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Darkness at Noon by Arthur Koestler

Darkness at Noon (1940)

by Arthur Koestler

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Koestler's Trilogy (2)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
4,373761,788 (4.04)178
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 re-lives a career that embodies the terrible ironies and human betrayals of a totalitarian movement masking itself as an instrument of deliverance.… (more)
  1. 80
    1984 by George Orwell (ivan.frade)
    ivan.frade: Both books talk about revolution and the people, individual rights vs. common wellness. "darkness at noon" is pretty similar to 1984, without the especulation/science-fiction ingredient.
  2. 40
    Animal Farm by George Orwell (chrisharpe)
  3. 30
    Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell (br77rino)
    br77rino: Much of Orwell's impetus for writing "1984" came from his experience in the Spanish Civil War, which he writes about in this.
  4. 30
    Life and Fate by Vasily Grossman (chrisharpe)
  5. 41
    One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn (chrisharpe)
  6. 20
    A People's Tragedy: The Russian Revolution 1891-1924 by Orlando Figes (GabrielF)
    GabrielF: Written in 1940, Darkness at Noon really takes you into the minds of the revolutionary generation during Stalin's purges. A People's Tragedy is a very readable, thorough and fascinating history of the revolution.
  7. 20
    The Anti-Communist Manifestos: Four Books That Shaped the Cold War by John V. Fleming (prosfilaes)
    prosfilaes: Fleming describes the context of Koestler's book, including how it compared, was affected by and affected other anti-Communist books.
  8. 31
    The Trial by Franz Kafka (chrisharpe)
  9. 10
    Dialogue with Death by Arthur Koestler (longway)
  10. 00
    Gece Yarisinda Aydinlik by Erica Glaser Wallach (bertilak)
  11. 01
    Every Man Dies Alone by Hans Fallada (chrisharpe)
  12. 12
    The Case of Comrade Tulayev by Victor Serge (thatguyzero)
  13. 04
    We the Living by Ayn Rand (br77rino)

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» See also 178 mentions

English (68)  Dutch (4)  French (3)  Hebrew (1)  All languages (76)
Showing 1-5 of 68 (next | show all)
A morbid reflection on the logical conclusion of a revolutionary government and society. An excellent and sobering read. ( )
  Dan733 | Apr 15, 2020 |
My problem with this book is the trivialization of Marxism, Bolshevism, and the Russian revolution on which its premises are built on. One could argue that it is just a work of fiction and as such it doesn't need to be so precise, but then it shouldn't have been considered to be an "excellent account" of totalitarianism and the purges during Stalinism.

I give it three stars because it has some literary merit and as a work of fiction it is indeed entertaining. But in its oversimplification of absolutely everything it is just as anti-revolutionary as the totalitarianism it denounces. ( )
  csaavedra | Apr 15, 2020 |
2.5 stars. Would have been three, but it just got so boring and I just wanted it to finish.

This is not a special or great book. It's a simple, perfunctory walk through its story arc, with a bit of background here and there. Dwarfed by intense masterpieces that cover the same ground.

Its real accomplishment was producing a book that had (it seemed designed to have) so little effect when dealing with such a powerful subject. ( )
  GirlMeetsTractor | Mar 22, 2020 |
This is a new translation from the recently discovered German manuscript that had been lost for over seventy years. I had read the original years ago and can't comment much on how this new translation really differs from the original, but I will say that it is chilling book and a must read for anyone concerned about totalitarian and authoritarian regimes, be they right or left. Either one seeks to crush the independent spirit of liberty and freedom. I was inspired to re-read this after finishing the second volume of Kotkin's Stalin biography. ( )
  gregdehler | Dec 9, 2019 |
Because of the inherent charm in reading an author who is lucid and knows what he is writing for, what looks at first glance to be a thoroughly bleak and unappealing novel becomes, in Koestler's hands, the bleak yet thoroughly appealing Darkness at Noon. Our protagonist, Rubashov, a former power-player in a communist regime, finds himself imprisoned in the latest round of political purges. The book follows his thought process as he undergoes interrogation at the hands of his former comrades, and Rubashov's position allows Koestler an opportunity at an astonishing extended interrogation of the Marxist pathology, and of the human condition in general.

Koestler is of that finest breed of writer, the perceptive observer. Each of his characters convince us, because they each convince themselves, and it is quite disturbing when you, as a reader, find yourself agreeing for the moment with one of Rubashov's interrogators, Ivanov and Gletkin. It is disturbing precisely because their arguments have the ring of logic – cold logic, without being sociopathic. You realise with some fear that the commissars and ideological camp-followers are not villains – or even mindless sheep – but are instead individual minds who have gone down a path that could easily have claimed you, or could yet claim you, or might have claimed you and you don't even know it.

I found particular disquiet in Koestler's vivid Biblical allusions towards the end of the novel: yes, the links between ideological pathology and religion are there, but you ask yourself: is it good? Or rather, to what extent is it good? The terror in books like this one – and in the novels it so clearly inspired, like Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four – is not the physical pain of torture or death, but a sort of mind-terror. "There was only one revolutionary virtue which he had not learned, the virtue of self-deception," Koestler writes on page 59. By delving into the metaphysics, and finding a coherence there, Rubashov (and Koestler) actually succeeds in avoiding complete self-deception. Winston Smith would find a substantially bleaker view in Orwell's Room 101. Both approaches have merits, which is partly what makes them so fascinating to wrestle with on an intellectual level.

The book's didacticism will turn many readers off, particularly those who are used to being spoon-fed safe, likeable crowd-pleasers, but for my part the book only became more engrossing as it progressed and went deeper into its ideas. Even though it becomes increasingly abstract, it never drags – those abstract thoughts are too fascinating. And Koestler is no soapbox operator; this is not a polemic masquerading as fiction. Consider, for example, the genius use of irony to end the Third Hearing on page 192; both Rubashov and Gletkin have reached their respective logical and natural conclusions, have both misunderstood the other, and – deliciously – neither can be said to be wrong, either in their conclusions or in their appraisal of the other. How the same thing can mean two different things depending on your perspective and knowledge is at the heart of pathological fanaticism, whether that fanaticism is Koestler's target of Marxism or otherwise, and this book captures that mercilessly (another delicious moment: the newspaper's narration of Rubashov scanning the crowd and "finding not a single sympathetic face" (pg. 199)). Darkness at Noon is, quite simply, an example of what the best literature can do. Koestler is lucid, profound and readable, and even in the bleakest moments it is a joy to be carried along with him. ( )
  Mike_F | May 22, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 68 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (46 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Koestler, Arthurprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Boehm, PhilipTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hardy, DaphneTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Scammell, MichaelIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Scardifield, SimonAdaptersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Walter, Hans-AlbertEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Yevtushenko, SashaDirectorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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He who establishes a dictatorship and does not kill Brutus, or he who founds a republic and does not kill the sons of Brutus, will only reign a short time.
Machiavelli, Discorsi

Man, man, one cannot live without pity.
Dostoyevsky, Crime and punishment
The characters in this book are fictitious.  The historical circumstances which determined their actions are real.  The life of the man N.S. Rubashov is a synthesis of the lives of a number of men who were victims of the so-called Moscow Trials.  Several of them were personally known to the author.  This book is dedicated to their memory. - Paris, October 1938 - April, 1940
First words
The cell door slammed behind Rubashov.
How can one change the world if one identifies oneself with everybody?
How else can one change it?
He who understands and forgives - where would he find a motive to act?
Where would he not?
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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