Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Darkness at Noon

Arthur Koestler's Darkness at Noon is one of those classics that I had always heard about but until now had not read. What a great novel. You can click on the link above for the plot, but it is an examination of how the Communist Party, particularly under Stalin, worked to eliminate all independent thought, to destroy the "first person singular."

What's especially interesting is that the main character, Rubashov, is not even particularly likable. He had wholeheartedly embraced the party line to the point of having people killed for failing to follow it or even questioning it. What we see is how a grain of doubt spread and became a cynicism and skepticism that he could not longer hide. In the novel, as in real life, that led inevitably to execution. Individuals, even thousands or millions of individuals, were unimportant compared to the greater good of the party, which in turn was directed Stalin (referred to always as "No. 1" in the novel).

Overlaying the novel is a sad sense of resignation. Writing in 1940, Koestler could not have known, though maybe he assumed, that for Eastern Europe there was no end in sight for repression. Only later, much later, would it be clear how wrong all this was:

There was no certainty; only an appeal to that mocking oracle called History, who gave her sentence only when  the jaws of the appealer had long since fallen to dust (p. 12).
Koestler died only a few years before the Soviet Union fell apart.


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