The Mystery of Arthur Koestler

"It is notgood to look too long upon these turning wheels of vicissitude, lest we become giddy."
    –Sir Francis Bacon

It was apt that 1984, the Orwellian Year, should see the reissue of Ar­thur Koestler's two-volume autobiog­ raphy (first published some three dec­ ades ago) and that the year should also see the appearance of a strange third volume, partly autobiographical, which carries Koestler's story forward into the mid-1950's. For Koestler and Orwell shared much in common politically, knew each other very well (and at one point almost became in-laws), and produced a good part of what little political writing of the 1930's and 1940's is likely to be of enduring human value. In that sense, Koestler's story is also the story of the trauma of a whole generation of Europeans, the generation of which Orwell, too, was a part.

Yet Koestler, even more than Or­well, was a child of the massive politi­cal and social dislocations of his time, which destroyed so much of the old European culture. The Invisible Writ­ing, by far the better of the two origi­nal autobiographical volumes, ends in 1940 with the statement that in Koest­ler we see a "typical case history of a member of the Central European edu­cated middle classes, born in the first years of our century." But, as Stephen Spender said, the bitter truth...

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