17 November 2014
Word Count: 2461
The Guilty Innocents
"One death is a tragedy; one million is a statistic." (Stalin). Darkness at Noon by Arthur Koestler, is a novel criticizing the purges in the U.S.S.R. during Stalin's reign. Koestler was a Hungarian born British novelist, journalist, and critic. Along with Darkness at Noon, he wrote three other political novels aside from Darkness at Noon. Koestler himself was a member of the communist party and spent a year in the U.S.S.R. Rubashov, an old Bolshevik who experienced the Russian Civil War firsthand and even states that the party can do no wrong. Though Rubashov is an ally, he is imprisoned on the grounds of treason. Stalin's reign is seen as one of the most deadly during World War II, from casualties reigning from political trails, to casualties from the war. Russian political culture, especially during the Stalin era, those who even thought for themselves aside from their party would endure many consequences, if found out. During Stalin's reign many were jailed and persecuted for treason, even political allies. Many were encouraged to not speak about these officers taking people away, even prompting a propaganda posters to be displayed. The communist party was a party that thrived on printed propaganda, seeing as how many people were not encouraged to talk about the party unless they were speaking of business to further success the party. Koestler illuminates the dark reality of Stalin's purges and the bleak, fearful lives of citizens under the U.S.S.R. through the use of Rubashov, his flashbacks, and his extreme loyalty to the party.
Arthur Koestler was born September 5, 1905 in Budapest, Hungary. Koestler was a British novelist, journalist, and critic. He attended the University of Vienna before entering journalism.
Fig. 1. Arthur Koestler. 1959. Photograph. National Portrait Gallery. Web. 11 November 2014.
"In 1930 or 1931 Koestler had joined the communist party, and in the middle 30's he traveled through central Asia (Turkestan, Samarkand, and the Transcaucasian Republics) as a guest of the Soviet Union, spending a year in the USSR." ("Koestler, Arthur"). Koestler specifically served as a journalist during the Spanish Civil War. The Spanish Civil War was fought between those that favored communism versus those that favored fascism. Koestler was imprisoned by the fascists and his jail time served some inspiration for Darkness at Noon, though most of the accounts came from anonymous first-hand accounts. He also wrote The Gladiators and Arrival and Departure, which both deal with politics and morality. Also, Koestler wrote essays that mostly expressed his disappoint with communism and are collected in The Yogi and the Commissar and Other Essays, and in The God That Failed. His last political novel, The Age of Longing explored the disaster of Western culture after World War II. He also wrote a couple memoirs, Arrow in the Blue and The Invisible Writing. His later work dealt with science, creativity, and mysticism. His later works included The Act of Creation, The Lotus and the Robot, The Ghost in the Machine, The Thirteenth Tribe, and Bricks to Babel. In his later years Koestler suffered from leukemia and Parkinson's disease. Both he and his wife Cynthia were believers in voluntary euthanasia and took their own lives. ("Arthur Koestler")
Darkness at Noon begins at Rubashov's imprisonment. He is locked in his cell and strikes a conversation with the prisoner in the cell next to him through a tapping code much like Morse code. The prisoner and Rubashov talk about why they both are in prison and mention a prisoner, whom Rubashov saw earlier in the courtyard, and referred to as ‘hair-lip’. As Rubashov and the prisoner talk, Rubashov recalls a time where he had to deal with a young man named Richard on behalf of the party. During this conversation Rubashov and Richard are in a museum where a lewd exhibition resides to ensure that…