A fictional portrayal of an aging revolutionary, this novel is a powerful commentary on the nightmare politics of the troubled 20th century. Born in Hungary in 1905, a defector from the Communist Party in 1938, and then arrested in both Spain and France for his political views, Arthur Koestler writes from a wealth of personal experience.Imprisoned by the political party to which he has dedicated his life, Nicolas Rubashov paces his prison cell, examining his life and remembering his tempestuos career. As the old intelligentsia is eradicated to make way for the new, he is psychologically tortured and forced to confess to preposterous crimes. Comparing himself to Moses, led to the Promised Land but refused entry, he sees only darkness at the end of his life, where once he saw such promise for humanity.
Frank Muller's narrative expertise is perfect for this haunting work. Rubashov's personal agony becomes Muller's as he presents Koestler's relevant and important questions.
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"A remarkable book, a grimly fascinating interpretation of the logic of the Russian Revolution...a tense and subtly intellectualized drama." (Times Literary Supplement)
This is the Audible edition of Arthur Koestler's 1940 novel "Darkness at Noon." It was suggested to me that I look up KIoestler on the Web and read about him for context. That took a few minutes and gave the book more gravity for me at least. Essentially, Koestler relates what it was like to live under Stalanism. If you are looking for dramatic story and high tension in the narrative, you will be disappointed. If you are open to understanding the era and circumstances almost in a philosophical sense this book is for you. Koestler was an influence on the writing of George Orwell of 1984 fame. The reading of Frank Muller is very good and appropriate to the content.
There are books of the same chemical composition as dynamite. The only difference is that a piece of dynamite explodes once, whereas a book explodes a thousand times. ― Yevgeny Zamyatin
DaN is not a book depicting only Stalin’s purges, as it is commonly described. It’s also about the totalitarian regimes of the 20th century. Since ‘revolution must begin with atheism’, it is no wonder that militant atheism was aimed at eradicating Christian values, the concepts of good and evil, stamping on time-honoured traditions, casting off the ‘ethical ballast’ of humanity.
In order to create a new man, free from scruples and morality, you must first destroy the foundations, free them from obligations, cut the umbilical cord and make their mind a blank sheet. Then you can fill them with the new dogmas and distorted propaganda slogans.
This is a quote from DaN. ‘When the existence of the Church is threatened, she is released from the commandments of morality. With unity as the end, the use of every means is sanctified, even cunning, treachery, violence, simony, prison, death. For all order is for the sake of the community, and the individual must be sacrificed to the common good.’ And by ‘the common good’ revolutionaries mean justifying atrocities to quench their thirst for power and establish the collective dictatorship over the independent mind. Having usurped power, the Nomenklatura can let the populace die of starvation while living off the fat of the land.
Revolutions have no moral philosophy. Revolutionaries have no scruples. Rubashov, the imprisoned protagonist of the book, had been a staunch Communist almost all his life. ‘For forty years he had lived strictly in accordance with the vows of his order, the Party. He had held to the rules of logical calculation. He had burnt the remains of the old, illogical morality from his consciousness with the acid of reason.’
Rubashov had tried to build the socialist utopia. Perhaps at first he had believed in the communist future and expressed ‘fidelity to the principles of the Communist International.’ But eventually he became corrupted by the revolution.
Rubashov was arrested and tried for crimes he had never committed. In his time, he had betrayed and framed up others. He had committed crimes far worse than those made up to incriminate him. It’s no wonder that in that dog-eat-dog reality he simply had to pay the piper.
Here are some other quotes from the book.
‘History is a priori amoral; it has no conscience.’
‘...one could treat history like one experiments in physics. The difference is that in physics one can repeat the experiment a thousand times, but in history only once.’
‘It is necessary to hammer every sentence into the masses by repetition and simplification. What is presented as right must shine like gold; what is presented as wrong must be black as pitch. For consumption by the masses, the political processes must be coloured like ginger-bread figures at a fair.’
If you read G. Orwell’s ‘1984’ (BTW it was inspired by A. Koestler’s DaN) and found it thought-provoking, you certainly should read ‘Darkness at Noon’.
I also strongly recommend reading ‘The Gulag Archipelago’ by the Russian writer and Nobel Prizer winner Alexander Solzhenitsyn.
I focus on fiction, sci-fi, fantasy, science, history, politics and read a lot. I try to review everything I read.
In one sense, this is just another dystopian novel about the historical abuses of the now defunct Soviet Union, in another sense; it describes the essential folly of man through the disillusioning of a true believer. The novel presents a believable character, a fearless communist intellectual that fought passionately for the cause and rose to the elite in the party, so far as to be colleges with Stalin. We watch as the protagonist’s friends do what is expedient by betraying him as the party devolves towards totalitarianism and barbarism.
Although this is not a cheerful story I found it uplifting and strangely positive, as the protagonist cleanly faces the truth of the dark side of his friends and the communist movement. While reading Darkness at Noon I could not help but think that, although the Soviet Union is now defunct, the Soviet era totalitarians are still in control of Russia, and the lies and oppression continue. Just watch Russian News (RT) for a while and count the number of negative Putin stories (generally zero).
The narration was excellent, matching the tone and spirit of the book remarkably well.
An erstwhile revolutionary hero is condemned by the Party he helped to establish. Koestler's indictment of Stalin's ruthless purge decomposes the conflicts of high minded political ideals and the naked desire for power and self preservation.
In 1998, the Modern Library ranked Darkness at Noon number eight on its list of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century. There is no question that it deserves this rank in terms of its importance to understanding the ideas underpinning the Russian Revolution and how they were corrupted. But, it's a difficult book, very philosophical, and for me, hard to slog through.
The narrator, Frank Muller, is superb.
In a recent interview in Vanity Fair, actor Ben Mendelsohn described Darkness at Noon as "the seminal reading experience in his life" and a book “toppled his mind a bit." Spot on. This book is truly compelling.
A different reading style by the narrator.
It seemed insightful into the life of an aging revolutionary.
While his speaking voice was nice the breathiness he utilized at the end of phrases became very distracting from the book and ultimately "drove me crazy" couldn't wait for book to end.......
The story was depressing but when you travel in this part of the world you often feel this same heaviness the writer conveys.
The writer's work deserved a better reader. The publisher's summary of the book was so nicely written that I thought this book would have been oh so much better. Do not buy this in "audible" but read it in print.
"Great Book Poorly Read"
Sorry Audible, I am finding this recording almost unlistenable. The reader adopts a stereotyped, melodramatic tone that consists of a limited range of vocal cadences that repeats every few sentences. With no reference to the text, each phrased section culminates in a downturn in tone and a breathy extended last syllable. It is completely unconnected to the meaning of what is being read, requiring the listener to have to concentrate hard to the words in order to truly understand the nuances of the writing.
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