Arthur Koestler Biography

Arthur Koestler Biography

Arthur Koestler’s work is most likely familiar to you if you've ever looked anything up in the Encyclopedia Britannica. 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 internment 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.

Facts and Trivia

  • 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.


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

ph_0111207093-Koestler.jpg Arthur Koestler Published by Salem Press, Inc.

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 that they never had a permanent home again.

Koestler’s interest in Zionism led him in...

(The entire section is 549 words.)


(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

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...

(The entire section is 536 words.)


(Novels for Students)

Arthur Koestler Published by Gale Cengage

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...

(The entire section is 379 words.)