From award-winning author Michael Scammell comes a monumental achievement: the first authorized biography of Arthur Koestler, one of the most influential and controversial intellectuals of the twentieth century. Over a decade in the making, and based on new research and full access to its subject’s papers, Koestler is the definitive account of this fascinating and polarizing figure. Though best known as the creator of the classic anti-Communist novel Darkness at Noon , Koestler is here revealed as much more–a man whose personal life was as astonishing as his literary accomplishments.
Koestler portrays the anguished youth of a boy raised in Budapest by a possessive and mercurial mother and an erratic father, marked for life by a forced operation performed without anesthesia when he was five, growing up feeling unloved and unprotected. Here is the young man whose experience of anti-Semitism and devotion to Zionism provoked him to move to Palestine; the foreign correspondent who risked his life from the North Pole to Franco’s Spain, where he was imprisoned and sentenced to death; the committed Communist for whom the brutal truth of Stalin’s show trials inspired the superb and angry novel that became an instant classic in 1940. Scammell also provides new details of Koestler’s amazing World War II adventures, including his escape from occupied France by joining the Foreign Legion and his bluffing his way illegally to England, where his controversial novel Arrival and Departure, published in 1943, was the first to portray Hitler’s Final Solution.
Without sentimentality, Scammell explores Koestler’s turbulent private life: his drug use, his manic depression, the frenetic womanizing that doomed his three marriages and led to an accusation of rape that posthumously tainted his reputation, and his startling suicide while fatally ill in 1983–an act shared by his healthy third wife, Cynthia–rendered unforgettably as part of his dark and disturbing legacy.
Featuring cameos of famous friends and colleagues including Langston Hughes, George Orwell, and Albert Camus, Koestler gives a full account of the author’s voluminous writings, making the case that the autobiographies and essays are fit to stand beside Darkness at Noon as works of lasting literary value. Koestler adds up to an indelible portrait of this brilliant, unpredictable, and talented writer, once memorably described as “one third blackguard, one third lunatic, and one third genius.”
From the Hardcover edition.
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|Title of eBook: Koestler|
|Release Date: 12-29-2009|
|Allowed Countries (hover)|
|Publisher: Random House|
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A novelist is someone who hates his mother.
when koestler came to write the first volume of his autobiography, Arrow in the Blue, he began by casting his “secular horoscope.” He took a copy of the London Times published on September 6, 1905 (one day after his birthday) and studied its contents to discover what “influences” might have been at work on the global environment into which he was born. Skimming the advertisements and some minor news stories of the day, his eye came to rest on two weightier items: “Fierce Fighting in the Caucasus,” about an anti-Jewish pogrom in Baku and the forcible suppression of a strike; and “Disturbances at Kishineff,” describing an attack on Russian workmen and Jews attending the funeral of a murdered woman.
The Russian workers’ movement and the impending revolution of 1905 were both gathering steam at the time of Koestler’s birth, and the situation of the Jews was implicated in both. Equally fascinating to Koestler was a Times editorial on the Treaty of Portsmouth between the Russian tsar and the emperor of Japan to end the Russo-Japanese War. The editorial extolled the virtues of the victorious Japanese, their “subordination of the individual to the tribe and the state,” and their “monastic discipline,” which it contrasted with the “excessive individualism” of the West. For Koestler, who had yet to make his own visit to Japan, the editorial had a sinister ring: “The clock that struck the hour of my birth also announced the end of the era of liberalism and individualism, of that harshly competitive and ...