Darkness at Noon

Darkness at Noon

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Arthur Koestler’s timeless classic, Darkness at Noon, first published in 1941, is a powerful and haunting portrait of a Soviet revolutionary who is imprisoned and tortured under Stalin’s rule.

Of all of Arthur Koestler’s works, none demonstrates more vividly his narrative power and uncompromising clarity of vision than this seminal work of twentieth century literature. “Darkness at Noon is the sort of novel that transcends ordinary limitations…written with such dramatic power, with such warmth of feeling, and with such persuasive simplicity” (The New York Times, 1941).

Set during Stalin’s Moscow show trials of the 1930s, Darkness at Noon is an unforgettable portrait of an aging revolutionary, Nicholas Rubashov, who is imprisoned and psychologically tortured by the very Party to which he has dedicated his life. As the pressure increases to confess to committing preposterous crimes, he re-lives a career that embodies the terrible ironies and human betrayals of a totalitarian movement masking itself as an instrument of deliverance. Almost unbearably vivid in its depiction of one man’s solitary agony, Darkness at Noon asks questions about ends and means that have relevance not only for the past, but for the perilous present. It is, as the Times Literary Supplement has declared, “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.”

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780808576365
Publisher: San Val, Incorporated
Publication date: 03/28/1984
Edition description: Reprint Edition
Pages: 216
Product dimensions: 4.36(w) x 7.00(h) x 0.83(d)
Age Range: 12 - 17 Years

About the Author

Arthur Koestler (1905-1983) was a Hungarian-British author and journalist who immersed himself in the major ideological and social conflicts of his time. In 1931 Koestler joined the Communist Party of Germany until, disillusioned by Stalinism, he resigned in 1938. In 1940 he published his novel Darkness at Noon, an anti-totalitarian work that gained him international fame. Over the course of his life, Koestler espoused many political causes. His novels, reportage, autobiographical works, and political and cultural writings established him as an important commentator on the dilemmas of the twentieth century.

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Darkness at Noon 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 45 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!
brf1948 17 days ago
I received a free electronic copy of this novel from Netgalley, Descendents of Arthur Koestler and the University of Edinburgh, and Scribner. Thank you all for sharing your hard work with me. I have read Darkness at Noon of my own volition, and this review reflects my honest, personal opinion of this work. I am pleased to recommend this novel to friends and family. I urge everyone to read this work and then VOTE! I had a vague concept of the movements of Stalinism, Fascism, Communism, Trotskyism, Socialism and how they affected the lives and times of Europeans in the twentieth century. I could never understand WHY the proponents of these social movements were willing to be cleansed, as it were when that ideology evolved into that of another social concept. Arthur Koestler explains it, very well. This book was originally published in 1940, an anti-totalitarian work perhaps based on the life and persecution of Bolshevik leader Nikolai Burkharin in 1938. Arthur Koestler, a Hungarian-British author/journalist was arrested as a communist spy during the Battle of Malaga (February 3-8, 1937) in the Spanish Civil War, and spent three months imprisoned in solitary confinement in the city of Seville seeing others lead out for execution and fearing he might be next. This novel reads tension, prosecution and torturous influence very well. And it has an interesting history. In publication around the world since 1940, Koestler finished the novel in Paris in April 1940. Arrested by the French Police as an enemy alien and a Soviet spy and imprisoned in Le Vernet internment camp in the south of France, he was able to work sporadically on the novel in the prison camp and finish it after his release to house arrest due to lack of evidence. While he was imprisoned his English girlfriend, Daphne Hardy had started translating some excerpts from the original novel. She had no experience of translation, no access to reference material or even dictionaries, but did the best she could. With the novel and translation finished in April 1940, and with Koestler's enthusiastic encouragement, she submitted her translation to publisher Jonathan Cape in London, and Koestler mailed his carbon copy in German to a publisher in neutral Switzerland - only days before Germany invaded Paris. When Hardy and Koestler fled Paris ahead of the Germans, the original of the novel in German was lost and the Swiss publisher was never heard from. The world was at war - Koestler assumed the manuscript never made it to Switzerland. The many translations in print since 1940 are of Robin Hardy's English translation of Arthur Koestler's German copy of the book. In 2015 a German graduate student working on Koestler's German writings stumbled across the carbon copy of a novel titled The Vicious Circle in the archives of Europa Verlag in Switzerland, under the German spelling of Rubashov - Rubaschow. The several first pages of the carbon manuscript were marked with French censor stamps, and the work meant little to Swiss editors in the 1940s. Though her work was considered very good, her translation fluid, Robin Hardy's lack of reference materials and youth had an unintended nuance on Koestler's work. This translation from Koestler's actual work by Philip Boehm, fluent in German and Polish and with years of experience in both translation and Marxist-Leninist jargon, makes for a tighter, more fierce work.
Chad Guarino 27 days ago
This is a newly discovered "lost text" of the classic totalitarian allegory Darkness at Noon, originally published in 1940. Set in 1930s Moscow during Stalin's show trials (though never explicitly stated: the geography is kept purposefully vague, and the party leader is referred to only as "Number One"), it's the tale of former party bigwig Rubashov, who has fallen from grace and been imprisoned on trumped up charges and continually interrogated to extract false confessions. It's hard not to read this book without thinking of 1984, which would be published less than a decade later. The plot lines are stylistically very similar, with the major difference being the historical realism of Darkness at Noon vs the "futuristic" take of 1984. While Darkness at Noon is a vital work of anti-fascist literature, I personally found myself unable to relate too much to the main character, who is continually lost in logical and philosophical ramblings with himself as he tries to make sense of his life up to his current predicament. It's also bitterly predictable, which is obviously a statement on the politics of the time period. I've never read the original translation, so I can't compare it at all to this newer edition, but I will say that it's well translated. There's never really any moments that feel wooden or strange. This is worth a read if you're a fan of 1984, Brave New World, or the Stranger. **I was given a copy of this book by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. My thanks to Scribner.**
andreablythe on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Rubashov is a former leader of the revolutionary movement (the novel never says which movement, but makes it clear by comparisons that Russian communism is intended), who is arrested one night and placed in prison for "political divergences." There he ruminates on his life, which has gone hand in hand with the progress of the revolution. When he is not pacing his cell or chain smoking, he is dragged off to a series of interviews with his accusers. Over the course of his stay in prison, he become more firmly in the belief that the revolution has become polluted, that it is no longer "for the people," and that he is right to diverge from the party line. I was drawn into this story almost instantly. Koestler drops overly flowery language (his character Rubashov is certainly eloquent and straight forward) in favor of clarity. The writing flows along easily, and allowed me to fall into story and relate to the characters and events. As Rubashov remembers his past and how it lead him to exactly this point of crisis, I was as fascinated as he was with his development and his formation of thinking. I was equally captivated by the intellectual volleying between Rubashov and his interrogators, both of whom strive to use logic to make their point-of-view clear and thus proven right. This is not a happy story, per se, but I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.
barbharper on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is one of the most profound books I have ever read about totalitarianism and the Marxist state. Rubashov experiences the brunt of karma as, after a brilliant career of manipulating his loyal party members, he suffers their fate. The ends justifies the means is the party slogan, individuals are sacrificed for the greater good. Spirituality is despised as weakness. As the minutes count down to his execution, Rubashov experiences an epiphany. His perceptions of truth come too late when he realizes that he must sacrifice his life for a state he does not believe in.One thing that struck me was how immediate and timeless the prose was. The book could have been written today. There were interesting parallels to Christ and ironic comments on revolutions (French and Russian).
k8_not_kate on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Darkness at Noon takes on a lot: Koestler uses his condemned main character to highlight the ideological shift in the USSR from Leninism to Stalinism, to comment on communism and revolution in general, and to bring the reader inside the mind of a political prisoner. I was assigned this book as part of a 20th century European history course, and it was by far my favorite piece that we read. The novel offers dimension to the student of Soviet history, but is also just a great novel in and of itself.
araridan on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book is about a prisoner named Rubashov who is kept in solitary confinement and subject to trial for "political divergences." Rubashov paces his cell a lot and has recurrent flashbacks of past actions that he is not proud of. He is subject to three hearings; the first two with an interrogator who formerly fought on the same side as him in a previous war. The last has a much stricter stance. The bigger themes of the story are how hypocritical political parties can be, and the mind games that are played, and the fact that forces that are supposed to be on opposite sides of the spectrum often engage in the same horrible behavior. I like this book fine, found the writing to be very straight-forward and the points quite evident right towards the beginning, so I got a little bored after time. In all fairness, this book is based on the Moscow trials, which I know admittedly barely anything about, and mirror actual events in the author's life.
McCaine on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
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.
wewerefiction on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Darkness at Noon, first published in 1941, tells the tale of Rubashov, an old guard and revolutionary who is tried for treason by the government he once helped create. Almost the entire tale is told while the character is in prison for his accusations; the only time we leave the prison is while visiting an avid follower and friend Wassilij in conversation with his daughter Vera about the trial during Rubashov's imprisonment. The location of the book is never mentioned, neither is Joseph Stalin; instead phrases such as "Over There" are used to imply Rubashov's home country, and Stalin is referred to as "No. 1," a man with an "expression of knowing irony." Having absolutely very little knowledge of this time period or the Soviet Union, or even Joseph Stalin himself, I had only a vague idea that perhaps all the above was true. As the setting is never expressly stated, and "No. 1" is only referenced in photographs and memories - he is not an active character himself - early while reading the book I had to do a bit of Wikipedia research to determine what exactly was going on. The time period eluded me. When my brother was reaching an age of discovery, he researched communism and other belief systems. I, on the other hand, read books about dragons. Suffice to say, I did not have knowledge base of the Soviet Union, the history, or the people involved. The point I'm trying to make in this paragraph is that I didn't have to. This book was extremely well-versed in the thoughts and ideas it presented. Yes, there were some references I didn't get, and yes, I probably would have had a much fuller understanding of the text if I had that background knowledge; however, I still enjoyed it. Even without the historical knowledge, you might also.I don't usually get into political fiction. Indeed, I don't usually get into politics. Generally, I might find interest in the ideas, but that's all they are to me: ideas. Abstract thoughts in space that stay in space, and are spoken in discussions but not actually believed. They're theoretical, "rhetorically speaking." I don't believe in anything, and some say that's a fault, but I disagree (for many reasons which aren't appropriate to this post). Darkness at Noon has contained within it a lot of thoughts. Some Rubashov believes, some he thinks he believes, and in the end, some he chooses to agree to, whether or not they're real. Memories are included, as I've stated, but the majority of this book is a man pacing his cell thinking about what he believes in. In the end? I don't think he believes anything. It is a depressing end, I'll admit. He went from being passionate about everything he stood for to being completely demoralized, wanting nothing but to sleep. For a while he wanted nothing but cigarrettes; he wasn't even hungry. They deprived him even of that desire. Like 1984 by George Orwell, I am finding there's no just way to "review" or put down my thoughts on this book without addressing every single thing I had thoughts about. I feel like I should re-skim the novel and point out quotes to discuss, and I suppose in a way that is the purpose of a political novel. It has me thinking. It has me interested. I want to research the surroundings and point out the similarities and differences from this novel to what really happened; I want to dive into thoughts as deep as Rubashov's journal entries. Most of all, I want a friend to read it so we can discuss it. That is the sort of effect this book leaves. It's very well written, though at first you might feel like you're reading a very shaky translation. You probably are. The book, apparently, was translated from the German and then the original German manuscript was lost. All we have to rely on is the original English translation. However, after 25 pages, you're sucked in, and there's no leaving until it's over... Even then, it holds you.
dougwood57 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
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.
rory1000 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A Man is arrested and placed in solitary confinement. Without hardly leaving the cell, the plot manages to takes in the wide sweep of history that is revolution, civil war, dictatorship, collectivisation and purges of Stalin¿s¿ Soviet era. This is an important work, for both literary and historical students alike.
shawnd on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Tightly written, this is not a long book. It's not especially fast read. The story is well thought out. Sort of a Count of Monte Cristo meets Kafka The Trial. Well that might not be a perfect analogy. This is typically rated highly as one of the best books of the 20th century. Use of storytelling to make moral points or make the reader think about conflict between man and punishment and other psychological issues is more direct than say a Coetzee. I would recommend this, even if Russia or Communism is not your bag.
DMCrimson on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
When it comes to fiction about government, the only book that can be compared to it's blend of beautiful prose and haunting message is 1984. However, I find Darkness to be more philosophical and cerebral towards it's message, which is where Koestler truly shines.
benfulton on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A magnificently contemplative novel of the last years of the protagonists of the Russian Revolution. To understand it, one must have at least a surface understanding of Communism as seen from the perspectives of both Vladimir Lenin and Josef Stalin; Rubashov's careful and thoughtful look back on the age of Lenin as he copes with the age of Stalin will be next to impossible to follow otherwise. One of the few books where I'd really love to read the sequel. Whatever would Rubashov make of the age of Putin?
pickwick817 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Well written book. In reading it I felt as if I lived through the same experiences myself. It was frightening, but not impossible to concieve. A glimpse at what less fortunate people on this planet must live through.
mattviews on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Darkness at Noon, though often overlooked as one of a 20th century classics, stands as a significant fictional portrayal of the nightmarish politics of our time. The protagonist, Rubashov, is an aging revolutionary who was once a partisan commander and is imprisoned by the Party to which he had unconditionally and loyally dedicated his life. The book closely follows Rubashov's arrest and his agonized reflections throughout his imprisonment.Through the reminiscence of a skein of characters, Rubashov re-lived his Party career that embodied the terrible ironies and human betrayals of a totalitarian movement masking itself as an instrument of deliverance. The book is meant to be a piece of fiction-a monologue of Rubashov's excruciating reflection of his party career, but reads like a social commentary and historical account as Rubashov is a synthesis of the lives of a number of men who were victims of the Moscow Trials.Darkness at Noon lays out some of the most inveterate principles of a Communist regime: the Party embodies the will of history even though history itself maybe proven to be defective. The authority of the Party could never be questioned or challenged or else the Party will settle such disparity with death. In other words, the Party prohibits any swerve from its ideals-some theoretical future of happiness that is unattainable save for Party members can envision. As interrogation proceeds, Rubashov is coerced to confess preposterous crimes that he never committed. False accusations are brought forth against him to the point such accusations wreck his nerves. Though Rubashov curtly denies committing any subversive acts in the industry entrusted to him, the accusation simply defines his motive as counter-revolutionary and that he had been in service of a hostile foreign power.Darkness at Noon exposes the bone-chilling tactics the Party operates-it operates without scruples nor accommodation, never caters to any individual needs. The movement is like a river with bends that those who are not ready accommodate the river flow will be inevitably washed ashore. The book also outlines the psychological strategy that such regime uses to manipulate prisoners. A dark tale indeed.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I recommend it to any history student who likes realism. Even as it is a fiction novel. It's based in reality. Still....Rubashov had it easy..... very easy!
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the story makes the reader feel compelled to intellectually analyze every word
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