Thursday, June 28, 2018

Darkness at Noon - Arthur Koestler

Ranked number 8 in the list of 100 best English novels of the century, 'Darkness at Noon' is the story of Rubashov, an old Bolshevik, who is captured and incarcerated in prison awaiting certain death. Rubashov remembers the crimes he had committed under the name of the Party in sending innocents to death while he awaits his own sentence in a prison filled with hostile inmates. Rubashov realises that just as he had done, the current regime was exterminating people with no reason.

Rubashov recalls the people he had sent to death - Richard, Little Loewy and his secretary and lover Arlova. He meets an old college mate Ivanov who is now part of the government. Ivanov offers Rubashov a deal - sign a confession and we will get you off lightly. Rubashov feels its a trick. Ivanov himself is shot and killed and then finally Rubashov too is shot.

The novel is set in the times of the Great Purge ordered by Stalin which killed about 9-12 lakh people under the pretext that they were conspiring against the government. Very little proof was needed, no trials many times as people were shot in mobile vans prisons, picked up in the middle of the night etc. Koestler's slim novel never names the people concerned but you know - The Party is the Soviet government, Number 1 is Stalin, The Dictatorship is Hitler and so on. Filled with intense dialogue and man's dilemma on where man is more important or mankind.

I found an old tattered version of the book and it gave me no end of pleasure to read. 

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