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Darkness at Noon: A Novel by Arthur Koestler

Darkness at Noon: A Novel (original 1940; edition 2006)

by Arthur Koestler

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
4,289731,778 (4.04)176
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)
Title:Darkness at Noon: A Novel
Authors:Arthur Koestler
Info:Scribner (2006), Paperback
Collections:Your library
Tags:communism, authoritarian_regimes, own, read, magyarul, gy

Work details

Darkness at Noon by Arthur Koestler (1940)

  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 176 mentions

English (65)  Dutch (4)  French (3)  Hebrew (1)  All languages (73)
Showing 1-5 of 65 (next | show all)
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 |
A good and sometimes compelling read and somewhat reminiscent of Orwell's "1984," which, I have just come to learn, was inspired by "Darkness at Noon" and that Orwell and Koestler knew each other. Explains a lot. Winston Smith is Koestler's Rubashov and Gletkin is Koestler's prototype for Orwell's O'Brian who both foreshadowed today's "honorable" Robert Mueller and James Comey, party men willing to do whatever’s necessary for the state, truth be damned! Given the prescience of the novels"1984," "Darkness at Noon," and Huxley's "Brave New World," you could almost make a case for the authors having time-traveled and returned to give warning that has, for the most part, gone unheeded. 3.5 stars. ( )
  Renzomalo | Jan 8, 2019 |
Crushing of human spirit is at the center of this book, but is it achieved simply by Stalin's paranoia, resulting in horrific deeds and silencing many innocent lives, or by something more on a philosophical level? This is one of the burning questions that Rubashov is tormented with while he is walking up and down his tiny prison cell, as well as during conversations with his first interrogator; we also see parts of Rubashov's diary. (As we learn, Rubashov is a synthesis of numerous victims of Stalin's purges in 1930s, and the author knew many of them).

Basically, the whole story is set between the prison cell and interrogation room (with some reminiscences from Rubashov's past as an important member of Central Committee being assigned to travel abroad to stir up and establish Communist movements), and under other circumstances, it might not seem sufficient for a plot. But here, one is glued to the book, as Rubashov, even though it's not his first arrest, tries, in his mind, frantically, to find answers or justifications to whatever is going on in the country; WHY/HOW the purest of ideas turned into something so horrible under Stalin's watch: "All our principles were right but our results were wrong. This is a diseased century. We diagnosed the disease and its causes with microscopic exactness.... Our will was hard and pure, we should have been loved by the people. But they hate us..."

Russia/U.S.S.R is never mentioned (in his foreign comrades' minds it's called "over there" with reverence), Stalin is dubbed "No. 1", Lenin - "the old man", Communist Party is just "Party". And interestingly enough, at the beginning of the book Rubashov identifies Party as "we" ("We brought you truth, but in our mouth it sounded a lie. We brought you freedom, and it looks in our hand like a whip" - throughout the book Koestler is very powerful with his metaphors...), while later on in his thought process he separates himself from the Party, or at least from what became of it - after most of old-timers, his fellow comrades with bright ideas had been liquidated.

His two interrogators (though using totally different approaches) represent brainwashing at its ugliest. It makes one's skin crawl. Logic (or at least normal human logic) has no place here. Manipulation of prisoners' minds - now that's another story... Arguing is futile. Through his cell walls, and later on his short walks in the yard Rubashov gets to know his co-prisoners - some, by this time, deranged with the idea of revolution, some resigned, some not even understanding why they are there, some resisting, but not for long...

I have read a number of accounts (both non-fiction, and fiction - based on facts) about this dark era of Russian history, and yet this is the first time that I encounter such philosophical dissection of ideas in the mind of a political prisoner, such psychologically influenced ruminations. This book will stay with me for a while... I think the validity of this topic can never be lost. ( )
1 vote Clara53 | Nov 7, 2018 |
The Moscow purges and show trials of the mid 1930s through the 40s have always seemed baffling to Westerners. Why would such luminaries of the Communist Party and stalwart defenders of the Russian Revolution confess publicly to counter-revolutionary crimes against the State which were so obviously false to the point of utter inanity. Solzhenitsyn in his GULAG Archipelago analizes the techniques used to illicit false confessions from people under the Soviet system, but "Darkness at Noon" takes a more literary and forceful approach.

His main character, an operative and fervent believer in the Party, is arrested for being a traitor to the Party. His interrogator is an old comrade of his. Through their conversations/interrogations we learn of the protagonist's history with the Party, his work, his defense of the methods used, his slow dissatisfaction with the results of their work, and his understanding of the role he must play. Koestler, himself, was a Communist and Believer, and his unveiling of this psychology rings true and convincing--and terrifying. ( )
  Marse | Oct 27, 2018 |
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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
Walter, Hans-AlbertEditorsecondary 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
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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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