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February 5, 2023


#Modern Library Challenge Darkness At Noon

by NancyElin

Le Zéro et l'infini by Arthur Koestler by Arthur Koestler Arthur Koestler

Finish date: 31 January 2023
Genre: historical fiction
Rating: C-
Review: Le Zéro et l’infinie (Darkness at Noon) (ISBN: 9782253003410)

Good news: I can check off yet another book on Modern Library’s 100 Best Novels 20th C. I cannot agree with this choice of Darkness at Noon as an outstanding novel. There are better books from 20th C that easily could take its place on the list!

Bad news: Pages 144-183 were very difficult to read in French. It was a long discussions between old friends (Roubachof in prison- Ivanov prison warden) about the politics of The Party. Ivanov insists Roubachof sign a confession because he tried to split the Communist Party (CP)…and spends a long time trying to convince the Rubachof to do so.

Personal Writing: Straightforward style, absolutely credible characters…but not very likeable. The narrative switches back and forth between Roubachof’s current life as a political prisoner and his past life as one of the Communist Party elite. Roubachof is a former high-ranking Party official now in prison, charged with treason for betraying the cause.

Most impressive parts of the book were describing Roubachof’s imprisionment and the excruciating interrogations he went through. There was a lot of CP politics that honestly I had to skim a few pages. The book was written (1940) 23 after the CP was established in Russia (1917). I’m sure readers in 1940 were fascinated by the narrative. On pg 251 Gletkin (interrogator) says: “…nécessité pour Le Parti rester uni” unfortunately…CP lasted only 51 more years. In 1991, Mikhail Gorbachev removed the constitutional role of the Communist Party. Because of this it allowed non-communists to take power.

I discovered this book on Modern Library Best 100 Novel 20th C. It is rarely on anyone’s reading list…now I know why.


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2 Comments Post a comment
  1. Well done on persevering, I hope you have a better choice to flow up with. I’m reading Admiring Silence by Abdulrazak Gurnah and really enjoying the subtle humour and post colonial observations from within his character of middle class British in-laws.

    • Feb 5 2023

      I saw your tweets about the book…sounds interesting! Reading book by French writer Joseph Kessel “Hong Kong et Macao” ….very nice and French is “do-able”!


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