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Imprisoned by the political party to which he has dedicated his life, Nicolas Rubashov paces his prison cell, examining his life and remembering his tempestuos career. As the old intelligentsia is eradicated to make way for the new, he is psychologically tortured and forced to confess to preposterous crimes. Comparing himself to Moses, led to the Promised Land but refused entry, he sees only darkness at the end of his life, where once he saw such promise for humanity.
Frank Muller's narrative expertise is perfect for this haunting work. Rubashov's personal agony becomes Muller's as he presents Koestler's relevant and important questions.
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By ESK on 01-23-13
Literature as the ‘living memory’ of nations
DaN is not a book depicting only Stalin’s purges, as it is commonly described. It’s also about the totalitarian regimes of the 20th century. Since ‘revolution must begin with atheism’, it is no wonder that militant atheism was aimed at eradicating Christian values, the concepts of good and evil, stamping on time-honoured traditions, casting off the ‘ethical ballast’ of humanity.
In order to create a new man, free from scruples and morality, you must first destroy the foundations, free them from obligations, cut the umbilical cord and make their mind a blank sheet. Then you can fill them with the new dogmas and distorted propaganda slogans.
This is a quote from DaN. ‘When the existence of the Church is threatened, she is released from the commandments of morality. With unity as the end, the use of every means is sanctified, even cunning, treachery, violence, simony, prison, death. For all order is for the sake of the community, and the individual must be sacrificed to the common good.’ And by ‘the common good’ revolutionaries mean justifying atrocities to quench their thirst for power and establish the collective dictatorship over the independent mind. Having usurped power, the Nomenklatura can let the populace die of starvation while living off the fat of the land.
Revolutions have no moral philosophy. Revolutionaries have no scruples. Rubashov, the imprisoned protagonist of the book, had been a staunch Communist almost all his life. ‘For forty years he had lived strictly in accordance with the vows of his order, the Party. He had held to the rules of logical calculation. He had burnt the remains of the old, illogical morality from his consciousness with the acid of reason.’
Rubashov had tried to build the socialist utopia. Perhaps at first he had believed in the communist future and expressed ‘fidelity to the principles of the Communist International.’ But eventually he became corrupted by the revolution.
Rubashov was arrested and tried for crimes he had never committed. In his time, he had betrayed and framed up others. He had committed crimes far worse than those made up to incriminate him. It’s no wonder that in that dog-eat-dog reality he simply had to pay the piper.
Here are some other quotes from the book.
‘History is a priori amoral; it has no conscience.’
‘...one could treat history like one experiments in physics. The difference is that in physics one can repeat the experiment a thousand times, but in history only once.’
‘It is necessary to hammer every sentence into the masses by repetition and simplification. What is presented as right must shine like gold; what is presented as wrong must be black as pitch. For consumption by the masses, the political processes must be coloured like ginger-bread figures at a fair.’
If you read G. Orwell’s ‘1984’ (BTW it was inspired by A. Koestler’s DaN) and found it thought-provoking, you certainly should read ‘Darkness at Noon’.
I also strongly recommend reading ‘The Gulag Archipelago’ by the Russian writer and Nobel Prizer winner Alexander Solzhenitsyn.
11 of 11 people found this review helpful
By Roy on 10-23-10
This is the Audible edition of Arthur Koestler's 1940 novel "Darkness at Noon." It was suggested to me that I look up KIoestler on the Web and read about him for context. That took a few minutes and gave the book more gravity for me at least. Essentially, Koestler relates what it was like to live under Stalanism. If you are looking for dramatic story and high tension in the narrative, you will be disappointed. If you are open to understanding the era and circumstances almost in a philosophical sense this book is for you. Koestler was an influence on the writing of George Orwell of 1984 fame. The reading of Frank Muller is very good and appropriate to the content.
10 of 10 people found this review helpful
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By Greg on 04-13-11
Great Book Poorly Read
Sorry Audible, I am finding this recording almost unlistenable. The reader adopts a stereotyped, melodramatic tone that consists of a limited range of vocal cadences that repeats every few sentences. With no reference to the text, each phrased section culminates in a downturn in tone and a breathy extended last syllable. It is completely unconnected to the meaning of what is being read, requiring the listener to have to concentrate hard to the words in order to truly understand the nuances of the writing.
7 of 9 people found this review helpful
By Clive on 04-12-17
I Cannot Listen to This
This is a great book. Utterly ruined by the performance. i am afraid i have given up listening to it.