ON ARTHUR KOESTLER’S ‘DARKNESS AT NOON’

Wall Street Journal on March 11, 2016 reported that recently discovered typescript of Arthur Koestler’s famous anti-communist novel, written in German, reveals that the English translation was flawed. Excerpts below:

In the April, 2016 issue) of the New York Review of Books, scholar Michael Scammell wrote about a recently discovered typescript of Arthur Koestler’s 1940 novel “Darkness at Noon,” written in German and pre-dating the “unintentionally misleading” English-language translation “that is unfaithful both to Koestler’s literary sophistication and to his penetrating analysis of the devastating consequences of Communist psychology”

When Darkness at Noon appeared in 1940, it illuminated realities that were little known (and sometimes denied) in the West: show trials, confessions, prison conditions, totalitarian psychology, and human oppression. After the Soviet Union became the West’s ally during World War II, the book’s topicality faded, only to reassert itself with the start of the cold war. Moreover, when the cold war ended, Darkness at Noon did not fade away as many cold war books, movies, and other cultural artifacts did. Like Animal Farm, 1984, and a few other novels from that time,Darkness at Noon had staying power…

The book has little in the way of conventional plot, but it powerfully illuminates the human condition, men’s moral choices, the attractions and dangers of idealism, the corrosive effects of political corruption, and the fatal consequences of psychological and ideological fanaticism.

This is all the more impressive given the novel’s flawed translation,..

Now we no longer have the excuse of being denied the original text. It’s not only possible, but in my view imperative, that someone undertake a new translation that will communicate the book’s artistic qualities more accurately and offer a richer and more nuanced account of Koestler’s complex narrative.

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