ARTHUR KOESTLER by David Cesarani

ARTHUR KOESTLER

The Homeless Mind
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KIRKUS REVIEW

A punctilious and perceptive biography of Arthur Koestler, whose 1940 novel Darkness At Noon became part of the intellectual arsenal that eventually brought down the Berlin Wall. Koestler, claims Cesarani (History/Southampton Univ.), was a brilliant journalist and “an outstanding chronicler of his times.” He wrote novels, two volumes of autobiography, and countless essays. A man of the left and a member of the between-the-wars “pink” generation, he criticized the USSR and communism at a time when both were immensely popular and powerful, especially among the intelligentsia. Friendly with Sartre, Orwell, and Camus, he was also the quintessential Wandering Jew whose only real home was his mind. Though charming and kind, Koestler often quarreled with his friends and treated women abominably: He raped the wife of a good friend, was unfaithful to his own three spouses, and, Cesarani suggests, persuaded his much younger third wife to commit suicide with him in 1983 even though her health, unlike his, was good. Born in 1905 in Hungary, Koestler lived through a better childhood than his autobiography claimed, but his uncomfortable family, together with the dislocations of war and revolution, explained much of his subsequent behavior as well as his search for a permanent home. Attracted first to Zionism, he began his journalistic career in Palestine in the 1920s, then moved on to communism until his experiences in the USSR and the Spanish War changed his mind, and finally embraced parascience. Dealing with Koestler’s background, his writing, and his compulsive traveling, home-buying, and womanizing, Cesarani concludes that the writer’s “relationship with his Jewishness is fundamental to understanding the man and his work, and, by extension, the condition of post-modernity.” Both a splendid biography of one of the century’s great minds and a vivid history of the period, especially the years when revolution was in the air and totalitarianism on the rise.

Pub Date: Dec. 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-684-86720-6
Page count: 656pp
Publisher: Free Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15th, 2000




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