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Darkness at Noon (1940)

by Arthur Koestler

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Koestler's Trilogy

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
5,3451001,928 (4.03)214
Originally published in 1941, Arthur Koestler's modern masterpiece, "Darkness At Noon," is a powerful and haunting portrait of a Communist revolutionary caught in the vicious fray of the Moscow show trials of the late 1930s. During Stalin's purges, Nicholas Rubashov, an aging revolutionary, is imprisoned and psychologically tortured by the party he has devoted his life to. Under mounting pressure to confess to crimes he did not commit, Rubashov relives a career that embodies the ironies and betrayals of a revolutionary dictatorship that believes it is an instrument of liberation. A seminal work of twentieth-century literature, "Darkness At Noon" is a penetrating exploration of the moral danger inherent in a system that is willing to enforce its beliefs by any means necessary.… (more)
  1. 90
    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. 40
    Life and Fate by Vasily Grossman (chrisharpe)
  4. 41
    The Trial by Franz Kafka (chrisharpe)
  5. 41
    One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn (chrisharpe)
  6. 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.
  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. 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.
  9. 10
    Dialogue with Death by Arthur Koestler (longway)
  10. 00
    Gece Yarisinda Aydinlik by Erica Glaser Wallach (bertilak)
  11. 00
    The Gods Will Have Blood by Anatole France (mambo_taxi)
    mambo_taxi: Different men and different revolutions, both books involve true believers who follow their revolutions right up to the point where they are destroyed by them.
  12. 01
    Every Man Dies Alone by Hans Fallada (chrisharpe)
  13. 12
    The Case of Comrade Tulayev by Victor Serge (thatguyzero)
  14. 05
    We the Living by Ayn Rand (br77rino)
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» See also 214 mentions

English (87)  French (4)  Dutch (4)  Spanish (2)  Swedish (1)  Catalan (1)  Hebrew (1)  All languages (100)
Showing 1-5 of 87 (next | show all)
This is a magnificent novel with a truly universal message. The translation by Philip Boehm of the newly rediscovered German manuscript is excellent as well. The novel was completed in 1940 and echoes the Soviet show trials of 1938 without explicitly mentioning which party and which country is involved. The Vintage edition also includes excerpts from another book by Koestler where he describes his own experience being locked up in one of Franco's jails as well as the final statement of the accused from one of the show trials.

The story begins when Rubashov, a leader in the Communist Party, is arrested and but into his jail cell. The reader is immediately given the feeling of being confined together with Rubashov. He is interrogated and told that he is expected to confess to all of his crimes. Rubashov looks back at his life and remembers when he sat in judgement of his comrades resulting in their deaths. The novel includes a number of philosophical discussions as well.

This novel is often cited by conservatives critical of the Soviet Union but the message of the novel applies to anyone who is being told to switch his own beliefs to accord with the party line. This makes the message even more universal. For example, the story would apply equally well to the members of the Republican Party who have had to totally change their beliefs to accommodate the latest MAGA statements. ( )
  M_Clark | Feb 8, 2024 |
Revolutions eat their children. When revolution takes place suddenly and aims at eradicating the previous regime in totality (history, news, people, events - anything and everything that might indicate there was life before the revolution) we end up with radical dictatorships right or left - they are all the same. When the final battles are won then it is required to take care of any survivors because they are unfortunate witnesses - people that know of the world before (what a blasphemy).

And this is how we get to the Rubashov, our main protagonist. High functionary of the party, responsible for some pretty heinous deeds in the name of Party, he is soon declared a persona non grata, arrested and placed into the solitary confinement for his anti-revolutionary actions (aka everything they can pack on). And so travel to the inevitable destination starts.

Story is a critique of the Soviet regime under Stalin (No.1) but same as Orwell's 1984 it is not sole critique of the left but any dictatorship. In my opinion only reason left dictatorships are given as an example in books like this, is because left revolutions are more social-oriented in nature and are supposed to bring better conditions for everyone, not cause more mayhem and despair.

For these societies it does not matter who the person is, once tagged as criminal element there is no further discussion, everyone knows how this needs to end. At that moment everyone who ever knew the person needs to disavow that same person, bury it under ton of accusations and findings that were always "subliminally there". Snitches arise and tell on others just to prove the scope of ever present conspiracy. There is never any doubt, greater the purge, the better because fear is greater and danger oh ever more palpable (so last year right?). Now imagine hundreds of revolutionaries from the 1920's and 1930's giving their best for the Party, fighting for the ideals and then ending in prisons and in front of firing squads or in dark dirty yard shot in the back.They are loyal to the very end, sure that this is an error and wholeheartedly believing will be saved in the end ..... so sad.

While all of the above is nothing new and was subject of many a novel what is eternal is message of the book - if you are fighting for the cause that treats all the others like scum of the earth is that cause worth fighting for? How deep can one go before becoming the relic, something to eliminate because it has no further purpose? Is human life only valid while it is useful, can we dehumanize a human being by terror, fears fed every second of a day being so much that human being becomes just a simple-minded drone, pure statistic? Is it worth living in society where you see bad things happening but cannot talk about it for fear of death or life ruination (again so 20's right)?

Novel style is excellent, author manages to capture the emotions of all parties involved and paints a very vivid picture of a dystopian society. All of this in very concise sentences and without becoming too melodramatic about the not so likeable character like Rubashov.

Recommended. ( )
1 vote Zare | Jan 23, 2024 |
7/10
After reading the author's bio, I thought I would really enjoy the book. However, once it started, I was immediately put off by the subject matter. Luckily, it ended up taking a very conceptual approach to the subject, which was extremely well suited to my interests.
Probably not for everyone, but definitely recommended for philosophers. ( )
  MXMLLN | Jan 12, 2024 |
"Darkness at Noon" belongs to a kind of subgenre - the protagonist trapped in the clutches of an unyielding totalitarian regime. The writing surpasses that of Orwell's in "1984" - which book I loved; and there is a gritty realism here that helps to explain just why Koestler's work has been - and deserves to be - remembered for so long. ( )
  soylentgreen23 | Jan 3, 2024 |
The ending is kind of explicit about the moralising, but it still avoids easy answers and asks questions related to the actual Soviet experience that's far more realistic and interesting than 1984's "they just want power for the sake of it. bad people" thing. The conversations between Ivanov and Rubashov are pretty fascinating as elucidations of common guiding principles - both in the Soviet movement and outside of it - the problems with them re ideas of humanity and the problems with those ideas. The book also talks about the problems of collaboration and resistance. Not a perfect book but a step up from a lot of "dystopian" novels by focusing on real circumstances and reasons why people do things. ( )
  tombomp | Oct 31, 2023 |
Showing 1-5 of 87 (next | show all)
Koestlers Roman ist auch nach dem Zerfall der Sowjetunion ein wichtiges historisches und politisches Zeugnis. Er zeigt Einblicke in die Instrumentalisierung des Individuums durch das stalinistische Regime und lässt eine vage Ahnung entstehen, was es damals hieß, sich einer totalitären Ideologie unterwerfen zu müssen - in einer Zeit, in der viele Menschen ohne Partei keine Existenz hatten. Es ist eine Ahnung, die wie eine Sonnenfinsternis ihren dunklen, langen Schatten wirft: Einen Schatten auf das Verständnis von Moral in einem ganz und gar unmoralischen System.
 

» 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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Epigraph
E chi piglia una tirannide, e non ammazza Bruto, e chi fa uno stato libero, e non ammazza i figlioli di Bruto, si mantiene per poco tempo.
MACHIAVELLI, Discorsi sopra la prima deca di Tito Livio, 1. III, c.3
Uomo, uomo, non si può vivere del tutto senza pietà.
DOSTOEVSKIJ, Delitto e castigo
Nessuno può governare senza colpe.
SAINT-JUST
Dedication
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.
Quotations
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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Originally published in 1941, Arthur Koestler's modern masterpiece, "Darkness At Noon," is a powerful and haunting portrait of a Communist revolutionary caught in the vicious fray of the Moscow show trials of the late 1930s. During Stalin's purges, Nicholas Rubashov, an aging revolutionary, is imprisoned and psychologically tortured by the party he has devoted his life to. Under mounting pressure to confess to crimes he did not commit, Rubashov relives a career that embodies the ironies and betrayals of a revolutionary dictatorship that believes it is an instrument of liberation. A seminal work of twentieth-century literature, "Darkness At Noon" is a penetrating exploration of the moral danger inherent in a system that is willing to enforce its beliefs by any means necessary.

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