The Passions of Arthur Koestler


During the Cold War, when communism physically enslaved half the world, it also morally enslaved the hearts and minds of Western intellectuals such as Jean-Paul Sartre, who once said “an anti-Communist is a dog,” intending no compliment to dogs. Growing up in Europe at the time, subject to the same fads and fashions as my peers, I felt besieged by the likes of Sartre and his minions, most of whom had never set foot in a communist country (as I had, several times). In May 1968 I found myself in Paris, at the height of the Marxist-inspired student uprising against De Gaulle. It was a baptism of fire that yielded many a Marxist convert, romantics all. It was almost impossible, afterward, to find a coherent opposition to communism that wasn’t tinged with the monarchist or neo-fascist right. I opposed communism, of course, and thought of myself as a democrat, but who was I? A mere teenager, adrift. I longed to hear a mighty voice raised in defense of what I believed. On a friend’s advice, I turned to Arthur Koestler’s Darkness at Noon, one of the great anti-totalitarian documents of all time. That, I felt, was all the vindication I needed. It still is.

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