Biography (Cyclopedia of World Authors, Fourth Revised Edition)
Arthur Koestler (KAWST-lur) writes in his autobiographical Arrow in the Blue that his story is a “typical case-history of a central-European member of the educated middle classes, born in the first years of this century.” Koestler’s life is indeed representative of the life of a European who experienced the twentieth century crises brought about by the political presence of Communism. As a young man he was an active Communist intellectual. He was imprisoned in Spain by the Fascists and sentenced to be executed; he was imprisoned by the French and English. When he broke with the Communist Party he wrote one of the most effective novels of protest against it: Darkness at Noon. He tells the whole story of his shifts between an ethics of conscience and an ethics of action in his autobiographical works, his novels, and his essays—particularly The Yogi and the Commissar, and Other Essays.
Arthur Koestler’s grandfather escaped from Russia during the Crimean War, when to hide his identity he adopted the name Kostler. Koestler’s father, Henrik Kostler, was an energetic, would-be inventor, a maker of radioactive products that included soap, brass polish, and cleaning powder; his mother came from an old Jewish family of Prague. After the outbreak of World War I ruined the father’s business, the family moved to Vienna; after...
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Biography (Critical Survey of Long Fiction, Fourth Edition)
Arthur Koestler was born Artúr Kösztler on September 5, 1905, in Budapest, Hungary, the only child of middle-class Jewish parents. He was precocious in math and science and closer to his mother than to his father, an eccentric, self-taught businessman. When Koestler was in his teens, the family moved to Vienna, Austria, and he attended the university there as a science student. After four years, he left school without a degree and went to Palestine, where he joined a Zionist movement for a while before obtaining a correspondent’s job with the Ullstein newspapers of Germany. He advanced rapidly in journalism, becoming, in 1930, the foreign editor of B.Z. am Mittag and the science editor of Vossische Zeitung in Berlin, partly as a result of his success as a reporter on the Graf Zeppelin flight to the North Pole in 1931.
In December, 1931, Koestler became a member of the German Communist Party, and less than one year later he gave up his position with Ullstein and spent several weeks traveling in the Soviet Union. He then spent three years in Paris working for the Comintern, leaving for Spain at the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in 1936. His marriage to Dorothy Asher in 1935 lasted only two years before they were separated, eventually to be divorced in 1950. While in Spain for the Comintern in 1937, Koestler was captured by the Nationalists and sentenced to execution. Thanks to the British press, he was freed after three...
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IntroductionIf you’ve ever looked anything up in the Encyclopedia Britannica, you’re probably familiar with Arthur Koestler’s work. In addition to his many novels, Koestler also wrote articles for the famous encyclopedia. He was born in Hungary but became a naturalized British citizen. At the age of 26, Koestler joined the Communist party of Germany, but by the late 1940s he was an outspoken anti-Communist. Though he was held by French authorities in an interment camp shortly after World War II began, Koestler later joined the French Foreign Legion and then the British Army, all while keeping his pen very busy. Many of Koestler’s books were popular during his lifetime, but the most famous one today is Darkness at Noon, which has often been compared to George Orwell’s 1984 because they both deal with Stalinism.
- Koestler was married three times and had an affair with French author Simone de Beauvoir. Unfortunately, there are many accounts that he beat and raped several women.
- Later in life, Koestler became fascinated with the paranormal and wrote a great deal about it. This may have been fueled by a “mystical experience” he had as a teenager.
- In 1960, Koestler was involved in Timothy Leary’s experiments with the hallucinogenic drug psilocybin, which he later wrote about in “Return Trip to Nirvana.”
- In his youth, the musician Sting was a huge Koestler fan. The Police’s early album Synchronicity was inspired by Koestler’s book The Roots of Coincidence.
- Koestler and his last wife committed joint suicide by drug overdose. He was very ill, but she was healthy.
All Resources by Category
Arthur Koestler - Contemporary Literary Criticism (Vol. 1)
Arthur Koestler - Contemporary Literary Criticism (Vol. 3)
Arthur Koestler - Contemporary Literary Criticism (Vol. 6)
Arthur Koestler - Contemporary Literary Criticism (Vol. 8)
Darkness at Noon - Literary Characters
Darkness at Noon - Literary Places
Koestler was born on September 5, 1905, in Budapest, Hungary. His father owned a textile business until it failed during World War I at which time Koestler and his family moved to Vienna, Austria. While studying physics and engineering at the University of Vienna, Koestler became interested in the Zionist movement, which stresses that Jews should rule Palestine (modern day Israel). He moved to a Jewish settlement in Palestine in 1926 and began a career in journalism, but after three years, he lost his faith in Zionism and transferred to Paris and then to Berlin, where he became a member of the Communist Party in 1932.
In 1932 and 1933, while working for a newspaper, Koestler traveled through the USSR, where he witnessed extreme poverty and met famous politicians Karl Radek and Nicolai Bukharin. These former intellectuals of the Bolshevik Revolution, who were later executed by the Soviet government, made a deep impression on Koestler and formed the basis for the main character of his 1940 novel Darkness at Noon, his most famous book. In 1936, Koestler traveled to Spain to cover the Spanish civil war, during which time he was arrested as a spy and sentenced to death until British officials successfully lobbied for his release. In England, Koestler wrote The Spanish Testament (1937), and after Bukharin and Radek were executed (in 1938 and 1939, respectively), Koestler resigned from the Communist Party.
Koestler was briefly imprisoned during the German occupation of France but was released in 1940 and eventually made his way to Britain. After the war, he began to be celebrated as a novelist, and he revived his interest in Zionism, campaigning for the creation of a Jewish state. He also was involved with the opposition to the Communist Party and campaigned against the death penalty.
Koestler continued to write political novels and journalism, as well as participating in European and American leftist intellectual debate, until the mid-1950s, when his interests turned to science and spiritualism. He wrote and spoke about the social and physical sciences during the 1960s and 1970s, although he was increasingly influenced by theological ideas, and published popular books, such as The Act of Creation (1962), which is a study of the creative process. In 1977, Koestler was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, and he and his third wife committed joint suicide on March 3, 1983, in London.