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Arthur Koestler Biography

(1905–83), News Chronicle, Spanish Testament, Scum of the Earth, Arrow in the Blue, The Invisible Writing

Anglo-Hungarian novelist and journalist, born in Budapest, educated at the University of Vienna. Koestler served in the Spanish Civil War as war correspondent for the News Chronicle, was arrested by Franco's Nationalists in 1937, and finally freed by the intervention of the British government. The experience resulted in Spanish Testament (1937) which, like all his books before 1941, was written in German. Scum of the Earth (1941), his first major work in English, records his imprisonment in a French concentration camp in 1940, from which he escaped to England. He became a naturalized British subject in 1948. His other autobiographical works include Arrow in the Blue (1952) and The Invisible Writing (1954). Darkness at Noon (1940), his masterpiece, made an enormous impact in its exposure of the sham, brutality, and sheer horror behind Stalin's show trials. Arrival and Departure (1943) examines neurosis as the possible root of revolutionary politics. His other novels include Thieves in the Night (1946), about the Zionists in Palestine; The Age of Longing (1951), a parable about a nuclear-threatened future; and The Call-Girls (1972), a satire about high-powered, mainly male, intellectuals. Twilight Bar: An Escapade in Four Acts (1945), his only play, was produced in Paris and Baltimore in 1946. His wide-ranging collections of essays include The Yogi and the Commissar (1945), The Trail of the Dinosaurs (1955), and Drinkers of Infinity (1958). He also wrote many speculative books on scientific topics, including The Ghost in the Machine (1967) and The Roots of Coincidence (1972). Koestler suffered from terminal illness and with his devoted third wife, Cynthia Jefferies, died in a suicide pact. Their last days are movingly recorded in the jointly written Stranger on the Square (1984).

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Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Knole Kent to Mary Lavin Biography