Arthur Koestler

Arthur Koestler (kĕst´lər), 1905–83, English writer, b. Budapest of Hungarian parents. Koestler spent his early years in Vienna and Palestine. He was an influential Communist journalist in Berlin in the early 1930s, traveled through the Soviet Union, and moved to Paris. Later, as a correspondent for a British newspaper, he was captured and imprisoned by Franco's forces during the Spanish Civil War; Spanish Testament (1937) and Dialogue with Death (1942) relate his experiences. Released in 1937, he edited an anti-Nazi and anti-Soviet French weekly and served in the French Foreign Legion (1939–40). After the German invasion he was interned in a concentration camp, but escaped from France in 1940 and lived thereafter in England and the United States, continuing to travel widely after the war. By 1940 Koestler had broken with Communism, largely as a result of the Soviet purge trials of the late 1930s and the Hitler-Stalin nonaggression pact of 1939. The anti-Communist Darkness at Noon (1941), his most important and best-selling novel, vividly describes the imprisonment, interrogation, and execution of an old Bolshevik in a Communist prison for his "deviationist" belief in the individual. Koestler's other significant accounts of the evils of Stalinism include The Yogi and the Commissar (1945), and the essay he contributed to The God That Failed (ed. by R. H. Crossman, 1951).

Koestler's later writings ranged over a wide variety of subjects. His later novels include Thieves in the Night (1946), a powerful description of the conflict between Arabs and Jews in Palestine, The Age of Longing (1951), and The Call Girls: A Tragicomedy (1973). He wrote extensively on science in such works as The Lotus and the Robot (1960), The Act of Creation (1964), The Ghost in the Machine (1968), The Case of the Midwife Toad (1971), and The Roots of Coincidence (1972). Greatly concerned in later life with euthanasia and the right to die, an ailing Koestler and his healthy wife committed joint suicide in 1983. The author of more than 30 books and hundreds of articles, Koestler combined a brilliant journalistic style with an understanding of the great movements of his times and a participant's sense of commitment.

See his autobiographies, Scum of the Earth (1941), Arrow in the Blue (1952), The Invisible Writing (1954), and Janus: A Summing Up (1978); biographies by I. Hamilton (1982), D. Cesarani (1999), and M. Scammell (2009); studies by W. Mays (1973), S. Pearson (1978), and P. J. Keane (1980).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2014, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Spanish Testament
Arthur Koestler.
V. Gollancz, Ltd., 1937
Dialogue with Death
Arthur Koestler; Trevor; Phyllis Blewitt.
The Macmillan Company, 1942
Essays on Politics and Literature
Bernard Crick.
Edinburgh University Press, 1989
Librarian’s tip: Chap. Four "Koestler's Koestler"
In My Opinion: An Inquiry into the Contemporary Novel
Orville Prescott.
Bobbs-Merrill, 1952
Librarian’s tip: Chap. II "The Political Novel: Warren, Orwell, Koestler"
Politics and the Novel
Irving Howe.
Horizon Press, 1957
Librarian’s tip: Chap. Eight "Malraux, Silone, Koestler: The Twentieth Century"
The New Age: Notes of a Fringe Watcher
Martin Gardner.
Prometheus Books, 1991
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 6 "Koestler Money down the Psi Drain?"
The Sleep Walkers: A History of Man's Changing Vision of the Universe
Arthur Koestler.
Macmillan, 1959
Insight and Outlook, An Inquiry into the Common Foundations of Science, Art, and Social Ethics
Arthur Koestler.
Macmillan, 1949
The Trail of the Dinosaur & Other Essays
Arthur Koestler.
Macmillan & Co., 1955
The Strange Case of the Spotted Mice and Other Classic Essays on Science
Peter Medawar.
Oxford University Press, 1996
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 4 "The Act of Creation"
Europe since 1945
Philip Thody.
Routledge, 2000
Librarian’s tip: "The Example of Arthur Koestler" begins on p. 107
Multicultural Writers since 1945: An A-To-Z Guide
Alba Amoia; Bettina L. Knapp.
Greenwood Press, 2004
Librarian’s tip: "Arthur Koestler" begins on p. 293
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