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The Autobiography as a Work of Art
on 12 January 2010
It is a mystery to me why this book doesn't have as many fans as it ought to, although considering Koestler's other works it is up against a lot of competition. Seldom have I been as captivated by an autobiography as I was with this one, what with the fascinating stories of Arthur's life interspersed with his unique perspectives on many questions of politics, psychology, religion, philosophy and more. An account of his life from 1905-31 in 415 pages, fans of Koestler's earlier works (pre 1952) will recognize a lot of material here though, as he often quotes from his own books where he obviously feels he's described something best. The accounts of his student life in the duelling fraternities of 1920s Vienna, his attempted settlement in Palestine, experiences as a journalist in pre-Hitler Berlin, travels in the Soviet Union in the early thirties, even a trip to the North Pole in the Graf Zeppelin are all equally absorbing. But it would just be another well-written autobiography if it wasn't for the unique wisdom and insight of Koestler, which shines through these pages, resulting in a book which is a must-read for both Koestler fans and the casual reader. It will no doubt leave you thirsting for part 2, The Invisible Writing (which covers 1932-40 in 526 pages), a more run-of-the-mill autobiography without as much of the philosophizing of part 1, but still enjoyable in its own right.