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Koestler: The Literary and Political Odyssey…
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Koestler: The Literary and Political Odyssey of a Twentieth-Century… (2010)

by Michael Scammell

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Interesting quote from Johann Hari in a review on Slate:He [Koestler:] said he was cursed with "absolutitis": When a cause didn't offer him absolute salvation, he would discard it in despair and try to find another with the same promise. The one possibility he never explored for long is the only real answer to suffering—incremental democratic reform. Real improvements in human societies almost always come inch-by-inch, without any grand map of a perfect world. If you demand perfection, you can only be disappointed; if you demand improvement, you can succeed—and build enough hope to fight another day.

See http://www.slate.com/id/2238790/
  ecw0647 | Sep 30, 2013 |
Without ever minimizing Koestler’s inadequacies, Scammell performs a much-needed act of restoration, separating the rumors surrounding Koestler’s private life from what can reasonably be known. Most important for the reader, he conveys the aggressive brio of Koestler’s story and the sheer excitement of his reportorial adventures in the twentieth century.
added by Shortride | editHarper's Magazine, Nicholas Fraser (pay site) (Apr 1, 2010)
 
As a source of information, “Koestler,” the work of two decades, will never be surpassed. As an argument for the man’s importance, however, it must contend with the eccentricity of Koestler’s preoccupations and — although Scammell does not always seem to realize it — his vices.
 
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0394576306, Hardcover)

From award-winning author Michael Scammell comes a monumental achievement: the first authorized biography of Arthur Koestler, one of the most influential and controversial intellectuals of the twentieth century. Over a decade in the making, and based on new research and full access to its subject’s papers, Koestler is the definitive account of this fascinating and polarizing figure. Though best known as the creator of the classic anti-Communist novel Darkness at Noon, Koestler is here revealed as much more–a man whose personal life was as astonishing as his literary accomplishments.

Koestler portrays the anguished youth of a boy raised in Budapest by a possessive and mercurial mother and an erratic father, marked for life by a forced operation performed without anesthesia when he was five, growing up feeling unloved and unprotected. Here is the young man whose experience of anti-Semitism and devotion to Zionism provoked him to move to Palestine; the foreign correspondent who risked his life from the North Pole to Franco’s Spain, where he was imprisoned and sentenced to death; the committed Communist for whom the brutal truth of Stalin’s show trials inspired the superb and angry novel that became an instant classic in 1940. Scammell also provides new details of Koestler’s amazing World War II adventures, including his escape from occupied France by joining the Foreign Legion and his bluffing his way illegally to England, where his controversial novel Arrival and Departure, published in 1943, was the first to portray Hitler’s Final Solution.


Without sentimentality, Scammell explores Koestler’s turbulent private life: his drug use, his manic depression, the frenetic womanizing that doomed his three marriages and led to an accusation of rape that posthumously tainted his reputation, and his startling suicide while fatally ill in 1983–an act shared by his healthy third wife, Cynthia–rendered unforgettably as part of his dark and disturbing legacy.

Featuring cameos of famous friends and colleagues including Langston Hughes, George Orwell, and Albert Camus, Koestler gives a full account of the author’s voluminous writings, making the case that the autobiographies and essays are fit to stand beside Darkness at Noon as works of lasting literary value. Koestler adds up to an indelible portrait of this brilliant, unpredictable, and talented writer, once memorably described as “one third blackguard, one third lunatic, and one third genius.”

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:55:28 -0400)

The first authorized biography of one of the most influential and controversial intellectuals of the twentieth century, based on new research and full access to its subject's papers. Best known as the creator of the classic anti-Communist novel Darkness at Noon, Koestler is here revealed as a man whose personal life was as astonishing as his literary accomplishments. The young Hungarian Jew whose experience of anti-Semitism and devotion to Zionism provoked him to move to Palestine; the foreign correspondent who risked his life from the North Pole to Franco's Spain; the committed Communist for whom the brutal truth of Stalin's show trials inspired the angry novel that became an instant classic in 1940; the escape from occupied France by joining the Foreign Legion and his bluffing his way illegally to England, where his controversial 1943 novel Arrival and Departure was the first to portray Hitler's Final Solution. Scammell also gives a full account of the author's voluminous writings, making the case that the autobiographies and essays are fit to stand beside Darkness at Noon as works of lasting literary value.--From publisher description.… (more)

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