Along with Satre, Camus and Orwell, Arthur Koestler helped to shape the ideas of today. Once a communist, he saw through Marxism and led the intellectual counter-attack that culminated in the fall of the Berlin Wall. His writings on science introduced millions to cutting-edge theories of evolution and the workings of the human mind. His speculations on human nature and the future of mankind in the atomic age stamped a generation that grew up in the shadow of the Bomb. As restless in his personal relationships as he was in politics, his violent affairs with women were legendary. His fascinating study is t he first to make use of Koestler's private papers and draws on previously secret documents held by the KGB and the FBI, exposing the depth of his involvement in the Communist Party and, later, his relations with the CIA. It also reveals the darker side to his nature, which led to the tragic dual suicide with his third wife, Cynthia, in 1983. David Cesarani has ensured Koestler's place in the pantheon of intellectual giants of the twentieth century as surely as the 'warts and all' approach is guaranteed to perpetuate the controversy that swirled around Koestler in his life and death.
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This study makes use of Koestler's private papers and draws upon previously secret documents, exposing his involvement both with the Communist Party and the CIA. It also reveals the darker side of his nature, which led to the dual suicide with his third wife, Cynthia, in 1983.Review:
Should we judge the work by the man, or vice versa? Ezra Pound was a Fascist and an anti-Semite; he was also a good poet. Arthur Koestler was a remarkable man, in his failings as much as his virtues, and David Cesarani's new biography pulls no punches in examining this dichotomy.
Koestler was born in Budapest in 1905 to Jewish parents. In his adult years he courted Zionism, socialism, anti-communism, and from the 1960s onward, science and the paranormal, crossing ideological frontiers as frequently as geographical ones. He wrote his best work before he was 40--Darkness at Noon, Scum of the Earth and Arrival and Departure --and its bravery in expressing a disillusionment with Soviet communism was considerable; George Orwell certainly owed him a debt when he wrote Nineteen Eighty-four. His later work increasingly invited, and received, ridicule. And that is where Koestler has stood for years now, as a majorly minor writer. Cesarani's intention is to reclaim Koestler in the light of his Jewishness, which he believes has been neglected, not least by the writer himself.
However, the strongest personality to emerge from this book is not the anti-communist, or the Jew, but the misogynist bully, who was almost certainly a rapist and possibly a serial one. Muscular of mind and body, Koestler drank, drove, crashed and cavorted as though his soul depended on it. Yet when it suited him he was stimulating and exciting company, as numerous friends attest. So where is the man?
Koestler was an intellectual, a mainly continental affliction, whose skill lay as an assimilator, rather than an originator, of ideas. Malcolm Muggeridge described him as "all antennae and no head". In allowing the contradictions of the man to issue forth in such detail Cesarani runs the risk of obscuring the main tenet of his thesis, but these questions are as relevant as they are awkward; consider the moral arbiters of Bill Clinton today. Whichever way, this is a provocative and searching book, which will not leave you unmoved.--David Vincent
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Book Description Vintage. Book Condition: Used, 1999. Paperback. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # 0099289679
Book Description Vintage. Book Condition: Used, 1999. Paperback. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # 99289679