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The God That Failed Paperback – September 15, 2001

ISBN-13: 978-0231123952 ISBN-10: 0231123957

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press (September 15, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0231123957
  • ISBN-13: 978-0231123952
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.1 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #493,322 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

Canterbury Tales of the 20th century.

(Time)

The moving power of their several chronicles derives not merely from the unity of the theme embodied in significant variations but also from the reader's sense that they are recording a tragedy in which all of us have been involved.

(Reinhold Niebuhr The Nation)

The story of the emotions which drew such men to Communism and of the events which disillusioned them states concretely and compellingly the great issues of our time.

(The Saturday Review of Literature)

Worth reading, and rereading, for its interest both as a classic historical document and as a haunting object lesson.

(Norman Podhoretz Encounter)

An important contribution to our understanding of Communism in its full dimensions and awful depths.

(New York Herald Tribune)

This book is an engrossing study of why men join a Communist party and the reasons why they are eventually compelled to resign... Engerman has done an admirable job of explaining the context of this work.

(Donald F. Busky The Historian)

Review

To understand the Cold War and the character of Stalinism, The God That Failed is a must read.

(Daniel Bell)

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

4.8 out of 5 stars
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This is one of the great political books of all time.
Stephen M. St Onge
You will come away from the book wondering how some intelligent people believed - and still believe - that communism was the way of the future.
Thomas G. Skelding
For readers interested in the intellectual history of the twentieth century, this book is a fundamental document.
Robert T. OKEEFFE

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

37 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Robert T. OKEEFFE on January 8, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
For readers interested in the intellectual history of the twentieth century, this book is a fundamental document. "The God that Failed" refers to Communism as it manifested itself in the USSR between 1917 and the time of the book's publication in 1949 (and as it was established in the USSR's satellite states after 1945). In their own phrase, the Russian experience was "real existing socialism", based on so-called Marxist-Leninist principles, whose most adept pupil was Josef Stalin; unfortunately it became the inflexible model for future developments elsewhere. The book is an anthology of six "confessional" essays by three continental writers (Arthur Koestler, Ignazio Silone, and Andre Gide, all novelists and essayists), one English writer (Stephen Spender, poet) and two American writers (Richard Wright, novelist, and Louis Fischer, political journalist). All of them had either joined the Party and worked on its behalf or had been prestigious foreign fellow-travelers of the Russian regime, speaking and writing on its behalf. By 1948 they had all rejected their earlier intellectual and emotional commitments to the Party and to communism (but not to their own ideal versions of socialism - they never became conservatives). The broad appeal of theoretical Marxism and its first "instantiation", Russian Communism, to intellectuals all over the world, regardless of their very different individual life histories - nobody could have experienced his own youth and its surrounding society more differently than Gide and Wright, for instance -- was presumably based on its utopian goals regarding social justice.Read more ›
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61 of 68 people found the following review helpful By M. A. Krul on February 26, 2007
Format: Paperback
The famous collection "The God that Failed" contains reflections by three famous writers/activists who were members of the Communist Party in their nation (Koestler, Silone and Wright), and three who were, at least in the view of some, fellow travellers (Gide, Fischer, Spender). Each of them explains in short anecdotal style, mixed with philosophical and political musings, how they came to be an orthodox Communist, and how they came to leave this position.

All of these contributions make for excellent reading, and together they form an entirely and incontrovertibly damning picture of both the strategies and the mindset of the various Marxist-Leninist Parties and their leading adherents. In that way this book forms an excellent companion to the works of Orwell, Edmund Wilson and similar people who were also sympathetic to socialism of various kinds, but came to see the "official" Marxism of the USSR and its followers as a destructive and evil force. Because that is what goes for all these writers as well as for Orwell - despite the claim of conservatives to books like this, all of the contributors to this collection still supported socialism at the end, only a different kind of socialism, more humane, more sensitive, and for some even more religious. None of them regretted their initial motives in joining the Party, but all of them felt that the Party is rather the kind of thing they wanted to fight against in the first place - the ultimate deception, caused by the political methodology of Marxism-Leninism.

It is well-known by now, but it wasn't so evident then.
Read more ›
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By V. Abernathy on April 26, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is really a great find to have. It shows you how that anything that represents a community can and will be corrupted. The book is mainly directed toward Communism, but when you go to compare it to religion, it's pretty much the same deal. Like in one paragraph it said the following; "...Once the renunciation has been made, the mind, instead of operating freely, becomes a servant of a higher and unquestioned purpose. To deny the truth is an act of service. This of course is why it is useless to discuss any aspect of politics with a Communist. Any intellectual contact you have with him is a challenge to his fundamental faith." Notice the resemblance between Communism and Religion have? Things like this you'll find throughout this book. This book is a compact version of six great authors about Communism, two of them, Louis Fischer and Richard Wright are my favorites. As I said in the title of this review Christopher Hitchens speaks highly of this book and you can see why. I think you'll find this book quite informing and it'll give you a piece of mind before you become a member of something.
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31 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Thomas G. Skelding on February 26, 2002
Format: Paperback
Anyone who is a fan of George Orwell or P.J. O'Rourke should enjoy this collection of essays from intellectuals who made the journey to communism and back. Arthur Koestler's (sp?) essay captures perfectly the confusion of Weimar Germany before the rise of Hitler, and shows that the communists actually helped the Nazis to power. You will come away from the book wondering how some intelligent people believed - and still believe - that communism was the way of the future. If there is a book that will turn a diehard leftist into a subscriber to the "National Review", TGTF is that book.
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