Arthur Koestler’s Darkness at Noon (1940, France) is one of the twentieth century’s most famous “political novels,” or fictional accounts of a historical reality. Written by a former member of the Communist Party, it is a unique glimpse into the volatile political situation under the government of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) in the late 1930s. Its main character, Rubashov, combines characteristics of key Soviet politicians and intellectual leaders from the Bolshevik Revolution, and the story of his imprisonment and confession explains and develops the topical political themes of totalitarianism, socialism, communism, and individualism. Part of the reason for the novel’s wide success is the fact that Koestler, who was influenced by Sigmund Freud, was able to weave his political and philosophical themes into a compelling psychological narrative. With the use of rationalistic argument and religious symbolism, Koestler is able to combine politics together with psychology and individualism. Despite the loss of the original German text, fellow writer Daphne Hardy’s English translation of the novel, published in London in 1940, has become an international classic and has profoundly affected how history and the general public remembers the Moscow Show Trials.
From my previous knowledge on the Soviet Union and Stalin’s tyrannical rule and dictatorship, I was able to recognize the similarities between events that occurred and personalities that were displayed in the story line, and those which actually took place in history. The trials and various arrests in the novel, of course, were related to the situation that was unfolding in this un-named country, which represented the Soviet Union in an unspoken manner. Of course, I hadn’t heard or read of specific trials such as the Moscow Show Trials before reading this novel, and so this was an interesting and definitely significant fact that I learned while reading the novel. Koestler’s ability to truly...
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