Amazon.com: Customer Reviews: Darkness at Noon
Your Garage botysf16 Amazon Fashion Learn more nav_sap_plcc_ascpsc Eli Paperboy Fire TV Stick Subscribe & Save Patriotic Picks Shop-by-Room Amazon Cash Back Offer roadies roadies roadies  Amazon Echo  Echo Dot  Amazon Tap  Echo Dot  Amazon Tap  Amazon Echo Introducing new colors All-New Kindle Oasis AutoRip in CDs & Vinyl Best Camping & Hiking Gear in Outdoors STEM

Format: Paperback|Change
Price:$10.70+ Free shipping with Amazon Prime
Your rating(Clear)Rate this item


There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.

on May 10, 2007
A faded photograph on the wall depicts 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 toward his cell, but 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, formerly a member of the Communist Party, 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 a 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. In his exhausted and muddled state, his motivation for living seems driven by a desire to explore more fully a new idea, the law of the relative maturity of the masses. He only needs time to sort out his questions and to resolve his doubts.

Koestler reveals much about Rubashov through flashbacks. We recognize that Rubashov's own ethics and morality were undermined as he participated in the destruction of well-meaning, loyal party members that unintentionally became guilty of political divergencies. He allowed his lover to be imprisoned, and even joined the chorus that condemned her. Nonetheless, Koestler persuades us to have sympathy for Rubashov, now a victim of his own ideology.

I was unfamiliar with Arthur Koestler and I was unprepared when I opened this little book. I was captivated as Rubashov gradually awoke from a disturbing dream of betrayal, only to discover that he was being awakened by the secret police. I carried Darkness at Noon to work and shared it with a colleague. His teenage son was the next reader. Darkness at Noon is a classic that you will share with others.
99 comments|140 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
VINE VOICEon January 29, 2008
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. Now that I've read it again I think I can begin to understand the praise that has been heaped on it since its publication.

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 descriptions found in history texts such as Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsarand Stalin and His Hangmen: The Tyrant and Those Who Killed for Him of the fate of millions during the purges.

Further, whereas these 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 in Darkness at Noon go a long way toward 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 explaining why so many millions of people actively participated in the denunciations that accompanied the purges and show trials.

During the height of the proceedings against him during his Presidency, former President Clinton compared himself to Rubashov. 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. However, Koestler makes it clear that Rubashov was not merely a vicitim of Stalin, or Stalin's henchmen, but of the system that Rubashov (a hero of the revolution) himself played an important role in creating. Rubashov spent a life filled with deceit, manipulation, and even murder, on behalf of his party and its "core values". The doctrine of the end justifying the means was a cornersone of Rubashov's philosphy and morality. Whatever "core values" existed at the beginning of his revolutionary life with the party had long since withered to nothingness by the time of his imprisonment. Consequently, if President Clinton's comparison of himself to Rubashov was based upon the idea that Rubashov was a purely innocent victim, he is just wrong. To the extent Clinton was aware that Rubashov was in no small way responsible for creating the milieu under which this despicable actvity takes place - then he is more self-aware than I had previously given him credit for.

Finally, the book is just darn well-written. Of particular beauty and impact are Rubashov's dialogues with his interrogators.

Pick up this book and read it.
1212 comments|90 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on April 5, 2008
Set during the Stalinist purges and show trials, `Darkness at Noon' presents a fictionalized account of the interrogation and breaking of a (former) communist leader `Rubashov'. Under Stalin, 'former communists' were limited to those persons about to be executed, already executed, or waiting to be uncovered. As an original Bolshevik, a leader of the 1917 revolution, Rubashov's disillusionment was simply inadmissible to Number One (as Stalin is referred to by Koestler).

Koestler explores the journey of Rubashov from the knock at the door through the final denouement. The reader observes Rubashov, who plays the role of narrator, as he undergoes the psychological change from a determination to resist to nearly total capitulation. Rubashov manages to hold to some crumbs of self-respect, but yields to the logic of the revolution as more important than any individual even when the accusations are complete fabrications.

`Darkness at Noon' is precisely imagined with its details of Rubashov pacing the floor of his small isolation cell, the coded tapping between adjacent cells, and the deprivation of physical comforts that make the subsequent small graces, such as limited outdoor exercise, become precious by comparison. This much of the tale was informed by Rubashov's experiences as a prisoner during the Spanish Civil War. Koestler's examination of the psychological destruction of the prisoner is fascinating, although at times it briefly lapses into stultifying disquisitions on the distorted Stalinist political philosophy.

Koestler himself was a German communist through much of the 1930's before immigrating to Britain, leaving the party and becoming an influential ex-communist. George Orwell's excellent essay about Koestler is readily available on the Internet (google `arthur koestler orwell').

Darkness at Noon was the middle book of an unusual trilogy of loosely related subjects: Gladiators and Arrival and Departure (20th Century Classics). Readers may also wish examine Victor's Serge's The Case of Comrade Tulayev (New York Review Books Classics).

Highly recommended for anyone interested in the era of communism in its Stalinist form or more broadly in the perverse ability of humans to place greater meaning in abstract and abstruse ideology than in the actual lives of other humans.
44 comments|46 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
VINE VOICEon April 9, 1999
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. However, Koestler makes it clear that Rubashov was not merely a vicitim of Stalin, or Stalin's henchmen, but of the system that Rubashov (a hero of the revolution) himself played an important role in creating. Rubashov spent a life filled with deceit, manipulation, and even murder, on behalf of his party and its "core values". The doctrine of the end justifying the means was a cornersone of Rubashov's philosphy and morality. Whatever "core values" existed at the beginning of his revolutionary life with the party had long since withered to nothingness by the time of his imprisonment. Consequently, if President Clinton's comparison of himself to Rubashov was based upon the idea that Rubashov was a purely innocent victim, he is just wrong. To the extent Clinton was aware that Rubashov was in no small way responsible for creating the milieu under which this despicable actvity takes place - then he is more self-aware than I had previously given him credit for.
Finally, the book is just darn well-written. Of particular beauty and impact are Rubashov's dialues with his interrogators.
Pick up this book and read it.
55 comments|62 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on September 5, 2004
"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. And if the leader (Number one) says he is to be blamed, he must have done something....

The prisioner writes a diary, where he dwells upon the nature of men, and politics. He thinks that after the revolution he defended so passionately, an individual is defined merely as "a multitude of one million divided by one million". The individual doesn't matter because only the "Cause" matters. Regarding politics, he concludes that at the end only one thing is clear: "the end justifies the means". Is it any surprise, then, that the tone that pervades this book is so gloomy?.

On the whole, I highly recommend "Darkness at noon" to all of you, for two reasons. To start with, it is a literary masterpiece, beautifully written and accessible to the average reader. Secondly, and more important, it also shows us once again that every attempt to forget that the end doesn't justifies the means ends in a nightmare.

Belen Alcat
0Comment|32 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on September 23, 2003
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. In his exhausted and muddled state, his motivation for living seems driven by a desire to explore more fully a new idea, the law of the relative maturity of the masses. He only needs time to sort out his questions and to resolve his doubts.

Koestler reveals much about Rubashov through flashbacks. We recognize that his own ethics and morality became victims as he participated in the destruction of well-meaning, loyal party members that unintentionally became guilty of political divergencies. He allows his lover to be imprisoned, and even joins the chorus that condemns her. Nonetheless, Koestler persuades us to have sympathy for Rubashov, now a victim of his own ideology.

I was unfamiliar with Arthur Koestler and I was unprepared when I opened this little book. I was captivated as Rubashov gradually awoke from a disturbing dream of betrayal, only to discover that he was being awakened by the secret police. I carried Darkness at Noon to work and shared it with a colleague. His teenage son was the next reader. Darkness at Noon is a classic that you will share with others.
0Comment|34 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
HALL OF FAMEon March 15, 2003
Arthur Koestler's novel Darkness At Noon explores the inner struggle raging inside Nicolas Salmonovitch Rubashov, a bureaucrat and Old Bolshevik who is arrested in 1939 on charges of conspiring to assassinate Stalin. While awaiting his sentence, he is forced to reexamine his past. The conflict within Rubashov can be construed as a struggle between several sets of dualities: Communism versus Christianity, "we" versus "I," the Party versus the individual, emotionless logic versus emotional conscience, a.k.a. "the grammatical fiction", lies versus the truth, old Bolsheviks versus new Bolsheviks, and regarding History, the Party, and Stalin, the most important duality of all: right versus wrong. Whatever the outcome, as Rubashov says throughout the book, "I shall pay."
Rubashov is expected to do the right thing, to logically arrive at the conclusion that he was wrong and that Stalin and the Party were right, but while in his cell, contemplates his past in daydreams, silent soliloquys, monologues, in the process analyzing monologues as "dialogues of a special kind; dialogues in which one partner remains silent while the other, against all grammatical rules, addresses him as 'I' instead of 'you.' He revisits his past and remembers the people he betrayed, such a Richard, the German communist, Little Loewy, the Belgian communist who takes issue with Stalin supporting Hitler with mineral shipments prior to the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact, and Arlova, the librarian and Rubashov's former secretary whom he denounces just to save his own skin.
Also, consider this: "History has taught us that often lies serve her better than the truth; for man is sluggish and has to be led through the desert for forty years before each step in his development." Key to the argument of truth and lies is Stalin's absolute control of Party policy. As Rubashov wonders during one of his bouts of doubt: "And what if, after all, No. 1 were in the right? If here, in dirt and blood and lies, after all and in spite of everything, the grandiose foundation of the future were being laid? Had not history always been an ..., unscrupulous builder, mixing its mortar of lies, blood and mud?" Truth is a commodity held ... by Stalin, i.e. what mattered was what Stalin believed was the truth and woe be to he who challenges him.
This is akin to Orwell's 1984, where Winston Smith is forced to repeat the Party slogan: "Whoever controls the past controls the future. Whoever controls the present controls the past" O'Brien replies that "whatever the Party holds to be truth is truth." And the Party has power with control of the truth. Power is thus an end, not a mean.
Koestler displays religious overtones in connection with Rubashov's attack with conscience, ironic considering Marx's view on religion as the opiate of the masses. Rubashov compares the Russian people under Lenin with the Israelites under Moses, who "for forty years... had been driven through the desert, with threats and promises, with imaginary terrors and imaginary rewards. But where was the Promised Land?"
A painstaking introspective look at a man struggling with conscience, but also looks at the dark aspects of the Stalin purges and the ruthless machinery of the Party.
0Comment|13 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on October 4, 2007
Arthur Koestler's "Darkness at Noon", his magnum opus, is more than just a book. It is not a novel, nor is it an essay; it is a memory and an experience, a warning and a vision. It takes the reader into a nightmare world that is nevertheless real, an alternative history that is more history than alternative, and if he has a sensitivity to questions of history and politics, it is sure to be imprinted on his mind forever. In summary, it's one of the most powerful political books of the 20th Century.

The theme of the book is the experience of Stalinism, in particular the Stalinist Great Purges and the show trials during the late 1930s. Arthur Koestler himself was a Party socialist for much of his life, and only left the Soviet Union in 1938. Having known many of the Old Bolsheviks personally, he saw the state of the revolution taken over by Stalin and his henchmen, and witnessed the slow (and sometimes fast) destruction of the revolutionary old guard.

It's the experiences of this infamous Great Terror of communism, seen from the eyes of a communist, that form the basic of this book. The plot is rather limited in scope: the protagonist, N.S. Rubashov (probably loosely modelled after Bukharin), is arrested for 'counterrevolutionary crimes', and spends the rest of the book in prison, being interrogated and prepared for the inevitable show trial. This of itself is not particularly clever, but that is not the core of the book.

The real core of the book is Rubashov's fundamental theoretical paradoxical position: all his life he has believed in submitting the "subjectivity" of the individual to the demands of the Party, in the knowledge that they were building a future for mankind. All his life he has believed in History working its will, in the inevitable eventual victory of the right over the wrong. Yet now this same history has taken a turn, and he and the works of his generation are destroyed by the progeny of his own revolution. His interrogators, first the cynical intellectual Ivanov and later the farmer's son-turned-cadre Gletkin, want him to sign a series of damning confessions that are palpably false, which all parties involved know. Yet if the Party demands this of him, if this indeed is the will of History, can he resist? And moreover, how is it possible to begin with that the revolution led to the terror of "No. 1", the totalitarian Party leader?

Through a series of short but thrilling scenes in interrogation and longer periods of reflection, monologue interieure, and flashbacks, the downfall of a committed revolutionary and intellectual and his generation are painted as vividly and profoundly as one could demand of literature. This book is more powerful than Orwell's "1984" and yet more understanding than any of the common anti-communist works of the last century; it is a testament, dedicated to the generation of Trotsky, Bukharin, Rykov, Tomsky, Rakovsky, Zinoviev, Kamenev, and all the other fighters for socialism at the birth of that bloodiest of centuries.
0Comment|12 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on April 2, 2003
Along with "Uncle Tom's Cabin" and "Nineteen Eighty-Four", this novel is held up by some as one of the most important literary works in galvanizing public opinion against a social or political system. But whereas there is little doubt as to the intent of the first two novels, I think that Koestler's work cannot be so easily pigeon holed. When Koestler wrote this novel he had not yet reached that stage in his life when he was stridently anti-communist (some would argue anti-everything) and still held the architects of the Russian Revolution in high esteem. It is one of those books that can preach differing and conflicting sermons. Thus readers from the political right see the novel as an indictment against what they see as the inherent dehumanizing and brutalizing aspects of the communist system; while readers from the left see the novel as an indictment against the abrogation of freedoms and the abuse of political power by any political system, be it communism, fascism, or Bushocracy. In other words, any political system that appends a system of logic to a diaphanously perceived righeousness. Unfortunately for both sets of readers, the literary value of the book is usually overlooked in favor of a particular political viewpoint.
The novel is set during the Moscow Trials of the 1930s in which Stalin systematically eliminated all opposition to his power. That this liquidation ended the lives of most of the remaining Bolsheviks of the 1917 Revolution is one of the great political ironies of history. The main character of the novel, Rubashov, represents one of the old guard, a party member whose intellectualizing of political history has no place in the new Soviet world of collectivism and one man rule. From the time the cell door slams behind Rubashov until the "smashing blow" ends his life, the action of the novel centers around Rubashov's internal fight between his loyalty to the ideals of 1917 and the encroachment of the "grammatical fiction" which forces him to consider things more subjectively. One would hardly think that this conflict could possibly be turned into a novel that could hold the reader's attention. But this is exactly what Koestler has done. The novel maintains a sense of tension throughout, and gives the reader a sample of some of the realities that constitute political imprisonment. There are unforgettable characters and scenes in the book: Rubashov's old friend, Ivanov, who now tries to get Rubashov to make public "his former errors"; the cool and ruthless Gletkin, and Rubashov's faceless and nameless neighbor with whom he carries on conversations by tapping out messages. While suffering through his imprisonment and the psychological torture that is inflicted on him, Rubashov has ample time to rethink his own poltical career, back to a time when he was able to inflict his own brand of logical expediency on both his friends and the innocent.
Some readers without the requisite knowledge of Russian history might be confused by some of the extended conversations in the book that deal with the Revolution and other arcane issues of poltical theory that take place between Rubashov and his interrogators. But confusion can be remedied by some outside reading, and a little perseverance on the reader's part will be rewarded with an unforgettable journey into one man's mind as he does battle with history, with totalitarian henchmen and,more importantly, with himself.
0Comment|15 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on July 2, 1999
I read this book, not because Bill Clinton or Sidney Blumenthal read it , but because Edward Teller did. Two unforgettable quotes:
1. "Ivanov- "Up to now , all revolutions have been made by moralizing diletantes. They were always in good faith and perished because of their dilettantism. We for the first time are consequent..."
"Yes," said Rubashov. "So consequent, that in the interests of a just distribution of land we deliberately let die of starvation about five million farmers and their families in one year. So consequent were we in the liberation of human beings from the shackles of industrial exploitation that we sent about ten million people to do forced labour in the Artic regions and the jungles of the East, under conditions similar to those of antique galley slaves. So consequent that, to settle a difference of opinion, we know only one argument: death, whether it is a matter of submarines, manure, or the Party line to be followed in Indo-China. ..."
2. "It was quiet in the cell. Rubashov heard only the creaking of his steps on the tiles. Six and a half steps to the door, whence they must come to fetch him, six and a half steps to the window, behind which night was falling. Soon it would be over. But when he asked himself, For what actually are you dying? he found no answer.
It was a mistake in the system; perhaps it lay in the precept which until now he had held to be uncontestable, in whose name he had sacrificed others and was himself being sacrificed: in the precept, that the end justifies the means. It was this sentence which had killed the great fraternity of the Revolution and made them run amuck. What had he once written in his diary? "We have thrown overboard all conventions, our sole guiding principle is that of consequent logic; we are sailing without ethical ballast."
0Comment|11 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse

Send us feedback

How can we make Amazon Customer Reviews better for you?
Let us know here.