Darkness at Noon, by Arthur Koestler, is a masterpiece. Like some of the other books on the list, I’m a bit surprised I haven’t run into it before. It definitely earns its place at the top of the list.
The book tells the story of Nicholas Rubashov, a leader in the Communist regime who has now been captured and imprisoned by the same party during what is known as the “Moscow trials”. To be honest, I would really have to brush up on my history to understand the environment surrounding this novel, but I’m sure Andi will post on that!
However, even without full knowledge of the historical background, I found the narrative riveting. It was written in a more conventional manner than some of the novels we’ve looked at, and although there are a lot of flashbacks, they are necessary to the plot and they are clearly defined.
Rubashov observes much from his small prison cell, and the author brings us his thoughts regarding the totality of prison life, including descriptions of the other prisoners and their suspected “crime”, the guards, the prison leaders and the more ordinary aspects of prison life. He strikes up a friendship of sorts with the prisoner in the next cell, communicating by tapping the walls with their glasses. These conversations lead to a lot of soul searching within Rubashov, and he grapples with his internal demons throughout the book, analyzing and judging his own character and behavior of the course of his career.
The interrogation scenes kept me riveted, not only for the questions Rubashov’s comrade poses and the answers Rubashov toils with and then forms, but the portrayal of the subtle torture used. I won’t describe those except to say that the descriptions regarding the table lamp during the interrogation made me so uncomfortable that my eyes are watering now just thinking about it.
My next post (next Thursday, I promise – that is my day!) will contain all my favorite thoughts and quotes from the book, as I really enjoy reviewing the book afterwards and distilling it down to my favorite moments.
Keep reading, and if you need something to read, read this one!