seems resigned to his fate and there is never any real suggestion that things will end in any other way than that of which they do.

No doubt this book would have been a lot more impactful and important when it was first written, but these days there are numerous other publications and productions which have explored the futility of the situation Rubashov, the protagonist, finds himself in and the way in which truth can be twisted to suit the needs of any party that has come to prominence under the premise of revolution. To a considerably larger extent the much altered political landscape has also taken a great deal of sting out of Rubashov's tale.

That said, I think it's still an important read, and I was particularly struck on several occasions as to how closely some scenes reminded me of what I have read elsewhere of the awful nature of the regime in North Korea and its dreadful purges and constant pivoting to suit its leader's latest whim.

All in all, a decent read, but lack of characters, relentless ideological deliberations and the never absent sense of inevitability throughout detract from its overall appeal.
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on 22 February 2017
This is a classic, if one imagines the dialogue between Winston Smith and O'Brien in "1984" being turned into an entire novel and darkened this is it.
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on 28 February 1999
...is that the legal apparatus of the state, wielded by officials on whom there are no checks and whose aims are wholly partisan, can terrorize a patriot in the case of the novel or paralyze a president. A population can be held captive for half a century or a nation can be distracted for a year while its media is monopolized. Koestler's hero, facing fictitious charges and and unbridled state power, succumbed. American citizens, faced with subpoena and repetitive questioning, have to resort to legal defense, at their personal expense. Clinton's high crime, because it was shot thru with such low comedy served to focus our attention on the zealotry shared by his accusers and spared us the rhetoric of having been saved from an enemy of the people. Reading this book and attending to the recent demonstration and posturings in DC remind us that the knock on the door in the middle of the night just might be done in the name of "the rule of law".
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on 4 October 2017
one of the greats
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on 13 August 2017
Superb book, essential reading
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on 15 October 2013
It seemed to be a series of character studies and a comparison of reactions to similar problems and moral issues. This book I'm told inspired Animal Farm which I loved. But Darkness at Noon seemed to have no story..It seemed to be a study of psychology/philosophy which I've actually studied and I've lived in totalitarian situations. But I somehow couldn't become part of his story... perhaps resistance. I should say I didn't completely finish the book and friends say the last bit changes things. Maybe one day I'll do that.
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on 9 April 1999
I first read Koestler's Darkness at Noon in high school, close to 30 years ago. Although I cannot recall my earlier reaction to the book, I am certain that I was not prepared, as a 17-year old, to appreciate either the literary beeauty or socio-political importance of Koestler's masterpiece.
I came back to this book for two reasons. I had just finished reading Volkogonov's "Stalin" and "Trotsky" and Solzhenitzyn's Red Wheel (Volume I). Darknesss at Noon seemed to be the next appropriate book to pick up off the shelf.
I had also been reading about the remarks President Clinton made (alluded to by other reviewers) to Sid Blumenthal indicating that he felt "like the prisoner in Darkness at Noon."
It is, perhaps, either a sad testament to human nature, or an indicia of the power of great literature, that the story of the fate of one (fictional) man, Rubashov, can feel more compelling than the narrative description (in "Stalin" and "Trotsky") of the fate of millions.
Further, whereas Volkogonov's works go a long way towards explaining what happened and how it happened, Rubashov's self-crticial analysis, and his dialogues with Ivanov and then Gletkin go a long way towards explaining why the purges happened. It helps explain the mindset of those many, like Rubashov, who confessed their non-existent sins before their ineveitable demise. It also goes a long way to explaing why so many millions of people actively participated in the denunciations that accompanied the purges and show trials.
Clinton's comparison to Rubashov is rich with unintended irony. Perhaps Clinton, like me, had not read the book since high school, and felt that Rubashov was the purely innocent victim of a prosecutorial system run amok. However, Koestler makes it clear that Rubashov was not merely a vicitim of Stalin, or Stalin's henchmen, but of the system that Rubashov (a hero of the revolution) himself played an important role in creating. Rubashov spent a life filled with deceit, manipulation, and even murder, on behalf of his party and its "core values". The doctrine of the end justifying the means was a cornersone of Rubashov's philosphy and morality. Whatever "core values" existed at the beginning of his revolutionary life with the party had long since withered to nothingness by the time of his imprisonment. Consequently, if President Clinton's comparison of himself to Rubashov was based upon the idea that Rubashov was a purely innocent victim, he is just wrong. To the extent Clinton was aware that Rubashov was in no small way responsible for creating the milieu under which this despicable actvity takes place - then he is more self-aware than I had previously given him credit for.
Finally, the book is just darn well-written. Of particular beauty and impact are Rubashov's dialues with his interrogators.
Pick up this book and read it.
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on 26 May 1998
You be the judge. Beautifully written as if Koestler were a pupil of Tolstoy or Dostoevsky, "Darkness at Noon" is one of the most influential books I've ever read. Koestler's use of foreshadowing and symbolism is paralleled only by that of Krzystof Kieslowski's films. The author challenges the reader to constantly think and use their knowledge of post czarist Russian politics to keep up with the clues he leaves for the reader. For example, the author begins each chapter with a passage from Machiavelli, Dostoevsky, or Saint-Just hinting to what the chapter will contain. Koestler also never uses Lenin's name but refers to him as "the old man with the slanting tartar eyes", and refers to Stalin as "No. 1". This book also showcases Koestler's uncanny ability to write dialog between characters. The thought provoking conversations between Rubashov and Ivanov were marvelously written. Even more impressive was the depth given to each character. From Richard, the young German who devoted his life to the movement of the communist party in his country, to Little Loewy, a Dutch dock worker with the same task as Richard, and finally Gletkin, who would succeed Ivanov in becoming Rubashov's tormentor. I highly recommened this book to anyone who loves intelligence and intrigue in their reading. For a truly passionate and realistic view of though Russian politics, read this book.
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