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...
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