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Darkness at Noon Mass Market Paperback – March 1, 1984

ISBN-13: 978-0553265958 ISBN-10: 0553265954 Edition: Reissue
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

This splendid novel is set in the tumultuous Soviet Union of the 1930s during the treason trials. Rubashov, the protagonist and a hero of the revolution, is arrested and jailed for things he has not done, though there is much about the current Soviet state that veered from his ideals as a revolutionary. His investigators, Ivanov and Gletkin, seek a public confession and interrogate him using a number of methods. Through the ordeal, Rubashov reaches an epiphany or two while his interrogators suffer the cruel fate of the Soviet machine. Darkness at Noon succeeds as political/historical novel, but even more so as a refreshing tale of the human spirit. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"Among the first former communists to expose the horror lurking behind the ideology's promise of utopia was the Hungarian-born British journalist Arthur Koestler. His Darkness at Noon (1941) is perhaps the greatest anticommunist novel of all time: at once a warning about the nature of the Soviet regime, issued at a time when few in the West wanted to hear it, and a grand novel of ideas in the tradition of Fyodor Dostoyevsky and Thomas Mann." (The Wall Street Journal)

"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)) --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam; Reissue edition (April 1, 1984)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0553265954
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553265958
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 0.6 x 6.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (126 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #497,400 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About 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 20th century. He died in 1983.

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

57 of 60 people found the following review helpful By Leonard Fleisig VINE VOICE on April 9, 1999
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I first read Koestler's Darkness at Noon in high school, close to 30 years ago. Although I cannot recall my earlier reaction to the book, I am certain that I was not prepared, as a 17-year old, to appreciate either the literary beeauty or socio-political importance of Koestler's masterpiece.
I came back to this book for two reasons. I had just finished reading Volkogonov's "Stalin" and "Trotsky" and Solzhenitzyn's Red Wheel (Volume I). Darknesss at Noon seemed to be the next appropriate book to pick up off the shelf.
I had also been reading about the remarks President Clinton made (alluded to by other reviewers) to Sid Blumenthal indicating that he felt "like the prisoner in Darkness at Noon."
It is, perhaps, either a sad testament to human nature, or an indicia of the power of great literature, that the story of the fate of one (fictional) man, Rubashov, can feel more compelling than the narrative description (in "Stalin" and "Trotsky") of the fate of millions.
Further, whereas Volkogonov's works go a long way towards explaining what happened and how it happened, Rubashov's self-crticial analysis, and his dialogues with Ivanov and then Gletkin go a long way towards explaining why the purges happened. It helps explain the mindset of those many, like Rubashov, who confessed their non-existent sins before their ineveitable demise. It also goes a long way to explaing why so many millions of people actively participated in the denunciations that accompanied the purges and show trials.
Clinton's comparison to Rubashov is rich with unintended irony. Perhaps Clinton, like me, had not read the book since high school, and felt that Rubashov was the purely innocent victim of a prosecutorial system run amok.
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31 of 32 people found the following review helpful By B. Alcat on September 5, 2004
Format: Mass Market Paperback
"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 Moscu Trials".That is part of the dedicatory that Koestler wrote for his book, "Darkness at noon".

Arthur Koestler (1905-1983) was a person that believed in the progress that Communism was supposed to bring, but that became disillusioned in the way in which that dream was being carried out in the URSS. He wrote many books that give expression to his feelings of disenchantment, but "Darkness at noon" is probably the most popular one.

Not overly long, and very easy to read, this book is the story of Rubashov, an old communist who took part in the revolution and who is very loyal to the "Cause". Strangely enough, he is accused of treason, and taken to jail, where he must face harsh interrogatories. While he is in jail, Rubashov experiences flashbacks that allow us to know more about him, and the things he did due to his devotion to the Party. He betrayed people he loved, and those he appreciated, for no other reason than obedience to the Party and fear of going to jail.

We can have an idea of Rubashov's feelings and ideas all throughout his ordeal thanks to the fact that "Darkness at noon" is written in the first person. After a while, we are Rubashov, and like him we are surprised, outraged, desperate and ultimately resigned to our luck.

In the beginning, Rubashov says that he isn't a traitor and that he hasn't done the things he is accused of. But slowly our main character starts to come to terms with the idea that the truth of the accusation isn't really important, what matters is to serve the country.
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34 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Michael Wischmeyer on September 23, 2003
Format: Mass Market Paperback
A faded photograph reveals the bearded, solemn, serious men that were the delegates to the first Congress of the Party. It is decades later and only a few like Comrade Nicolas Salmanovitch Rubashov have survived. Late one night Rubashov is awakened, arrested, and taken to cell number 404. Like so many others, he now expects to be interrogated, tortured, and shot. Harsh steps echo down the prison corridor; this time it is only the guard bringing soup.

Darkness at Noon is an authentic and chilling look at Stalin's Russia in the late 1930s. Arthur Koestler completed this superb historical fiction in Paris as WWII was just beginning. In a short forward he says that the characters in this book are fictitious, but that the historical circumstances which determined their actions are real. The life of the man N. S. Rubashov is the synthesis of the lives of a number of men that were victims of the so-called Moscow Trials. Several of them were personally known to the author. He dedicates this book to their memory.

Suffering from a toothache, subjected to endless interrogation, deprived of sleep, Rubashov struggles to delay his inevitable final confession. He questions his own past and motivations. Was he unconsciously disloyal? Is he guilty? Does it matter whether he is guilty? Should he remain silent, argue, or simply capitulate?

Rubashov finds meaning in politics, history, and philosophy. We see him wrestling with the meaning of suffering, senseless suffering versus meaningful suffering. We sympathize with him as he questions the morality of betraying his life long beliefs, despite his recognition that he himself has been betrayed. He clearly knows that he is guilty of betraying others.
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