“The cell door slammed behind Rubashov.”
With those words, Arthur Koestler hurls readers into the life — and impending death — of ex-Commissar of the People Rubashov, a man so powerful and so invisible that his full name is needed for identification only on his cell door.
He knows his fate because he has been responsible for the disappearance of many others.
Readers must piece together Rubashov’s story from his memories, tap-coded conversations with other prisoners, and the interrogations.
He had risen through the ranks of the Party, finally acquiring diplomatic status.
His work with foreigners abroad provided ample facts that could be manipulated when Number 1, the party head himself, wanted Rubashov out of the way.
Rubashov had learned to see behind the Party’s rhetoric even while complying with its demands. He was not a subversive, as charged. He was, however, tired of the whole political machine.
Rubashov writes in his diary, “The fact is: I no longer believe in my infallibility. That is why I am lost.”
His interrogations include some of the milder forms of torture. Rubashov isn’t broken, just worn down.
The last straw is when his interrogator is replaced: He, too, has been found expendable.
Darkness at Noon by Arthur Koestler
Trans. Daphne Hardy. Scribner Classics, ©1941. 272 p.
My grade: A
© 2017 Linda Gorton Aragoni
About the author: The Budapest-born Koestler was a communist in the 1930s and spent time in the Soviet Union. He left the party in 1938, was captured by Fascist forces in Spain and sentenced to death. The British intervened, and Koestler went to France where he was again arrested for his political views. Released in 1940, he went to England where he lived until his death in 1983.