Byline: VICTOR SEBESTYEN
ARTHUR KOESTLER: THE INDISPENSABLE INTELLECTUAL by Michael Scammell (Faber, [pounds sterling]25)
AN MI5 officer interrogated Arthur Koestler in 1941 when the writer sought refuge in Britain after a dramatic escape from a French concentration camp. The spook made an instant judgment: "He is a third genius, a third blackguard and a third lunatic," he reported to his superiors.
In this magisterial and subtle biography, Michael Scammell alters the percentages -- from this account Koestler emerges 60 per cent a genius, while the other two qualities are again divided equally.
Scammell makes no effort to hide his subject's flaws or to shy away from controversies -- Koestler's frantic womanising …