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Darkness at Noon (from the German: Sonnenfinsternis) is a novel by the Hungarian-born British novelist Arthur Koestler, first published in 1940. His best-known work tells the tale of Rubashov, a Bolshevik 1917 revolutionary who is cast out, imprisoned and tried for treason by the Soviet government he'd helped create. Darkness at Noon stands as an unequaled fictional portray Darkness at Noon (from the German: Sonnenfinsternis) is a novel by the Hungarian-born British novelist Arthur Koestler, first published in 1940. His best-known work tells the tale of Rubashov, a Bolshevik 1917 revolutionary who is cast out, imprisoned and tried for treason by the Soviet government he'd helped create. Darkness at Noon stands as an unequaled fictional portrayal of the nightmare politics of our time. Its hero is an aging revolutionary, imprisoned and psychologically tortured by the Party to which he has dedicated his life. As the pressure to confess preposterous crimes increases, he relives a career that embodies the terrible ironies and human betrayals of a totalitarian movement masking itself as an instrument of deliverance. Almost unbearably vivid in its depiction of one man's solitary agony, it asks questions about ends and means that have relevance not only for the past but for the perilous present. It is —- as the Times Literary Supplement has declared —- "A remarkable book, a grimly fascinating interpretation of the logic of the Russian Revolution, indeed of all revolutionary dictatorships, and at the same time a tense and subtly intellectualized drama."


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Darkness at Noon (from the German: Sonnenfinsternis) is a novel by the Hungarian-born British novelist Arthur Koestler, first published in 1940. His best-known work tells the tale of Rubashov, a Bolshevik 1917 revolutionary who is cast out, imprisoned and tried for treason by the Soviet government he'd helped create. Darkness at Noon stands as an unequaled fictional portray Darkness at Noon (from the German: Sonnenfinsternis) is a novel by the Hungarian-born British novelist Arthur Koestler, first published in 1940. His best-known work tells the tale of Rubashov, a Bolshevik 1917 revolutionary who is cast out, imprisoned and tried for treason by the Soviet government he'd helped create. Darkness at Noon stands as an unequaled fictional portrayal of the nightmare politics of our time. Its hero is an aging revolutionary, imprisoned and psychologically tortured by the Party to which he has dedicated his life. As the pressure to confess preposterous crimes increases, he relives a career that embodies the terrible ironies and human betrayals of a totalitarian movement masking itself as an instrument of deliverance. Almost unbearably vivid in its depiction of one man's solitary agony, it asks questions about ends and means that have relevance not only for the past but for the perilous present. It is —- as the Times Literary Supplement has declared —- "A remarkable book, a grimly fascinating interpretation of the logic of the Russian Revolution, indeed of all revolutionary dictatorships, and at the same time a tense and subtly intellectualized drama."

30 review for Darkness at Noon

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jeffrey Keeten

    ”This is a diseased century. We diagnosed the disease and its causes with microscopic exactness, but wherever we applied the healing knife a new sore appeared. Our will was hard and pure, we should have been loved by the people. But they hate us. Why are we so odious and detested? We brought you truth, and in our mouth it sounded a lie. We brought you freedom, and it looks in our hands like a whip. We brought you the living life, and where our voices is heard the trees wither and there is a rustli ”This is a diseased century. We diagnosed the disease and its causes with microscopic exactness, but wherever we applied the healing knife a new sore appeared. Our will was hard and pure, we should have been loved by the people. But they hate us. Why are we so odious and detested? We brought you truth, and in our mouth it sounded a lie. We brought you freedom, and it looks in our hands like a whip. We brought you the living life, and where our voices is heard the trees wither and there is a rustling of dry leaves. We brought you the promise of the future, but our tongue stammered and barked.... Nicholas Salmanovitch Rubashov is arrested. Soviet Prison Doors Similar to the one that Rubashov found himself behind. “Occasionally words must serve to veil the facts. But this must happen in such a way that no one become aware of it; or, if it should be noticed, excuses must be at hand, to be produced immediately.” Machiavelli The Old Bolsheviks that brought communism to power in Russia are being eliminated one by one by their once friend and colleague referred to in the book as No. 1, but of course he is none other than Joseph Stalin. The young revolutionary Joseph Stalin. Rubashov has been in trouble with the party before, but had always managed to do what was necessary to survive. The new generation of revolutionaries are not as well educated, meaner, and barely recognize the names of those that were once heralded as heroes by the revolution. As Rubashov sits in prison he is left to ponder what has went wrong. ”We whip the groaning masses of the country towards a theoretical future happiness, which only we can see. For the energies of this generation are exhausted; they were spent in the Revolution; for this generation is bled white and there is nothing left of it but a moaning, numbed apathetic lump of sacrificial flesh....Those are the consequences of our consequentialness. You called it vivisection morality. To me it sometimes seems as though the experimenters had torn the skin off the victim and left it standing with bared tissues, muscles and nerves.... Rubashov does not have a safety net of friends, most have perished, some were betrayed by his silence when he was in a position to save them. He is left with his mind and his words to try to once again escape ”PHYSICAL LIQUIDATION” His fellow inmates communicate with him through a tapping code. They are less than impressed to find out who he is; in fact, the only use he has to #402 is to share his last sexual encounter...in detail please. ”WHEN DID YOU LAST SLEEP WITH A WOMAN?” “THREE WEEKS AGO.” “TELL ME ALL ABOUT IT.” “SNOWY BREASTS FITTING INTO CHAMPAGNE GLASSES.” “GO ON. DETAILS.” “THIGHS LIKE A WILD MARE.” “GOOD CHAP! GO ON.” “THAT’S ALL.” “GO ON- PLEASE, PLEASE...” Rubashov becomes too embarrassed to go on. He has more thinking to do. More explaining to do to himself. He has two interrogators. One is Ivanov an old friend and comrade from the revolution and the other is Gletkin a man of the new generation whose stiff uniform “creaks and groans” every time he moves. One is trying to save him and one is trying to kill him. In his diary Rubashov is still justifying his past decisions. He still believes in the movement, but is disenchanted with the people. ”In periods of maturity it is the duty and the function of the opposition to appeal to the masses. In periods of mental immaturity, only demagogues invoke the higher judgment of the people. In such situations the opposition has two alternatives: to seize the power by a coup d’etat, without being able to count on the support of the masses; or in mute despair to throw themselves out of the swing--to die in silence.” He is an intellectual intellectualizing what is looking like a failed improvement in government. Lots of people die and more will continue to die and when you ask the peasants if their lives are better than they were four years ago or forty years ago or two hundred and forty years ago the answer is the same....no. The revolutionaries turn out to be as brutal as the Czarist government they overthrew and since we know that Stalin is only warming up by the publication date (1940) of this book we know it will get much, much worse. Stalin had nearly a million of his own citizens executed, beginning in the 1930s. Millions more fell victim to forced labor, deportation, famine, massacres, and detention and interrogation by Stalin's henchmen. "In some cases, a quota was established for the number to be executed, the number to be arrested," said Naimark. "Some officials overfulfilled as a way of showing their exuberance." Joseph Stalin Things do not go well for Rubashov. His mind has been degraded from lack of sleep and he has decided the easiest way to go is to admit guilt on certain points. ”He had believed that he had drunk the cup of humiliation to the dregs. Now he was to find that powerlessness had as many grads as power; that defeat could become as vertiginous as victory, and that its depths were bottomless.” I do not really like Rubashov. I do though identify with him enough to feel uncomfortable. I find that most revolutionary/ideological people are frankly irresponsible. They overthrow a government, but are generally so paranoid that they resort to the same or worse tactics as the original government to keep control. They justify their actions by saying such things are necessary for “the cause”. We were lucky in our revolution in the United States because it was more about expelling a foreign power from our shores than it was about overthrowing a government. Our Revolutionary Heroes, after the war, were willing to share a certain amount of power with the people. Freedom was more important to them than power. Although the revolution was more about greed (how dare thee tax me) than about being oppressed. This country, by the wisdom of our forefathers,was built on a foundation of freedom and sometimes we have to remind ourselves of those principles. Russia is a country that continues to wrestle with their identity. They need strong leadership confident enough to allow their society to be ruled by freedom rather than by fear. I do hope they find a way to throw off the shackles of their history and become the amazing country I know they are capable of being. Bucket list: grand tour of Russia. Arthur Koestler Arthur Koestler, Hungarian by birth, certainly was a man with a controversial past. He joined the Foreign Legion during World War Two and deserted. He attempted suicide when he thought that his manuscript of this book along with his girlfriend Daphne Hardy had been sunk by the Germans. It turned out not to be true. It is unclear which he was more upset about losing. He became a British citizen and later in life he successfully committed suicide when he found out he was terminally ill with cancer. He convinced his much younger wife to commit suicide as well. Their mutual friends felt that he must have bullied her into it. He was also accused of being a "serial rapist" although some of this was “explained away” by the fact that he was a “rough lover”. Despite his failings as a human being he did write an important book that will be read and quoted long past the time when anyone will really remember there ever was a USSR. If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit http://www.jeffreykeeten.com I also have a Facebook blogger page at: https://www.facebook.com/JeffreyKeeten

  2. 4 out of 5

    Ahmad Sharabiani

    Sonnenfinsternis = Darkness at Noon, c1940, Arthur Koestler Darkness at Noon (German: Sonnenfinsternis) is a novel by Hungarian-born British novelist Arthur Koestler, first published in 1940. His best known work, it is the tale of Rubashov, an Old Bolshevik who is arrested, imprisoned, and tried for treason against the government that he had helped to create. تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز بیستم ماه سپتامبر سال 2001 میلادی عنوان: ظلمت در نیمروز؛ نویسنده: آرتور کوستلر (کستلر)؛ مترجم: اسدالله امرایی؛ ویراست Sonnenfinsternis = Darkness at Noon, c1940, Arthur Koestler Darkness at Noon (German: Sonnenfinsternis) is a novel by Hungarian-born British novelist Arthur Koestler, first published in 1940. His best known work, it is the tale of Rubashov, an Old Bolshevik who is arrested, imprisoned, and tried for treason against the government that he had helped to create. تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز بیستم ماه سپتامبر سال 2001 میلادی عنوان: ظلمت در نیمروز؛ نویسنده: آرتور کوستلر (کستلر)؛ مترجم: اسدالله امرایی؛ ویراستار: غلامحسین سالمی؛ تهران، نقش و نگار، 1379؛ در 240 ص؛ شابک: 9646235239؛ موضوع: داستانهای نویسندگان مجارستانی سده 20 م مترجم: مژده دقیقی؛ تهران، ماهی، 1391؛ در 245 ص؛ شابک: 9789642091324؛ مترجم: محمود ریاضی؛ علی اسلامی؛ تهران، در 230 ص مترجم: ناصرقلی نوذری؛ تهران، در 184 ص ظلمت در نیمروز، بازنمایی دادگاه‌های نمایشی، و تصفیه‌ های استالینیستی ست، که یکسال پیش از جنگ جهانگیر دوم، در شوروی اوج گرفت. روباشوف، شخصیت اصلی داستان، از رهبران انقلاب سال 1917 میلادی ست، که تحت بازجویی‌های دشوار، به اعمالی اعتراف می‌کند، که هرگز از او سر نزده است. روباشوف، شخصیتی خیالی ست، اما کوستلر، او را براساس ویژگی‌های رهبران فکری انقلاب بلشویکی، و سیاستمداران برجسته‌ ی شوروی، خلق کرده است، و شرح زندان، و اعترافات او، بازتابش آرای سیاسی آنروزهاست. ظلمت در نیمروز، از تأثیرگذارترین رمان‌های سیاسی سده بیستم میلادی و در زمره‌ ی مهم‌ترین آثار روشنفکری، علیه کمونیسم به‌ شمار می‌رود. بسیاری این کتاب را، نقطه‌ ی عطفی در گذر از دهه‌ ی 1930 میلادی در سال‌های جنگ سرد شمرده‌ اند. ا. شربیانی

  3. 5 out of 5

    Edward

    The back of my 1972 copy of Darkness at Noon claims that it is "one of the few books written in this epoch which will survive it." To me, Darkness at Noon seems like a book on the verge of being forgotten. It's almost never on the shelves in bookstores or libraries, and I rarely hear it discussed. I don't think it's taught in schools, at least in my part of the world. Perhaps with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of communism and the Cold War, the importance of the great revolutions The back of my 1972 copy of Darkness at Noon claims that it is "one of the few books written in this epoch which will survive it." To me, Darkness at Noon seems like a book on the verge of being forgotten. It's almost never on the shelves in bookstores or libraries, and I rarely hear it discussed. I don't think it's taught in schools, at least in my part of the world. Perhaps with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of communism and the Cold War, the importance of the great revolutions of the 20th Century and their ensuing brutal authoritarian regimes is appearing less and less relevant to the current and future global political landscape. Maybe they are being interpreted as more of a political aberration - an anomaly, rather than an important and lasting historical trend. Stalin is long gone, taking the immediacy of Darkness at Noon with him. But this is a book to be viewed through a much wider lens. I will concede that Darkness at Noon certainly doesn't resonate as clearly with the current state of the world as does Nineteen Eighty-Four, with which it is often compared. But Darkness at Noon is nonetheless a wonderfully profound and important book. It can be compared to Orwell's novel not only for its vision of a totalitarian political state, but also for its penetrating insights into human nature and psychology. Koestler explores the nature and substance of conviction: how belief in an ideology can skew moral judgement and cause people to rationalise their actions within the ideological framework. He exposes logic as a dangerously unreliable tool - one that can be used to justify any course of action, given a sufficiently corrupt set of starting assumptions. He offers a glimpse into the means by which idealistic intentions can develop into totalitarian realities, and how ideology can propagate throughout the political ranks in a process that selects for proponents and perpetuates and reinforces itself. Although the tone of the writing itself may be somewhat simple and declarative, the execution of these ideas and themes within the narrative is expertly done. There is bleakness, but also humour in the writing. There is a close narrative voice that draws the reader by degrees into the mind of Rubashov. It is a slow untangling of a convoluted web of beliefs, actions and justifications. We observe the internal oscillation in perspective that both creates and dismisses crimes when actions align with or oppose a particular ideological position, and in the next moment we see the inversion of Rubashov's previous judgement when its axioms are called into question. This is a corrupted morality based on the perpetuation of the system, rather than on any real concept of right and wrong. At the core of Rubashov's story is the struggle of youth against age. Those who become old earn the wisdom to see the folly of their own youthful ideals, but they must now be judged by the young, whose values have been shaped by the systems that those very ideals put into place. There is a twisted irony to this perpetual struggle, and an inevitability which favors the side with energy, boldness and conviction, against that with patience, wisdom and reflection. Stalin may be gone, but human nature remains unchanged.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

    Oh, how I do love those Russians! Plus I'm hoping reading this will make me feel better about my own life, which lately feels like a grim, freezing Stalinist dystopia of gray hopeless days. It could be worse, right? ----- I've got a lot of work to do tonight, and somehow I thought this would be an excellent time to go back and review Darkness at Noon. MUCH bigger priority than getting work done, wouldn't you say....? Well, so, okay, this book was a little bit bleak. Yeah, not the feel-good date nov Oh, how I do love those Russians! Plus I'm hoping reading this will make me feel better about my own life, which lately feels like a grim, freezing Stalinist dystopia of gray hopeless days. It could be worse, right? ----- I've got a lot of work to do tonight, and somehow I thought this would be an excellent time to go back and review Darkness at Noon. MUCH bigger priority than getting work done, wouldn't you say....? Well, so, okay, this book was a little bit bleak. Yeah, not the feel-good date novel of the year, not this one! Darkness at Noon conveys the brutality and claustrophobia of the prison cell and interrogation room, and you kind of do feel like you're there, toothache and hunger and all, and okay let's be honest: it isn't much fun. This story, such as it is, covers the madcap adventures of one Mr. Rubashov, a revolutionary who is in the process of being purged by the vaguely Stalinesque "Number One," leader of the Party that Rubashov helped to create. Now, if you think this sounds reminiscent of the delightful 1960s television show The Prisoner, think again! Actually, I bet whoever dreamed up The Prisoner had read this book a few times....But don't get excited. There are no bicycles, womb chairs, or hot mod girls in striped shirts here. There is only the cell, and the Party, and Rubashov's thoughts -- oh, and his pince-nez, and the tapping guy next door, and a few tortured memories.... but really there's pretty much only Rubashov, and the Party. This was a helpful book for a girl who grew up in Berkeley, California, where they put red diapers on their babies and give the children Che Guevara dolls to play with (Barbie's considered counter-revolutionary). As a good homegrown lefty, I've always been a bit baffled by the Red Scare, and why exactly people get soooooo hysterical about communism. I mean, obviously I understand why people get so freaked out about Stalin, but I mean like communism and all that sort of thing more generally.... and this book did give me a better sense of what that's about. I think I do get a bit more what it is that freaky people like Ayn Rand or whoever are reacting against: it's this idea of subordinating one's self -- in this book, the first-person singular pronoun is called a "grammatical fiction" -- in service of a presumed "greater good," and it's about the deeply unpleasant places one arrives at in following that line of thought to its logical conclusion. I didn't love this book, but I thought it was successful at conveying this idea well through the form of the novel. The reader is in Rubashov's head -- truly stuck just with him and his thoughts while he sits in solitary confinement awaiting his torture and death -- and what works well here is that disorienting experience of occupying the person of an individual who's in denial of his and everyone else's own individual personhood. Koestler's really emphasized the individuality and humanity of all the book's characters -- even minor ones -- in a way that makes them each distinctive and memorable, and this heightens the sense that there is something seriously wrong with Rubashov's world view. You get (or I got) the eerie feeling of this empty character who's hollowed himself out into a sort of vessel for the Party, but who still retains some sense of individual humanity he suddenly experiences while confronting death. Then I think that there's some trick there on the reader when this soulless, unsympathetic character begins experiencing cognitive dissonance in confronting his own sense of individual humanity, and the reader sort of gets sucked along after him, even if we started out ahead.... at least, that's kind of what happened to me. On the one hand, this book is agitprop, and on the other, it's a pretty decent novel.... but really there aren't two hands, or if there are, they're cuffed together, or intertwined or something. I mean, there really isn't a novel here without the political stuff, and I sort of feel like I took two main things away from this. First, Darkness at Noon is not just about Stalin but is a specific critique of the left which says that at its extreme, this political philosophy crushes the individual in service of Humanity. Okay, so this is obvious, overly rehearsed stuff, as is its counterpart that the right's extreme crushes Humanity in service of the individual. Blah blah blah blah, who cares, right? I mean, I do. But it's not news. Though I did benefit from and appreciate the anti-communist perspective, what I ultimately took away from this was beyond the narcissism of left/right differences. When you turn out the lights, those colors and distinctions go away, and then there you are, in a dark cell. Torture and murder by the state certainly didn't start with Stalin or end with -- ahem -- any recent administrations, and personally if I were arrested and tortured, I wouldn't be too overly concerned with the political nuances of the state doing it. I take Darkness at Noon to be saying, on some level, that the state is just scary. Politics is dangerous, because it leads to this construction of "ends" and "means," and that just doesn't usually go anywhere good. I mean, therein lies the road to extraordinary rendition via unmarked planes to Syria or whatever.... and a lotta other real icky stuff. This book got me thinking about a troubling phenomenon I've always been stuck on, which is how so many activists and such with lovely leftist politics (I don't really know any right-wing activists, so I can't speak on that) very often treat the individuals in their lives like total shit. I mean, clearly not all, but enough to be noticeable, and I've always really wondered about that. My difficulty dealing with really political people on a personal level is one major reason why I'm not more politically active myself, and this book fed into my bias about that. Can most people only really focus on either the individual in the foreground or humanity in the background? Do we lack the lens to see both clearly at the same time? I think Koestler's saying people can't, or at least, people can't in a totalitarian communist state, which is perhaps not a point that needs much belaboring. Anyway, this was a pretty good book, and I'm glad that I read it. While reading Kiss of the Spider Woman afterwards, I couldn't stop drawing parallels between Valentin and Rubashov, and thinking about how much happier Rubashov could have been if only they'd given him a gay cinophile for a cellmate.... Alas, it was not to be. By the way, apparently Bill Clinton commented during the whole Lewinsky shitshow that he felt like Rubashov in Darkness at Noon, which to me seems like a very shocking and self-indicting statement, considering the details of the novel (here's a little article about that)

  5. 5 out of 5

    Manny

    An Announcement Concerning the Class Traitor Not After a scrupulously fair trial in the Amazon People's Court, Comrade Not has been found guilty of posting an ideologically unsound review. To protect other comrades from the possibility of being seduced into thought-crime, the review has now been removed from the community area. Amazon has also offered Not a course of reeducation. Their representatives arrived promptly at 4 am yesterday morning, and courteously but firmly helped Not to understand An Announcement Concerning the Class Traitor Not After a scrupulously fair trial in the Amazon People's Court, Comrade Not has been found guilty of posting an ideologically unsound review. To protect other comrades from the possibility of being seduced into thought-crime, the review has now been removed from the community area. Amazon has also offered Not a course of reeducation. Their representatives arrived promptly at 4 am yesterday morning, and courteously but firmly helped Not to understand her dialectical misconceptions. Since her reeducation course, Comrade Not's behavior has been much improved. She has not written any more ideologically dubious posts, but sits in front of the TV, watching Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and weeping quietly. It is truly a privilege to count myself a member of the Glorious Amazon Online Republic of Goodreads.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jack

    A 20th-century classic that succeeds on two levels: As a searing indictment of totalitarian political systems, and as an absorbing human drama. My initial feeling of revulsion toward the protagonist, Rubashov -- a former high-ranking government functionary, now imprisoned and charged with crimes against the state -- ultimately gave way to a grudging sense of compassion. At the story's climax I somehow resisted the urge to set down the book, walk down the hallway, and start drumming my hands on m A 20th-century classic that succeeds on two levels: As a searing indictment of totalitarian political systems, and as an absorbing human drama. My initial feeling of revulsion toward the protagonist, Rubashov -- a former high-ranking government functionary, now imprisoned and charged with crimes against the state -- ultimately gave way to a grudging sense of compassion. At the story's climax I somehow resisted the urge to set down the book, walk down the hallway, and start drumming my hands on my bedroom door. (An "inside" reference, for those who have read this book). Recommended to fans of George Orwell's 1984. George really liked Darkness at Noon; there's a good chance you'll like it, too. In closing: How come there's never been a major theatrical film adaptation of this book? It would make a fine period piece, and I'd love to see it on the big screen. Until then...five stars.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Michael Finocchiaro

    Darkness at Noon is a haunting picture of life in the darkest era of Stalinist Russia inside a political prison. The protagonist is Rubashov, an Old Bolshevik who is arrested and tried for treason by the government that he helped create. Vividly realistic, Koestler paints the life of Rubashov in his prison cell, his wall-tapping conversations with other inmates, his memories of life outside and some of the crimes he committed and the rationalizations for them, as well as his confrontation with h Darkness at Noon is a haunting picture of life in the darkest era of Stalinist Russia inside a political prison. The protagonist is Rubashov, an Old Bolshevik who is arrested and tried for treason by the government that he helped create. Vividly realistic, Koestler paints the life of Rubashov in his prison cell, his wall-tapping conversations with other inmates, his memories of life outside and some of the crimes he committed and the rationalizations for them, as well as his confrontation with his jailers - the ill-fated former friend Ivanov, and the brutish and violent neanderthal Gletkin of the starched sleeves and "harsh" methods. The story moves rather quickly and the reader is drawn into the story almost immediately with the difficulty in positioning with respect to Rubashov - he is a victim of an injustice and we want to feel sorry for him and yet he himself has innocent blood on his hands, lots of blood from people he threw overboard in the system (knowing it meant the victims' certain death so he is also repulsive. This ambiguity makes the book an engaging read cover to cover. As many countries shift towards authoritarian regimes, this is a timely book to read about the harsh realities for those who are not elites and even those elites who fall out of favor politically and are flattened by the machine of the state. A must.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Perry

    I need reminders from time to time, like those in this novel, of psychological and moral atrocities, of the hyper-viciousness of a pack lead by unstable maniacs and sociopaths. Darkness at Noon is a chilling novel about Nicholas Salmanovitch Rubashov, an old Bolshevik, formerly Commissar of the People, and a leader in the 1917 Russian REVolution, who is imprisoned during Stalin's purges after he speaks out against the tyranny of his former comrades. These former comrades torture Rubashov and bre I need reminders from time to time, like those in this novel, of psychological and moral atrocities, of the hyper-viciousness of a pack lead by unstable maniacs and sociopaths. Darkness at Noon is a chilling novel about Nicholas Salmanovitch Rubashov, an old Bolshevik, formerly Commissar of the People, and a leader in the 1917 Russian REVolution, who is imprisoned during Stalin's purges after he speaks out against the tyranny of his former comrades. These former comrades torture Rubashov and break him psychologically until he confesses to "crimes" he did not commit. A powerful political classic.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Antigone

    Nothing is worse in prison than the consciousness of one's innocence; it prevents acclimatization and undermines one's morale... Comrade Rubashov has been arrested. But this is nothing. He's been around this block before. He knows, for instance, this truth about the consciousness of innocence - as the unseen man in the neighboring cell clearly does not. The unseen man who taps at the pipe...who is in many ways not unlike the conscience Comrade Rubashov put into storage some forty years before; th Nothing is worse in prison than the consciousness of one's innocence; it prevents acclimatization and undermines one's morale... Comrade Rubashov has been arrested. But this is nothing. He's been around this block before. He knows, for instance, this truth about the consciousness of innocence - as the unseen man in the neighboring cell clearly does not. The unseen man who taps at the pipe...who is in many ways not unlike the conscience Comrade Rubashov put into storage some forty years before; the internal saboteur he's energetically barred from congress with the rest of his psyche; the empathetic weakness that tap-tap-taps so foolishly against the hardened steel of his intellect's door. It's a tap-tap-tap one indulges, but fails to politically profit by. Koestler's classic, Darkness at Noon, follows the aging Rubashov through the days and nights of this imprisonment. His time on the political stage is coming to a close. His peers within the regime, once lions of Communist might, have been picked off by the younger cubs of the Revolutionary State. Philosophical Neanderthals, he calls them, and yet they are the future. And in the weeks that follow we will watch him come to terms with this reality in the same manner, it has long been suspected, Arthur Koestler was forced to come to terms with his own socialist past. It is a stark and unforgiving light he shines on Communist Party politics. When coupled with the blinding pain of a man whose incarceration shifts, splits and mutates through the physical, the intellectual, the emotional...well, let's just say I thought the comparisons to Kafka and Dostoevsky were both accurate and deserved.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Chrissie

    This is most appropriately classified as an autobiographical novel. The author, Arthur Koestler, became a member of the German Communist Party in 1931. In 1938, disillusioned by Stalin’s Moscow show trials and indiscriminate purges of the so-called counter-revolutionaries, he left the Party. In 1940 came his critique--Darkness at Noon--a novel sharply critical of Communism. Both the author and the central protagonist of the novel, Rubashov, begin with a strong belief in Communism. Both become dis This is most appropriately classified as an autobiographical novel. The author, Arthur Koestler, became a member of the German Communist Party in 1931. In 1938, disillusioned by Stalin’s Moscow show trials and indiscriminate purges of the so-called counter-revolutionaries, he left the Party. In 1940 came his critique--Darkness at Noon--a novel sharply critical of Communism. Both the author and the central protagonist of the novel, Rubashov, begin with a strong belief in Communism. Both become disillusioned. Thus, both the positive and the negative are illuminated, allowing one to see Communism’s potential as well as its weaknesses. Rubashov, brimming with the merits and ideals of Communism, has dedicated his life to the Party. Now, he is imprisoned and psychologically tortured by the very same Party he had so fervently worked to establish. I appreciate that the book is not filled with excruciating depiction of physical abuse. The psychological torture, as depicted in the book, is adequate. Sleep deprivation, blazing lights, extended interrogations, threats and mock killings. Rubashov is confined to an isolation cell, but prisoners have a means of communicating by tapping. Tension inexorably mounts in the book. The beginning is confusing. The events spoken of are true, but in that they are described in generic terms, confusion arises. The setting is 1938 Russia during the Great Purge, and yet Russia is never once mentioned! Stalin is spoken of as “Number One”. The Soviet government is spoken of as “the Party”. Nazi Germany is spoken of as “the Dictatorship”. As you come to understand how the story is told, the confusion clears. How does the story end? It ends as it must end, as it should end. The audiobook I listened to is narrated by Frank Muller. At the beginning I disliked it immensely. As I continued, I grew accustomed to his manner of speaking. By the end it felt OK, but I never grew to like it. I have thus given the audio performance two stars. What I dislike, but which may not disturb others, is Muller’s tendency to progressively speak faster and faster, to increase suspense and tension. First, the speed increases more and more and more. Then he concludes the sentence by drawing out the end interminably, with a long drawn out whisper. This drove me nuts. It is more prominent at the beginning than at the end of the audiobook. I do not like narrators to artificially exaggerate suspense.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Darwin8u

    Definitely one of the greatest novels of the 20th century. I am embarrassed, frankly, that I'm 37 and reading this only now. This is a work I should have read in high school, then in college, then again almost every year since. Standing guard silently behind greats like Orwell and Hitchens is Arthur Koestler. Rubashov is one of the best-realized characters and Darkness at Noon is a near-perfect novel. Dostoevsky would have killed Koestler with an axe, and Tolstoy would have pushed his ass in fro Definitely one of the greatest novels of the 20th century. I am embarrassed, frankly, that I'm 37 and reading this only now. This is a work I should have read in high school, then in college, then again almost every year since. Standing guard silently behind greats like Orwell and Hitchens is Arthur Koestler. Rubashov is one of the best-realized characters and Darkness at Noon is a near-perfect novel. Dostoevsky would have killed Koestler with an axe, and Tolstoy would have pushed his ass in front of a train just to have stolen this one piece.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Maciek

    Darkness at Noon is one of the classics of anti-totalitarian literature, often mentioned alongside novels such as Brave New World and 1984. While both these novels are fictions based on an idea of a totalitarian state, Darkness at Noon is a clear allegory of Soviet Russia during the 1930's - the time of the Moscow show trials and the Great Purge. Although the author openly acknowledges this in the preface, the country in which the book is set is never named - though he includes specific details r Darkness at Noon is one of the classics of anti-totalitarian literature, often mentioned alongside novels such as Brave New World and 1984. While both these novels are fictions based on an idea of a totalitarian state, Darkness at Noon is a clear allegory of Soviet Russia during the 1930's - the time of the Moscow show trials and the Great Purge. Although the author openly acknowledges this in the preface, the country in which the book is set is never named - though he includes specific details regarding it, so there never is any doubt. Character are less people than ideas and themes they represent - the main protagonist, Rubashov, is an amalgamation of all of the Old Bolsheviks who were persecuted by Stalin in the 30's. The plot focuses on Rubashov's imprisonment in an unnamed facility, his interaction with fellow inmates and ongoing interrogation. Koestler does a great job with presenting a convincing portrait of a man trying to endure oppression and isolation - he apparently drew inspiration from his own experiences from Spain, where he was imprisoned by Franco's forces during the civil war. It is interesting to note that contrary to many protagonists of anti-totalitarian novels, Rubashov is not an ordinary and innocent citizen persecuted by the overwhelming regime - he is one of the people who have actively participated in bringing this very regime into being, causing suffering and misery for fellow citizens along the way. This question begins to haunt Rubashov - what, exactly, is he fighting for? What is the weight of individual human life when measured against a possibility of prosperity and contentment for generations to come? Can we sacrifice tens, thousands and even millions of such lives if we will ultimately eliminate suffering for all in the future? Does the nobility of the goal excuse the means used to obtain it, and sacrifices required by it? While we might sympathize with Rubashov because of how he is treated and the conditions that he is in, we must also remember that he is reaping exactly what he has sown with his own hands - something that he begins to understand and ultimately accept throughout the novel. It is also important to see the book in its historical context. At the time of publication (1940), it was not uncommon to find many foreigners who were sympathetic to Stalin and his rule of the Soviet Union, praising his achievements of industrializing the country and bettering life for his people - and either ignoring what reports there were of his tyranny, or excusing them as historically inevitable. One of the more famous examples is the American journalist and correspondent for the New York Times Walter Duranty, who in the 1930's not only tried to justify Stalin's government but openly denounced in his reporting that any famine was taking place in the Ukraine - a result of Stalin's policy of collectivizing agriculture, which took several million lives in an area with some of the world's richest farmland. Many other foreigners - both intellectuals who never worked physically in their life, and laborers who never rested - romanticized the Soviet Union, in which they saw hope for a real and viable alternative to the unfair capitalist order - their memories of the Great Depression were still fresh and strong - but, unlike Duranty, they believed in the ideas of fairness, equality and prosperity for all, which the Soviet government claimed to stand for; as they learned of how a real revolution was hijacked and twisted into a totalitarian nightmare, they denounced it. Walter Duranty was fully aware of the fact that hunger victims could have extended well into millions, but nonetheless continued to report that there was no famine - did he believe in the Soviet vision? Did he believe that Stalin's actions were justified by what he claimed to be his intent - an utopia? Inexplicably, one can find people with views very similar to his decades after Stalin's policy was proven to be a deadly failure, ready to defend him and excuse his actions. What are they defending? A paradise which never arrived? Koehler's book has the distinction of being probably the first book of fiction to address Stalin's brand of totalitarianism almost by name - but in historical context it puts it slightly below novels 1984 and Brave New World, as it is inseparably tied to one particular regime and period in history which has since been analyzed by countless scholars - while both Orwell and Huxley had visions of future for the entire world. Still, it is certainly worth reading if you are at all interested in the topic of an individual living in a totalitarian system - and I also have to absolutely recommend Czesław Miłosz's The Captive Mind, which is a terrific analysis of the very topic and has the bonus of being non-fiction.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jon Nakapalau

    "If you give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest of men, I will find something in them which will hang him" - Cardinal Richelieu. Nicholas Rubashov is about to find out that sometimes it doesn't even take six lines...

  14. 5 out of 5

    Dave Russell

    At the end of 1984 Winston Smith asks O'Brien why the party acts the way it does. His answer always pissed me off: "Power for power's sake." That's not an explanation. That's a tautological cop out. It's like Orwell was content to warn us about what a totalitarian state would look like without exploring more deeply why it got there. Thanks George. Darkness at Noon explores this question more fully and in a more honest way. According to Koestler the Soviets were basically a bunch of Raskolnikovs. At the end of 1984 Winston Smith asks O'Brien why the party acts the way it does. His answer always pissed me off: "Power for power's sake." That's not an explanation. That's a tautological cop out. It's like Orwell was content to warn us about what a totalitarian state would look like without exploring more deeply why it got there. Thanks George. Darkness at Noon explores this question more fully and in a more honest way. According to Koestler the Soviets were basically a bunch of Raskolnikovs. They believed it right to commit atrocious acts in the name of an idea, namely scientific socialism. They believed the people of their own time would not accept this idea (because they have been shaped by socioeconomic conditions to consider morality which leads inevitably to the status quo, which is slavery) but future generations would see the rightness of their acts. Rubashov, the protagonist, can't see a middle way between considerations of decency and morality and the logic and reason of the Revolution, so he must choose either to betray his principles or go along with his own physical destruction. This is a much more interesting situation than what we're given in 1984, with its shallow Manichean setup.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Dave

    Written in the 1930's as Stalin purged the previous politburo members, Darkness at Noon offers a taste of the dark dreary Soviet world where the truth changes depending on who is now in power. In a visionary passage, there is talk about how the books were purged from the library and how the job would only be complete if they had taken the old newspapers and changed the news of the day. Other passages are eerie as well as the individual will is subordinated to the will of the party, whatever that Written in the 1930's as Stalin purged the previous politburo members, Darkness at Noon offers a taste of the dark dreary Soviet world where the truth changes depending on who is now in power. In a visionary passage, there is talk about how the books were purged from the library and how the job would only be complete if they had taken the old newspapers and changed the news of the day. Other passages are eerie as well as the individual will is subordinated to the will of the party, whatever that will presently is. For those who think that socialism is paradise, this story is an abrupt awakening. Ultimately it may start out as well-meaning but it becomes all about power. The protagonist has been a party member his whole life, once important, now that tastes has changed, he is accused of being a traitor. And he is Imprisoned along with thousands of other political prisoners, each one by one walked down the hall to confess their sins before execution. Not a normal structured novel. It traces the descent from party boss to prisoner to turncoat to conviction. Dark, haunting, a society been turned upside down. Republished with a new translation based on the original newly discovered manuscript. A classic that is being rediscovered.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Stephen P

    A best friend with different literary tastes than myself recommended a book. An historian buff he reported this psychological, political rendered piece of fiction as his all time favorite. A friendship of many years deserves its many sacrifices. A bit of time seemed small. Maybe many of us here at GR have been in this situation. A small amount of time sacrificed does not only mean plowing instead of the grace of reading but also not getting the time for the next book we have been waiting to rea A best friend with different literary tastes than myself recommended a book. An historian buff he reported this psychological, political rendered piece of fiction as his all time favorite. A friendship of many years deserves its many sacrifices. A bit of time seemed small. Maybe many of us here at GR have been in this situation. A small amount of time sacrificed does not only mean plowing instead of the grace of reading but also not getting the time for the next book we have been waiting to read. Books are not like people. They cannot be predicted to react with the same molecular DNA strands of emotional combustion or lack of. When finally gotten to they are tired of waiting, have moved on to another partner. Wasted in waiting they curl drooping in boredom, recalcitrant, slouched, flat-faced. There is always the chance it may be the opposite and the passing of time may heighten the books appeal and rendering. It may be at its best and show itself as it always imagined. But this is not predictable as it sits in wait, as we in our steady plow continue. I don't like books of fact, history, political anthems. I bought a used copy with a GPS decoy to find its own way back to an Amazon warehouse when finished. This was helpful. But, what was I going to say to my kind friend? Repeat the book's flat facts and smile? It's called a conundrum, isn't it? Book Lover's Problem. BPL. Okay, I could say that this political, historical book was a searing, scorching, dive into time's passage, its traumatic effect on the equilibrium of human beings inhabiting this burning planet. But I didn't think it would help my book-in-waiting at all. Though it would help build myself up for what a good person I was to do all this. What then though to say about the words vanishing? Some kind of practical joke? Who the hell gives a friend a book with no words. I'm supposed to, what, make them up or imagine them? That's what I did, not given any choice, I imagined. The next thing I knew I was confused, waking to two officers by my bed reporting they were arresting me. One older and reverent, the young kid full of his vigor and authority. People still called me Sir. My story will be written in other places before it is spoken here.They will give the usual reasons eventually. How quickly they forget my being tortured in other countries and not giving up a word. When released I returned home to cheering crowds. On crutches still, on a stage my words to them resounded loudly about the importance of the Revolution. There was no more "I". Everything we do is for the Revolutionary Party. Everything we receive is to help the Party. We devote our entire lives to the Party's program which has been thought out by the smartest men with their powers of reason to the furthest possible moment of calculation. There is no, "I". It's appeal for devotion, to forever change the future is possessive. Answers all questions. The guy who is reading this seems like a nice enough a guy but clearly isn't ready to give up his guy-ship. He is recalling. He has no idea what power as a character in this story I have over him in this cell, he over me. With each person reading me I am somewhat invented according to their needs. Theirs to mine. It is my lot. This one is filled with jitters. He is older. Even though he speaks it, dresses himself up for it, he isn't quite clear he wants to reevaluate the history of his life and pass a new judgement on it. Perhaps he was wrong? Freeing the African Americans, Women, from the tight straps preventing them their civil rights in a democracy. He saw a war stopped, cities set afire, government buildings taken over. Seeing the possibilities of creating a democracy formed within a democracy in name only. The Revolution became lost under the blurred shadows of capitalism's fear, the revolutionaries aging into the cowardice of security, the message subsumed within the culture. The Causes though continued. The strength of African Americans and Women have not wavered. The difference between then and now is remarkable. More so is the new generations coming of age could care less what happened then. Rightfully they want more of what is just and fair. They show an historic endurance. Their movements shall continue without the need for a revolutionary party. Within them is strength. If you initially reader radically succeeded what would you have invented? Possibly the future cut and fragmented? How important might it be to consolidate power so your message, obviously right, could continue. At some point without self awareness or confession justify the means to the perfect end? Believe your knowledge superseded the people who no longer understood? Evolve into a tyranny before the word was ever mentioned? Close this book my friend. You would be simply retreading history, believing what you were doing was the first time it was ever done. Your passion steamed through you unequaled by anything before. The present was your God, the future unexamined. The impatience of seeing the way towards light is a slow burn, unheeded in your fervor. So, I returned to my country in every way the revolutionary hero. I joined the party in early adolescence. Forty faithful years committed to the dream. I was made head of a department. Met with number one whose poster hung on every wall. The photo of the great revolutionaries also hung included myself though there was no self. Reason only existed, made my decisions. Some had to die if their thoughts, actions, tastes, preferences, in any way showed any threat to the party's stability, the eventuality of the dreamed for world. Importance was meted out on the balance of a scale, my friend, that considered the parties mission. If reason were to be consulted-and it was-then it was the best overall for the people even though they could not see it. The uncountable number that must die-even my lover according to my own command-starve, be imprisoned, suffer the unspeakable agonies of torture were necessary sacrifices, obvious according to logic. They were not people, not individuals. Decisions were made according to the irrefutable plan based on irrefutable logic and reason. This is where all other revolutions failed. Ours was the only one set to last. What happened my friend was our not calculating into the equation that future generations were to proceed us. They had not the intimate experience of what our revolution, what I, needed to fight against. Soon we original revolutionaries were considered old guard, decadent, of little use. But more so, and think about this now that you are reading this old miserable used copy of this book and I feel the crackle of the binding splitting all around me, that I and my colleagues, the way we thought, were now counter revolutionary thinkers. There was no room for us in the Party. We needed to be removed like the others so the party could go on. Our photo decked in proud uniforms was removed. You should have bought a new copy. Have this message read and reread. It does not lighten with time. Time passed slowly as I paced my cell, six feet in one direction nine the other. The taste of fear darkened my tongue. Thoughts, thinking, distributed an "I" through my weary weakened mind, body. You cannot know. A new copy would have been better. It became apparent even before my arrest that I doubted. How could I not. If there was any clarity, what we fought for vanished. The Party reeked of its need to consolidate and maintain its own power. The lies, rewriting of history, were built upon and reinforced in a dizzying circular motion, justifying every move. Now, and how was it to be done, I was to disavow everything I had lived my life for, everything I had so irrefutably believed. The progress which sat before us. Attached to that, to each of my steps of pacing the cell, were the people I sent for torture, the people I sent to death. My irrefutable wrongness with no way now for redemption. Even the woman I made love to so many times whose scent hung about me in this small cell. A code of knocking against the common wall to the adjacent cell was known to all. But who to trust? The banal conversations did break the solitude at times. In the multitude of days passing there was even a semblance of a friendship. But it could all be a setup, a further testing. I want to thank you now for reading more openly reader allowing me as a character to open further. Maybe we both are learning things we didn't know we knew. When someone from our small corridor of cells was to be next to be tortured or executed word passed furiously through the walls. Messages of fear. Membership in an unspoken community. I participated. It felt as a necessity. When finally they were dragged down the hall, past the small eye hole where guards observed us, where we could see the small riveted space of the hall, all of us prisoners beat on our doors creating a dirge of protest, helpless incurable writhe. Every minute I waited for the guards to appear at my door, for it to be me. I began to write to make sense of it all. A few days further and I learned the next to be executed was a friend of mine. Not unlike you reader and your friend of years who you thought you would read this book for and now finding it a much different experience. I feel for you since it is so difficult, maybe painful for me to feel for myself. He was dragged by the arms head first his feet skimming behind. Blood oozed from open wounds. Salt-spit drooled from his mouth to the floor. As he passed my door he looked up, called out my name. Called out my name. His last words. They were never people I ordered to be exterminated. They were obstacles against reason and the future, statistics and numbers ordered into straight columns. They had not bodies, hair, eyes, a mouth filled with saliva and screams, something called a soul. My lover whose extermination I rightfully ordered thus too was dragged down a hallway bloodied and spewing? Whose skin I caressed and scent still hovered about me? What have I done? But I did it for the party? You…you may not choose to read any more my friend. The book will last with some care. Maybe it is not for the best for you to read to the end. I am not sure it was good for either of us to come this far. Is it of use to understand that it is within each of our grasp?

  17. 5 out of 5

    Jan-Maat

    An interesting novel but I find it pale in comparison with real prison literature, I'd recommend Evgenia Ginzburg's memoir Journey into the Whirlwind above this without hesitation, not on account of literary merit but simply because of the author's sense of surprise at the unlikeliness of it all. Koestler's fiction is a work of the imagination. Something designed to serve the purposes of the author, that gives insight into their opinions and not into (save perhaps accidentally) the situation the An interesting novel but I find it pale in comparison with real prison literature, I'd recommend Evgenia Ginzburg's memoir Journey into the Whirlwind above this without hesitation, not on account of literary merit but simply because of the author's sense of surprise at the unlikeliness of it all. Koestler's fiction is a work of the imagination. Something designed to serve the purposes of the author, that gives insight into their opinions and not into (save perhaps accidentally) the situation they are describing. It is I suppose in that way more akin to 1984 in its insights into the mind of somebody inside a totalitarian system than memoirs written inside the Soviet Union. It was written in 1940, perhaps the way to think about it is the search of an intellectual outside the Soviet Union to understand the treason trials and the shocking confessions of old Bolsheviks and trying to make sense of that and explain it in fictional form to the reading public. The date is interesting. Within a year Stalin was due to become the great friend and ally of the Western powers. The show trials and executions that the hero of the story is caught up in occurred some years earlier. Koestler was Hungarian and had experience of living under the Right-Wing regime of Admiral Horthy (Hungary doesn't have a sea coast, Horthy kept the rank as a souvenir from his days in the service of the Austro-Hungarian empire before the First World War, technologically he ruled Hungary as regent on behalf of the Emperor Charles, but on both occasions when Charles turned up in Hungary Horthy persuaded him that the time wasn't right for him to assume the throne and sent him back into exile again). Whether Koestler ever had any contacts with any Bolsheviks, old or young is questionable, along with Arrival and Departure and The Gladiators this book is part of an exploration of the (extreme or normal by 30s standards?) politics of the 1920s and 30s much of which must have seemed absurd and incomprehensible to outside observers - something which we see in the figure of the old professor in Darkness at Noon, either pretending to himself or driven mad with the cognitive dissonance, still holding to the idea of the Soviet Union as a promised land. It is the response of someone whose faith has been shaken searching for meaning in their world. It is Doestoevsky's story of the Grand Inquisitor from The Brothers Karamazov adapted and applied to a contemporary situation in an attempt to make comprehensible alien states of mind and foreign political situations.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Steve

    Arthur Koestler, through this tale, does a fine job explaining the sacrifices, accompanied with labyrinthine lies, necessary to sustain and propel a totalitarian regime. This might all feel ethereally remote, until, one day, you or I are sacrificed, at which point all becomes both immediate and very much lost. Living, as I do, in a nation with the highest incarceration rate per capita, it appears necessary sacrifice may be required even in a cherished democracy, a thought I believe Michel Foucau Arthur Koestler, through this tale, does a fine job explaining the sacrifices, accompanied with labyrinthine lies, necessary to sustain and propel a totalitarian regime. This might all feel ethereally remote, until, one day, you or I are sacrificed, at which point all becomes both immediate and very much lost. Living, as I do, in a nation with the highest incarceration rate per capita, it appears necessary sacrifice may be required even in a cherished democracy, a thought I believe Michel Foucault promoted in Discipline and Punish. While much has been written regarding perverse totalitarian environments, Mr. Koestler published his work at the outbreak of the Second World War, which, I think, makes him a groundbreaking author.

  19. 5 out of 5

    James

    A dark and intriguing study of the politics of revolution, counter-revolution, social experimentation on a grand scale – set against the backdrop of Stalin’s Moscow show trials. This a dark story of one man’s (fictionalised although based on fact) experience of arrest, incarceration, torture and subsequent show trial. This is all about thought control and the ethics / morals of ‘physical liquidation’ / execution and the wiping out of huge numbers of people as part of the revolutionary process and A dark and intriguing study of the politics of revolution, counter-revolution, social experimentation on a grand scale – set against the backdrop of Stalin’s Moscow show trials. This a dark story of one man’s (fictionalised although based on fact) experience of arrest, incarceration, torture and subsequent show trial. This is all about thought control and the ethics / morals of ‘physical liquidation’ / execution and the wiping out of huge numbers of people as part of the revolutionary process and ongoing social experiment. It is at its heart a sociological study of revolution, power, truth, dialectical materialism, dissent and how those in power in any totalitarian state maintain that power whilst justifying / rationalising extreme measures in the name of the party and the revolution – about how dissidents are dealt with. Various themes are explored concerning the prosecution / persecution of those on the basis, not just on the basis of crimes (allegedly) committed but also those which were expected to be committed against the state as a consequence of opinion - in other words, being charged on the basis of opinion, conscience and assumed intention. This is a world where blind discipline and absolute trust constitute service to the party and where opposition and dissent is viewed as wrong, contemptible and punishable – all in the name of protecting the party and maintaining power. Whilst quite a dense read at times, this is an important book which is intelligently written, portraying a frightening world.

  20. 4 out of 5

    J.G. Keely

    A rather strange experience: here is a book which possesses many great qualities--it is well written, has a gripping story, and a great depth of psychology--but it ultimately falls into that secondary tier of modern novels that fail to make a full philosophical exploration of their quandries. Perhaps the relative slimness of this book--often cited as the best novel of the Twentieth--is related to that shortcoming. While the political message is powerful and the philosophical questioning interesti A rather strange experience: here is a book which possesses many great qualities--it is well written, has a gripping story, and a great depth of psychology--but it ultimately falls into that secondary tier of modern novels that fail to make a full philosophical exploration of their quandries. Perhaps the relative slimness of this book--often cited as the best novel of the Twentieth--is related to that shortcoming. While the political message is powerful and the philosophical questioning interesting, both are infrequent and less profound than I grew to wish. It has always been my preference that a book lay out the whole case, giving both sides of the issue and inviting the reader to think things over and come to some conclusion. I am much less fond of works with 'a message', even if that message is fairly strong, since issues tend to be far too complex to admit a straightforward answer. As one commentator pointed out, this book's central thesis was not merely an idea at the time of writing, but a worldwide 'experiment in progress'--the experiment of Socialism. But I never felt that the book proved its dour case that the regretable outcome was actually caused by Socialism. There are very few cases where man has even tried to develop some other form of governance, and even after a revolution succeeds, idealism invariably devolves into another oligarchy. This book has often been compared to 1984, which tackled the same theme, and it's true that Koestler outdoes Orwell in precision of structure, fineness of language, realism, and character psychology, but I still prefer 1984 as an exploration, because it showcases a greater depth and variance of ideas, and has a speculative outlook. Koestler wrote a proof of what had already happened, while Orwell was more concerned with what our past would do to our present, and our future. Without an influx of progressing ideas to match the deep human conflict, Darkness at Noon became superficial and tedious. Even with good writing, a matching understanding of psychology, and a complex story, without grubbing at deeper concerns a book may inform, but will not inspire. The birth of Socialism was marked by The Communist Manifesto, but its scope was too narrow, and falling to Hume's is/ought dilemma, the philosophies Marx outlined were never really given form--proving once again there is noting inevitable about an ideal. But this book of its demise shares a similarly narrow view--a gravestone may be a monumental sign, but the dates it gives are not the story of a life.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Alex

    There are only two conceptions of human ethics, and they are at opposite poles. One of them is Christian and humane, declares the individual to be sacrosanct...the other starts from the basic principle that a collective aim justifies all means, and not only allows, but demands that the individual should in every way be subordinated and sacrificed to the community. Koestler believes in socialism; his question is, if achieving socialism means torturing and murdering a few people, do we throw out th There are only two conceptions of human ethics, and they are at opposite poles. One of them is Christian and humane, declares the individual to be sacrosanct...the other starts from the basic principle that a collective aim justifies all means, and not only allows, but demands that the individual should in every way be subordinated and sacrificed to the community. Koestler believes in socialism; his question is, if achieving socialism means torturing and murdering a few people, do we throw out the people or socialism? The answer is easy if you ask the people, and here's a book from the people. It seems like an easy question regardless to me: any system which forces us to ask it is necessarily corrupt. Koestler seems to believe that too: "One cannot build Paradise with concrete," his protagonist says: "No. 1's [Stalin's] regime had besmirched the ideal of the Social state even as some Mediaeval Popes had besmirched the ideal of a Christian Empire." But as we know, the debate is still alive and thriving today: I followed this book with Guantanamo Diary, which is about exactly the same thing. Once again, a person is tortured for the sake of a system; there are Americans with waterboards who believe that the ends justify the means. Am I comparing post-9/11 America to Stalinist Russia? Yes. How could we not? The book itself is terrific stuff. Exciting to read and very smart. Midway through, prisoners learn from their coded tapping communication system that someone is shortly to be executed, and they create a drumroll by banging on their doors with their fists as he's dragged down the hall, their only way to acknowledge him. I don't want to get too flowery here, but I don't think I've ever read a scene more powerful. But speaking of drumrolls, can we talk about the ending? (view spoiler)[It has this perfect, perfect ending: "Rubahov broke off his pacing and listened. The sound of muffled drumming came down the corridor." I got chills all over again, re-reading it just now. But then: it turns out that's not the end at all; there's a whole nother chapter that totally doesn't need to be there. Bummer! Do you like that last chapter? I think he shoulda quit with the drumming. (hide spoiler)] This is an overwhelming asskicking of a book, one of my favorite reads in recent memory. The answer is that the ends do not justify the means, and if you have to ask the question, you are no longer the good guy.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Szplug

    Before I read Darkness at Noon, I could never quite comprehend the source of the wretched servility and abject self-negation with which the Old Bolsheviks broadcast their guilt and apostasy in so convincing a manner at the Moscow Show Trials in the mid-thirties. Koestler—no stranger to dark, narrow prison cells and the exquisite torture of living minute to precious minute awaiting the stark drum roll of the executioner's approaching footsteps—brings all of his harsh experience to this swiftly-mo Before I read Darkness at Noon, I could never quite comprehend the source of the wretched servility and abject self-negation with which the Old Bolsheviks broadcast their guilt and apostasy in so convincing a manner at the Moscow Show Trials in the mid-thirties. Koestler—no stranger to dark, narrow prison cells and the exquisite torture of living minute to precious minute awaiting the stark drum roll of the executioner's approaching footsteps—brings all of his harsh experience to this swiftly-moving, wrenching tale about how such self-accusatory enthusiasm comes to be engendered within a soul cracked by the relentless press of the interrogators logic and wracked by pain, both physical, mental, and spiritual. Rubashov is Koestler's depiction of the remnant of the original Bolshevik inner circle, a companion of Stalin and devout believer in the justice and historical necessity of the Revolution and the Party. After Rubashov is arrested—by members of the younger cadre of acolytes being groomed, with ever fiercer devotion to the all-consuming Cause, to replace the rapidly expiring ranks of the old guard—he reflects upon the pricks to his own conscience when, as roaming plenipotentiary of the Party, he emotionlessly abandoned so many firm believers to their cruel fate at the hands of the Nazis after the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact made a realignment of priorities an urgent necessity. Placed in a cell next to that of a long-imprisoned aristocrat from the Red-White civil wars, Rubashov awaits his coming ordeal with the interrogator with the self-confidence of those who believe firmly in their innocence. However, under the steady pressure exerted by his interlocutors—one an old friend, the other a new believer—Rubashov's carefully constructed edifice begins to crumble; and as his every statement is turned and twisted into the straitening channels that the Party needs to complete its own narrative, a combination of sleep-deprivation, Party pressure, and his own newly awakened self-loathing lead Rubashov to the inexorable conclusion: he is guilty, for the Party needs him to be guilty, and long ago he gave himself, body and soul, to the Party. Koestler marches his explicatory and cautionary tale along with the relentless urgency of a fired bullet, and he does a remarkable job of delineating the fully convincing arc of Rubashov's progression from self-assurance to self-denial to self-conviction. His initially awkward relationship with his aristocratic neighbor—carried on by a prison code tapped on the walls—deepens as time passes and the original Bolshevik comes to realize that, although the Whites comprised the first meal, the Party always comes to eat its own. The scene where the prisoners, via rapidly tapped and repeated code, line up at their doors to catch a glimpse of another Bolshevik martyr being lead down the blackened tunnel towards the staircase and an appointment with a bullet to the head, administered upon some random flagstone in the basement dungeon, is a stark palimpsest of terror and tension; and the reader knows that, before the last page has been turned, Rubashov will take part in the same grim ritual in which the charcoal nullity of underground shadows will be the penultimate parting gift bestowed by subservience to historical necessity. Koestler was a man of many talents—and demons—who was to live through, and then warn against, the obfuscating glamours of the totalitarian impulse; and few other novels express the inevitable miscegenation of corruption and purity within the authoritarian party system—a union that spawns persecution and reduces believers to spiritually crippled, hollowed-out husks—as convincingly as Darkness at Noon.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Warwick

    Remarkable story on the translation history of this book from the NYRB: The implications of Weßel’s discovery are considerable, for Darkness at Noon is that rare specimen, a book known to the world only in translation. This peculiar distinction has been little discussed in the vast critical literature about Koestler and his famous novel. In my lengthy 2009 biography of Koestler I barely touch on it, yet the phenomenon is all the more extraordinary when one considers that the novel has been transl Remarkable story on the translation history of this book from the NYRB: The implications of Weßel’s discovery are considerable, for Darkness at Noon is that rare specimen, a book known to the world only in translation. This peculiar distinction has been little discussed in the vast critical literature about Koestler and his famous novel. In my lengthy 2009 biography of Koestler I barely touch on it, yet the phenomenon is all the more extraordinary when one considers that the novel has been translated into over thirty other languages, every one of them based on the English edition, meaning that they are not just translations, but translations of a translation. This includes the German version, which Koestler himself translated back into German in 1944.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Alec

    Recommend through Postman, who described it as complementing the 1984-Brave New World discussion. He was right! D at N is about the hypocritical cycle of power, the failures of revolutions, and whether or not ends justify means. Rubashov is a sympathetic protagonist, which makes his own failures and complicity all the more engaging. The book is careful to never mention major historical figures or regimes by name - this isn't a book about how mean Stalin was. It's about how power will always be v Recommend through Postman, who described it as complementing the 1984-Brave New World discussion. He was right! D at N is about the hypocritical cycle of power, the failures of revolutions, and whether or not ends justify means. Rubashov is a sympathetic protagonist, which makes his own failures and complicity all the more engaging. The book is careful to never mention major historical figures or regimes by name - this isn't a book about how mean Stalin was. It's about how power will always be veiled as progress. It's about how thought is structured for those that lead. It's good! Ch-ch-ch-check it out.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Marc

    This is a brilliant book. To me it seems like the final reckoning with stalinism, and remarkably it was written at a time (the end of the 1930's) when still half of intellectual Europe raved about the Soviet Union. It's just incomprehensible that even after this book people like Jean-Paul Sartre doggedly stuck to his adoration for the Soviet model (and later on also the Chinese one). From a literary point of view this novel is not a real master work (hence the 3 stars), but still, it is nicely w This is a brilliant book. To me it seems like the final reckoning with stalinism, and remarkably it was written at a time (the end of the 1930's) when still half of intellectual Europe raved about the Soviet Union. It's just incomprehensible that even after this book people like Jean-Paul Sartre doggedly stuck to his adoration for the Soviet model (and later on also the Chinese one). From a literary point of view this novel is not a real master work (hence the 3 stars), but still, it is nicely written, with some great, vivid dialogues.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Shannon (Giraffe Days)

    Comrade Nicholas Salmanovitch Rubashov is one of the founding Party of the Revolution. He is also perhaps the only man of that group of idealising thinkers still alive. For a long time he has had a recurring dream of being arrested in his bed, while sleeping under the poster of No. 1 (Stalin), the same poster that hangs above every bed, on every wall. And finally, he is arrested. As a politicial prisoner he is given solitude and time to sweat. There is a certain degree of fatalism in the way he Comrade Nicholas Salmanovitch Rubashov is one of the founding Party of the Revolution. He is also perhaps the only man of that group of idealising thinkers still alive. For a long time he has had a recurring dream of being arrested in his bed, while sleeping under the poster of No. 1 (Stalin), the same poster that hangs above every bed, on every wall. And finally, he is arrested. As a politicial prisoner he is given solitude and time to sweat. There is a certain degree of fatalism in the way he paces his cell and thinks. He knows, of course, exactly what is going on and what will happen. The only thing to decide is how he will die: with a bullet in the back of the head after a confession and a public trial, or a bullet in the back of the head after professing his innocence. It's not a lot of choice, but Rubashov is a stubborn old man who still likes to argue Policy and doctrine with his interrogators. And there is the meat of this story, revealing and exploring the aims and processes behind the intractable wheel of the Party and its Revolution, now holding on from sheer force of will while those like Rubashov who still naively hoped it could be something else, something better, are sacrificed for the greater good. I feel I have failed this book. I read at least six other books while making my way through this one. On the one hand, it helped to break it up into smaller, more manageable slices. On the other hand, it makes my impressions rather clouded. There is a lot I don't understand. It requires a close, earnest reading, preferably under the guidance of a knowledgable uni Professor. I could read this book a hundred times and learn something new each time, while other things remain obscure. But that, in a way, is the nature of the Party itself as it is described here. It doesn't make sense, it never did and isn't supposed to. That Rubashov is a scapegoat, and a symbol, is quite clear. That there is nothing he can do to escape it is also frustratingly clear. That the whole thing, the whole Revolution, has turned into a debacle, an absurd exercise in freedom for the masses achieved through repression of those same masses, an excercise which cannot be stopped or altered lest everything that has been achieved becomes undone, is also blatantly obvious. Koestler may get to his points in a roundabout, abstract philosophising way, but he hasn't left the most important ones to a reader's imagination. The part I loved - if I can even use that word; maybe "appreciated'? - the most was in the Third Hearing, the conversations between Rubashov and his interrogator Gletkin. Here we get two sides to the argument, neither of them particularly strong but both given with absolute conviction. I don't like books where the enemy is a faceless presence, as No. 1 is, yet this works perfectly here - for the Party is a machine, an unfeeling, uncaring thing with only one purpose. But by showing Gletkin's thoughts - and his method of rationalising - we can gain an understanding of why so many people bought into the doctrine, even while loved ones disappeared, while people feared for their lives, while the Party betrayed them while saying it had been betrayed. Rubashov believes in telling the people the truth, and gaining their voluntary involvement and loyalty. Gletkin says, among other equally potent speeches: Whether Jesus spoke the truth or not, when he asserted he was the son of God and of a virgin, is of no interest to any sensible person. It is said to be symbolical, but the peasants take it literally. We have the same right to invent symbols which the peasants take literally. (p232) One of my favourite lines is from a man Rubashov is accused of traitorous deals with, who says "One can only be crucified in the name of one's own faith." I think I will spend many years wrestling the different meanings out of that! This translation is quite old, and a bit stuffy. Unfortunately, the original German manuscript is lost and there don't seem to be any copies of it from which to do a new English translation. Apparently, the English translation is used in translating it into other languages. But I would ask, or rather plead, that they do a bit of editing. The typos were numerous and distracting. The comma use was also irritating, but that's more attributable to the period. Commas aren't so in fashion anymore. Anyone interested in philosophy, socialism, 20th century history, Stalinism etc. would get a lot out of this book. Even someone like me, with just a sketchy knowledge of the period and events that form the ground of this fictional account, can still come away with the brain ticking over. It's the kind of book we are generally reluctant to read, because it requires too much work, but it is worth it. Even if, like me, you don't feel you can do it justice.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Seth

    A new development: A graduate student at the University of Kassel, Germany, discovered the original German-language manuscript of this book, which had been missing for decades, in a library in Switzerland. Readers know only the English version, which reflects a British interpretation of the original work. Unfortunately, this led to a variety of translation errors having the effect of softening the impact of the interrogations that Rubashov was forced to endure. In fact, instead of "interrogation A new development: A graduate student at the University of Kassel, Germany, discovered the original German-language manuscript of this book, which had been missing for decades, in a library in Switzerland. Readers know only the English version, which reflects a British interpretation of the original work. Unfortunately, this led to a variety of translation errors having the effect of softening the impact of the interrogations that Rubashov was forced to endure. In fact, instead of "interrogations," they were called "hearings," and the interrogator was called an "examining magistrate." You can read all about this exciting development in the following article in The New York Review of Books: http://www.nybooks.com/articles/2016/... My original review: I wonder whether books like Darkness at Noon are part of today’s college curriculum. I doubt it. Given the left-wing ideological leanings of professors, it is likely that they would prefer to denounce the evils of colonialism and capitalism than Soviet totalitarianism. How many college students are even aware of Stalin’s show trials during the 1930s? Have they read Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s or Yevgenia Ginzburg’s descriptions of the Soviet Gulag? Moving to contemporary times, have they ever heard of Lezhek Kolakowski, the brains behind the Polish Solidarity movement? These are rhetorical questions. Stalin’s ascendancy after Lenin’s revolution disturbed even committed Socialists like George Orwell. When Orwell fought against Franco in the Spanish Civil War, he served in an anarchist faction, which was out of step with the Soviet-controlled faction. Orwell was incensed at the Soviet Union’s condemnation of his faction and bore a life-long grudge as a result. This experience inspired Animal Farm, which belongs to the same category of anti-Stalinist literature as Darkness at Noon. The novel is structured as three preliminary investigative hearings of the main protagonist N.S. Rubashov, a fictional composite of actual historical figures who played a pivotal role in the Russian Revolution but were liquidated by Stalin. Arthur Koestler explores the totalitarian mindset of Rubashov himself, who ruthlessly puts the interests of the party before individual interests, even when lives are at stake. Rubashov believes that the party’s progress toward a predetermined goal is inexorable and no one may stand in the way (this philosophical notion of historical determinism is known as teleology). Instead, dissenters must be cast aside like debris from a river’s current. Furthermore, Rubashov believes that even the most brutal tactics are acceptable and necessary to advance party doctrine, in other words, that the ends justify the means. After we learn of Rubashov’s own fanaticism, we follow his fate as he has the misfortune of enduring the same treatment at the hands of Stalin’s thugs from the younger generation, who never experienced the Revolution Rubashov helped shape. We experience his humiliation and degradation in a series of interrogations, his forced confession to crimes he did not commit, his self-abasement in a subsequent public trial, and his execution. Although the analogy is hardly perfect, I see parallels to today’s American society. In our hyper-partisan political environment, political fanatics believe that their cause is the only just, virtuous, and legitimate one, that deviant views may not be tolerated, that they are on the right side of history, and that, in order to advance their agenda in the short term, the ends justify the means. “By whatever means necessary.” “No justice—no peace.” “Rules for radicals.” There are many examples of politicians shamelessly lying about their political opponents and misleading the public about the true nature of their programs. Consider also the intimidation of those who think differently through social media campaigns, boycotts, ostracism, legal harassment, threats, and even physical violence. Therefore, Koestler’s novel is relevant today. It is a cautionary tale about where our society may be headed.

  28. 5 out of 5

    B. Faye

    “What had he said to them? "I bow my knees before the country, before the masses, before the whole people...." And what then? What happened to these masses, to this people? For forty years it had been driven through the desert, with threats and promises, with imaginary terrors and imaginary rewards. But where was the Promised Land? Did there really exist any such goal for this wandering mankind? That was a question to which he would have liked an answer before it was too late. Moses had not been “What had he said to them? "I bow my knees before the country, before the masses, before the whole people...." And what then? What happened to these masses, to this people? For forty years it had been driven through the desert, with threats and promises, with imaginary terrors and imaginary rewards. But where was the Promised Land? Did there really exist any such goal for this wandering mankind? That was a question to which he would have liked an answer before it was too late. Moses had not been allowed to enter the land of promise either, But he had been allowed to see it, from the top of the mountain, spread at his feet. Thus, it was easy to die, with the visible certainty of one's goal before one's eyes. He, Nicolas Salmanovitch Rubashov, had not been taken to the top of a mountain; and wherever his eye looked, he saw nothing but desert and the darkness of night.”

  29. 4 out of 5

    Bettie

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. (view spoiler)[ Bettie's Books (hide spoiler)] (view spoiler)[ Bettie's Books (hide spoiler)]

  30. 4 out of 5

    Brian Yahn

    I told myself I'd read enough WWII stories, but something had always drawn me to Darkness at Noon, so I started it anyway. Maybe I was meant to abandon it from the start. Try as I did, I couldn't find anything to get excited about in this story. Still, I didn't hate it. Honestly, I wish I did. I felt nothing toward it -- something a story hasn't ever done to me. If nothing else, I'll always remember it for that. Although Darkness at Noon seems clearly set in Soviet Russia during the 1930s, the nar I told myself I'd read enough WWII stories, but something had always drawn me to Darkness at Noon, so I started it anyway. Maybe I was meant to abandon it from the start. Try as I did, I couldn't find anything to get excited about in this story. Still, I didn't hate it. Honestly, I wish I did. I felt nothing toward it -- something a story hasn't ever done to me. If nothing else, I'll always remember it for that. Although Darkness at Noon seems clearly set in Soviet Russia during the 1930s, the narrator never states specifically where or when the action takes place. The entire story was like that, ambiguous as hell, and finding meaning in any of it was a challenge. Connecting to it was impossible. It was always unclear what the main character's goals were or how exactly he ended up in the preface of the story -- a prisoner of an unnamed totalitarian state.

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