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Koestler: The Indispensable Intellectual
From award-winning author Michael Scammell comes a monumental achievement: the first authorized biography of Arthur Koestler, one of the most influential and controversial intellectuals of the twentieth century. Over a decade in the making, and based on new research and full access to its subject's papers, Koestler is the definitive account of this fascinating and polarizi ...more
Published February 1st 2011 by Faber & Faber
(first published 2009)
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Prior to that I had an enjoyable week looking forward every evening to reading Michael Scammell's biography of Arthur Koestler, Koestler: The Literary and Political Odyssey of a Twentieth-Century Skeptic (New York: Random House, 2008). Scammell a professional biographer has created a dense (689 page book) fascinating book mapping the life of Koestler. Koestler is one of those names that is forever appearing in other biographies and books that I read, but I never really a good sense about who he ...more
This was a really good biography of an interesting person, although a bit long. Koestler wrote one of the best political novels ever - Darkness at Noon -- and seemed to be right in the thick of European intellectual life in the interwar and postwar eras. Scammell's bio was everything you could ask for in a good bio. The only problem for me was that Koestler came across as a real jerk - abusive to women, condescending, and too believing of his own press. Genius does not excuse that. Overall, I gu ...more
Interesting quote from Johann Hari in a review on Slate:He [Koestler:] said he was cursed with "absolutitis": When a cause didn't offer him absolute salvation, he would discard it in despair and try to find another with the same promise. The one possibility he never explored for long is the only real answer to suffering—incremental democratic reform. Real improvements in human societies almost always come inch-by-inch, without any grand map of a perfect world. If you demand perfection, you can o ...more