Darkness at Noon: A Novel

Darkness at Noon: A Novel

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by Arthur Koestler
     
 

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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

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Overview

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.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"One of the few books written in this epoch which will survive it."
New Statesman (UK)

"It is the sort of novel that transcends ordinary limitations. Written with such dramatic power, with such warmth of feeling, and with such persuasive simplicity that it is as absorbing as melodrama."
The New York Times Book Review

"A rare and beautifully executed novel."
New York Herald Tribune

"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."
The Times Literary Supplement (London)

Times Literary Supplement
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.
Harold Strauss
It is the sort of novel that transcends ordinary limitations, and that may be read as a primary discourse in political philosophy. It is a far cry from the bleak topical commmentaries that sometimes pass as novels. The magic effect of Darkness at Noon is its magnificant tragic irony.-- Books of the Century; New York Times review, May 1941

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781416540267
Publisher:
Scribner
Publication date:
10/17/2006
Pages:
288
Sales rank:
116,073
Product dimensions:
5.30(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.60(d)

Read an Excerpt

The First Hearing

Nobody can rule guiltlessly. — Saint-Just

Chapter One

The cell door slammed behind Rubashov.

He remained leaning against the door for a few seconds, and lit a cigarette. On the bed to his right lay two fairly clean blankets, and the straw mattress looked newly filled. The wash-basin to his left had no plug, but the tap functioned. The can next to it had been freshly disinfected, it did not smell. The walls on both sides were of solid brick, which would stifle the sound of tapping, but where the heating and drain pipe penetrated it, it had been plastered and resounded quite well; besides, the heating pipe itself seemed to be noise-conducting. The window started at eye level; one could see down into the courtyard without having to pull oneself up by the bars. So far everything was in order.

He yawned, took off his coat, rolled it up and put it on the mattress as a pillow. He looked out into the yard. The snow shimmered yellow in the double light of the moon and the electric lanterns. All round the yard, along the walls, a narrow track had been cleared for the daily exercise. Dawn had not yet appeared; the stars still shone clear and frostily, in spite of the lanterns. On the rampart of the outside wall, which lay opposite Rubashov's cell, a soldier with slanted rifle was marching the hundred steps up and down; he stamped at every step as if on parade. From time to time the yellow light of the lanterns flashed on his bayonet.

Rubashov took his shoes off, still standing at the window. He put out his cigarette, laid the stump on the floor at the end of his bedstead, and remained sitting on the mattress for a few minutes. He went back to the window once more. The courtyard was still; the sentry was just turning; above the machine-gun tower he saw a streak of the Milky Way.

Rubashov stretched himself on the bunk and wrapped himself in the top blanket. It was five o'clock and it was unlikely that one had to get up here before seven in the winter. He was very sleepy and, thinking it over, decided that he would hardly be brought up for examination for another three or four days. He took his pince-nez off, laid it on the stone-paved floor next to the cigarette stump, smiled and shut his eyes. He was warmly wrapped up in the blanket, and felt protected; for the first time in months he was not afraid of his dreams.

When a few minutes later the warder tuned the light off from outside, and looked through the spy-hole into his cell, Rubashov, ex-Commissar of the People, slept, his back turned to the wall, with his head on his outstretched left arm, which stuck stiffly out of the bed; only the hand on the end of it hung loosely and twitched in his sleep.

Copyright © 1941 by The Macmillan Company

Copyright renewed © 1968 by Mrs. F. H. K. Henries (Daphne Hardy)

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Meet the Author

Born in Budapest in 1905, educated in Vienna, Arthur Koestler immersed himself in the major ideological and social conflicts of his time. A communist during the 1930s, and visitor for a time in the Soviet Union, he became disillusioned with the Party and left it in 1938. Later that year in Spain, he was captured by the Fascist forces under Franco, and sentenced to death. Released through the last-minute intervention of the British government, he went to France where, the following year, he again was arrested for his political views. Released in 1940, he went to England, where he made his home. His novels, reportage, autobiographical works, and political and cultural writings established him as an important commentator on the dilemmas of the twentieth century. He died in 1983.

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Darkness at Noon 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 29 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Koestler's Philosophy In a tale of a disillusioned communist, Koestler tells his abstract and sometimes outrageous thoughts and answers to questions about human nature. Set primarily in a prison, this novel focuses on the life of Rubashov, a controversial political figure thrown in jail for crimes he didn't commit. While imprisoned, Rubashov reflects on his life and what he has stood for. He begins to question his beliefs. By reflecting many of his beliefs through his characters, we are allowed a glimpse into the mind of Koestler, who himself became disillusioned with the Party. Though simply written, this entertaining novel offers a look at Koestler's life and some historical background on the party. Fueled by Koestler's own philosophical insights, the novel tells an interesting tale about the communist Soviet Union.
Jazzlover More than 1 year ago
Reality has always been hard on committed Collectivists, whether they call themselves Communists or Nazis or Progressives.   Their grand promises of a "Peoples' Paradise" have always ended in totalitarian nightmares or failure and disgrace.  Koestler saw Soviet Communism from the inside and described what it did to the non-existent individuals and even the former leaders of the "Revolution."   Painful stuff for the blind ideologues who chose to write reviews below about that which they cannot allow themselves to accept for what it was.  Soviet and Chinese Communists murdered tens of millions of their own people in the name of their own people.  Koestler's novel is compelling and frightening for Americans...a warning about what cannot be permitted to happen in our nation.   
Loganotron More than 1 year ago
I read this book for my Book Club (we're currently reading down the list of the Modern Library's Top 100 Best Novels - Board Picks). It was a bit tough to get into, but when Rubashov starts struggling with the emergence of his "grammatical fiction" (sense of individualism) I couldn't put the book down. What a great book about the big questions man has been struggling with for ages!
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the story makes the reader feel compelled to intellectually analyze every word
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I think this book really demonstrates what it is like living during these time periods. You have the communist parties and unions and conflicts with each. No matter if you are a journalist or merchant you get involved with one of these groups you are bound for some sort of conflict. Rubashov was just an ordinary man who didn't want trouble and eventually ran into it and was on death sentence. This initially shows that if you are in the wrong place during this time you need to watch your back. This also gave me the impression of friendship since Daphne Hardy published the book for Koestler. On the other hand it shows how the things you do in life stick with you. Rubashov was in solitary prisons cells and continually had flashbacks of his previous foreign missions he had done that led him to that cell. He shared stories with the other cell men. Rubashov didn't have an easy life being on death sentence but he had friends along the way, including his "lady friend." Overall, this book taught a lot about communism and being apart of a communist party, and the "number one" and the USSR. It was very informational and helped a lot during our Russian unit.
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