Essays and Appreciations in Honor of Michael J. Colacurcio’s 50 Years of Teaching
Edited By Carol M. Bensick
Monoaxiate Tyranny in Koestler’s Darkness at Noon
In Arthur Koestler’s Darkness at Noon (1940) ex-Commissar Nicolas Salmanovitch Rubashov entertains rebellion against Communist Party policy—most likely Stalin’s—that deviates from Bolshevik origin. Rubashov nonetheless remains faithful to core Party values—to the point of wishing to work up a “new theory on a historical basis” and of ultimately failing to move beyond the perimeters of an ideology that assures his execution: “There is nothing for which one could die, if one died without having repented and unreconciled with the Party and the Movement” (Koestler, Darkness, 178, 251). Relative to such concerns, including the novel’s attention to means and ends, commentary has faulted Koestler for having misunderstood Marxism or for having imbued Rubashov with his own “corrosive rationalism” which “obliterates ambivalence.”1 Such questionable assertion is consistent with the linking of Rubashov’s ideological self-imprisonment to “the prison-guard attitude of Koestler himself toward his literary text.” Further in this vein is the charge that Rubashov displays features of Koestler’s own “messianism.”2 From such perspectives, Koestler, despite his exposé of Communist psychology in Darkness at Noon, is also said to impose upon Rubashov the “monolithic, absolutist, ‘système clos’ mentality” of Koestler’s allegedly enduring affiliation with Communism, his avowed anti-Communism being just as doctrinaire.3 Lost in such biographical reductionism and political acrobatics is the novel’s dramatization, in Rubashov, of the difference between dyadic and monistic cognition, as specifically illustrated in one of Koestler’s later treatises, Insight and Outlook: An Inquiry Into the Common...
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