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Review Of Darkness At Noon – By Arthur Koestler
“Darkness at Noon” is a tragedy that is deservedly noted as one of the greatest works of historical fiction. The quality of the dialogues, the elegance of the language, the introduction of the characters, the sequence of events and the plot all fill the mind with a mixture of anticipation, sadness and outrage.
Rubashov is a revolutionary hero who spent most of his life in prison for the party he served. His former comrade and great friend Ivanov interrogated him. He and Ivanov “were twins in their political development.”
Through their dialogue, the totalitarian movement, which pretended to be an instrument of liberation, is revealed to the reader. The book tells about the life of Rubashov, about the sacrifices he made for the sake of the party and its leader, whom the writer calls number 1.
As Rubashov matures, he commits the greatest sin, he begins to see life through his own eyes, not through the eyes of the party. Then suddenly he starts hearing screams. These are the cries that Whittaker Chambers, in his book The Witness, claims “come from minds maddened by the horror of mass starvation ordered and carried out by the policy of the State.” They come from starving skeletons worked to death or beaten to death (as an example to others) in icy sub-arctic labor camps.’
Rubashov realizes for the first time that there is more to party politics than reason or the logic of reason, and that it is the soul that lives in every man. With such an awakening of conscience, Rubashov discovers that the once perfect body of the Party has become covered with ulcers. He begins to ask himself: “When has a good cause been represented worse?”
He was horrified by the systematic purge of old heroes. Rubashov viewed the purge with great disgust, while No. 1 regarded it as an act of high patriotism. He found the party abhorrent because it condemned him to “become a murderer to undo the slaughter” and to “beat the people with a whip so that they learn not to allow themselves to be whipped.” It was this morality that was forbidden by the party. For this, Rubashov was arrested, tortured and destroyed.
In prison, although isolated in his small cell, Rubashov could communicate with other inmates by pressing a code on the wall. These prisoners were mostly old heroes of the revolution. One of them was imprisoned for more than twenty years in a foreign country for promoting the party’s goals.
Two weeks after his release from a foreign prison, he took a train to the country of his dreams: the source of the revolution, and was arrested again there. The arbitrariness of the party government was frightening.
By pressing a code, prisoners told each other when a prisoner was going to be shot. One of these prisoners was Mikhail Bagrav, a former naval commander whom Rubashov knew well. When Baghrov, foaming at the mouth and sweat from his face, was dragged to his death, he shouted the name of Rubashov.
This was part of the psychological torture that Rubashov had to endure. He began to imagine how the others he had previously denounced were ending up, whether they were screaming like Bagraw, and whether one bullet was enough or a second one was needed to kill them.
In the end, after prolonged interrogation and torture, Rubashov was forced to confess in court to a conspiracy to assassinate #1 and overthrow the government. Some of his acquaintances are brought in to report him.
Although Rubashov is the main character, he cannot be considered a hero. He is a man, tarnished and loaded with mistakes. He exposed the innocent to save his own life. He preys on the weaknesses of subordinates and even mocks the defenseless. However, although he is despicable and sometimes disgusting, he is a man with a conscience.
Rubashov’s character shows a tragic gap between himself and the team: a deep split between his obedience to the cause, on the one hand, and conscience, on the other. In the end, he does not betray anyone. However, the split is obvious in most of the book’s characters.
Ivanov, the chief investigator, who was also staunchly loyal to his cause, was shot by the party for his softness towards Rubashov’s doctrine of humanity. His second deputy, Gletkin, is an effective embodiment of the Party. However, in the end, he admits to Rubashov that the revolution could flourish only if “inventing scapegoats for its difficulties.”
Perhaps the main source of division was party doctrine, which once gave hope to the worker, but in practice brought more suffering than even the chains of industrial exploitation. And along with this revolutionary doctrine came the question which the party posed to all its followers, whether man should worship man or God. #1 exalted himself to god, but was repulsed by the idea of God.
He shared his madness and rage with King Lear. He wanted nothing but praise and submission from his subjects. But unlike Lear, who rewarded flattery with wealth, for #1 the wages were death.
It seems impossible to separate the author from the hero Rubashov. Arthur Koestler was once a communist, but later became disillusioned with him. He was imprisoned and sentenced to death in Spain by General Franco. But later the sentence was reduced.
He also had communist friends and acquaintances who were either shot or sent to camps. Therefore, he had the knowledge to convey to the reader the terrible passions of a prisoner’s life.
Darkness at Noon is a great novel. It’s gorgeous in the beginning, polished in the middle, and tragic in the end. The dialogue has great vitality, and the book is filled with many unforgettable images. The great wisdom of the writer is reflected in every sentence and chapter.
History holds up an unflattering mirror and is a fierce polemic against the dictatorship. Its respect as a novel and respect for its author will undoubtedly not diminish with the passage of time.
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