View Full Version : Darkness at Noon and my History Shortage

08-29-2001, 09:42 PM
I'm afraid I'm truly showing my ignorance by posting this thread.

I'm currently reading Arthur Koestler's "Darkness at Noon" which I find very compelling. It's clearly a great work.

Unfortunately, my knowledge of the non-fictional history surrounding the novel is non-existant.

Can anyone tell me anything about this novel as it pertains to real life? Who is "no. 1"? Was Rubashov's character taken from a certain real-life person, or a composite of real-life people?

It's a bit of a difficult read if you don't have the political and other history down. Any extra tidbits anyone can give me are greatly appreciated.

Promise I'm not this stupid in ALL areas...

08-29-2001, 11:04 PM
The novel is based on the late 1930s purges in the Soviet Union, when Stalin and his chief of security Beria were conducting a reign of terror. Having gained the leadership of the Soviet Union after Lenin's death, Stalin set out to obliterate any possible source (real or imagined) of dissent against him. To this end he eliminated almost all of the Communist Party leaders who had once been his collegues, until there was no one left in the party except those who owed their positions to Stalin himself.

Slithy Tove
08-30-2001, 01:02 AM
I wish I could give a simple answer, like "Bukharin," but Darkness At Noon has this aspect of great literature: it raises more questions than offers pat answers (if it did otherwise it would be no better than any Jackie Collins twaddle, with thinly veiled Soviet commisars instead of Hollywood moguls).

I do not wish to offend you by sounding patronizing, but you can now take one or both of two directions: either read more Koestler, or more about Stalinism. Neither would be a waste of your time, IMHO.

Please read Koestler's "Yogi and the Commisar," where he deftly sketched Hitlerism's appeal to the lowest denominator. But, all apologies due to Koestler, from what I've read of it, Stalinism went even deeper: to the very bedrock of man's cynicism and paranoia. Simply stated, there are plenty of squelched Hilters in every mailroom, and at least one flowering Stalin in every boardroom. Which of these two types is the greater threat?

If you choose to read more on Stalinism, prepare to be depressed, not only for the sake of Ukrainan children shot for snipping ears of corn 70 years ago, but for the entire human condition as it exists, world without end.

As a fellow reader's recommendation, I offer the title "Testimony," (allegedly) written by the composer Dimitri Shostakovich, a classic of the creative soul under the heel of supression, priceless if for no other reason for the line (dear to someone like myself living at Starbucks Inc. ground zero) "the coffee kept us up all night - not because of the cafeine - but because of the price!"

08-30-2001, 07:04 AM
Hey, thanks for the great information! This helps me out a lot. I especially appreciate the other suggested works. I will finish "Darkness at Noon" and then move on to some of the others you mentioned. Things are a little more clear to me now.


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