Title: Darkness at Noon.
Writer(s): Arthur Koestler.
Translator(s): Daphne Hardy.
Release Date: October 17th, 2006.
Originally published in: 1940.
My Overall Rating:
Beliefs can only get you so far. When enveloped in a layer of honour, humility, and honesty, these beliefs become ingrained into our actions, closed off to the realm of contradictions, pushing individuals further and further into reinforcing these beliefs. But how can society strive when opposition lives at the heart of it? Can one ever eradicate a thought from the mind of countless citizens convinced by their beliefs, desperately seeking unity and cohesion? How far is there any rationale behind such endeavours in the first place? Published in the early 1940s, author Arthur Koestler writes a novel that denounces the folie and nightmare within the Communist Party when Stalin took on drastic measures to eliminate rivals and threats within his own party. Through an intellectual’s mind and body, he captures and delivers a dramatic and thought-provoking tale that simply asks all the right questions.
What is Darkness at Noon about? Split into four parts (The First Hearing, The Second Hearing, The Third Hearing, and The Grammatical Fiction), the story follows Nicholas Rubashov, an aging revolutionary who is imprisoned and psychologically tortured by the Party, the very political group that he once vouched and was a part of. As the story progresses, he is pressured into confessing to crimes he did not commit. As he’s left in his prison cell to reflect on his condition and only occupied by adjacent cellmates who despise him as well as his own memories, he relives through his own life and career, unraveling within his own mind, the ironies and betrayals of a revolutionary dictatorship. By the end of his forced stay in isolation, one can only wonder if he’ll come out the same man he once was.
“History had a slow pulse; man counted in years, history in generations.”— Arthur Koestler
Although fictional, the story draws upon factual historical events, from Stalin’s Great Purge to the Moscow show trials, to tell a man’s journey of political enlightenment, one imbued with a grand disenchantment regarding a revolutionary dictatorship. Writer Arthur Koestler cleverly never refers to real people or groups but utilizes clear descriptions that allow readers to effortlessly follow his fictional scolding of the Bolshevik ideology and the terrifying consequences it has had on countless citizens. Mostly serving as a vessel for the author’s own disillusionment with these inhuman events, his protagonist makes for a fascinating intellectual who attempts to confront his reality with as much logic and composure as one could expect from something who’s sleep and food deprived. Unfortunately, there’s a logical necessity and objective rightness that these arrestations and psychological torture sessions can have that can only indicate capitulation as the ultimate way out. After all, where else is one’s mind supposed to escape to when given no viable options? Left to rot away in implausible scenarios and inevitabilities, there are only memories left to reflect on our mistakes.
The numerous moments of introspection offered by the protagonist do pave the way for an intriguing scrutiny of a revolution’s flaws and its leaders’ irrational beliefs. When doubt can grow from the smallest of germs, it is fascinating to watch authority attempt everything within their power to remain the sole entities to champion the truth, despite everything else revealing the fallacies of their beliefs. The unique structure of this tale also allows readers to witness the slow degradation of the protagonist’s mind while the authorities’ viewpoint is methodically developed and conveyed with incredible impassivity as if what they’re doing and what they’re saying is absolutely normal and infallible. However, the story’s forte lies in the moral ambiguity captured in a protagonist who isn’t necessarily as innocent as he should be. It’s through the fast-paced narrative, filled with captivating conversations with unique characters, and a foray down memory lane, that this story manages to masterfully capture a devastating period in time concerning the USSR.
Darkness at Noon is a gripping and thought-provoking inner-prison story following an aging revolutionary’s downfall to a government that he once was a part of.