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Darkness at Noon Paperback – October 17, 2006

4.6 out of 5 stars 250 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"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)

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 twentieth century. He died in 1983.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner; First Thus edition (October 17, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416540261
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416540267
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (250 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #33,302 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Michael Wischmeyer on May 10, 2007
Format: Paperback
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.
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Format: 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. 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.
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12 Comments 90 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Paperback
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.
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