Posts tagged with: Arthur Koestler

Useful idiots for collectivism posing as French intellectuals -- Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone Beauvoir entertain the butcher Ernesto "Che" Guevara in 1960.

In his novel The Age of Longing, Arthur Koestler skewers many so-called French intellectuals as useful idiots for collectivism, including presumably Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone Beauvoir shown above entertaining the butcher Ernesto “Che” Guevara in 1960.

Don’t retire this book! Although Arthur Koestler’s The Age of Longing was published in 1951 – officially making it 65 this year – it’s far too invigoratingly fresh to remove from the anti-Marxist workforce. In fact, the message delivered by Koestler in this novel couldn’t be more relevant than in our contemporary political environment.

Koestler’s penultimate endeavor in literary fiction and the final entry in his quartet of political novels on the inherent dangers of collectivism, The Age of Longing revisits the religious theme prevalent in the author’s first novel, The Gladiators, but subdued or nonexistent in Darkness at Noon and Arrival and Departure. A fifth novel, 1946’s Thieves in the Night, details the political landscape of post-World War II Palestine, which falls outside the convenient rubric of the present conversation – as does The Call Girls, a novel he wrote and published 22 years after The Age of Longing.

Compared to his previous novels and works of journalism, The Age of Longing received short-shrift upon its publication. Since then, it has been granted only brief critical consideration – if at all, considering it’s the only Koestler novel not granted its own Wikipedia entry. This is unfortunate, as this novel-of-ideas is a corker, positing the only salvation of humanity from the allure of collectivism is religious faith. (more…)

As the author of a book titled The Roots of Coincidence, Arthur Koestler would appreciate the coinky dinks of the past week. First, I finished re-reading Koestler’s two nonfiction works of 20th century European madness, Dialogue with Death and Scum of the Earth. One details the author’s imprisonment by Francisco Franco during the Spanish Civil War and the other covers his incarceration by the French in the first months of World War II – and both are harrowing.

Second, last week I viewed Trumbo, Spartacus, and the Coen brothers’ latest cinematic opus, Hail, Caesar! Trumbois another Hollywood tale of how the Second Red Scare oppressed the creative caste of Tinsel Town, violated their First Amendment rights and ruined lives of people inherently better than you and I because of their entertainment industry connections or something. The title character of Trumbo was resurrected from Red-baiting ignominy by a screenwriting credit on the Stanley Kubrick sword-and-sandal epic Spartacus, which aired last week on Turner Classic Movies. Hail, Caesar! includes a subplot about bumbling communists in the final days of the Hollywood studio system. Oh, and back to Koestler: His first novel was 1939’s The Gladiators, which also told of the Roman slave revolt led by – readers already are way ahead of me here – Spartacus.

It’s been one of those weeks!

Let’s unpack this, shall we? Koestler noted in the 1965 reissue of The Gladiators that (more…)

Blog author: jcouretas
Wednesday, September 28, 2011

On The Freeman, PowerBlog contributor Bruce Edward Walker marks the 70th anniversary of the publication of Arthur Koestler’s Darkness at Noon and the essay “The Initiates” published a decade later in The God that Failed. As Walker notes, “it’s a convenient opportunity to revisit both works as a reminder of what awaits all democratic societies eager to abandon liberties for the sake of utopian ideologies.” Koestler’s Noon, he says, is where the author is at the height of his powers “capturing the mindset of the collectivist fantasy in order to completely dispel its flawed precepts.” Walker also reminds us that class struggle leads to a dead end:

What differentiates Koestler’s work from other highly lauded literary attacks on collectivism by George Orwell, Aldous Huxley, and Stanislaw Lem is perspective. Whereas the other writers projected the results of communism in novels depicting dystopian futures—Lem by necessity since he was living in Soviet-controlled Poland; Orwell and Huxley by choice—Koestler, recognizing the Soviet Central Committee’s initiatives to reconstruct all history as a class struggle between the bourgeoisie and proletariat, documented what had already occurred under Stalin’s reign of terror during a decade of famine, the Great Purge, and the Moscow show trials. While the famines and purges resulted in the deaths of tens of millions of Soviets, the show trials are characterized as an absurd travesty of Kafkaesque proportions in which Soviet apparatchiks obtained public confessions from old-guard Bolsheviks on trumped-up charges, resulting in the coerced “confessions” of counterrevolutionary activities and subsequent executions.

Here’s Orwell on Koestler:

The sin of nearly all left-wingers from 1933 onwards is that they have wanted to be anti-Fascist without being anti-totalitarian. In 1937 Koestler already knew this, but did not feel free to say so.

Read Bruce Edward Walker’s “Tyranny Afoot: Arthur Koestler’s Communist Chronicles” in The Freeman.