Arthur Koestler’s Darkness at Noon (1940, France) is one of the twentieth century’s most famous “political novels,” or fictional accounts of a historical reality. Written by a former member of the Communist Party, it is a unique glimpse into the volatile political situation under the government of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) in the late 1930s. Its main character, Rubashov, combines characteristics of key Soviet politicians and intellectual leaders from the Bolshevik Revolution, and the story of his imprisonment and confession explains and develops the topical political themes of totalitarianism, socialism, communism, and individualism.
Part of the reason for the novel’s wide success is the fact that Koestler, who was influenced by Sigmund Freud was able to weave his political and philosophical themes into a compelling psychological narrative. With the use of rationalistic argument and religious symbolism, Koestler is able to consider politics together with psychology and individualism. Despite the loss of the original German text, Daphne Hardy’s English translation of the novel, published in London in 1940, has become an international classic and has profoundly affected how history remembers the Moscow Show Trials.