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Scum of the Earth

4.30  ·  Rating Details  ·  177 Ratings  ·  19 Reviews
At the beginning of the Second World War, Koestler was living in the south of France working on Darkness at Noon. After retreating to Paris he was imprisoned by the French as an undesirable alien even though he had been a respected crusader against fascism. Only luck and his passionate energy allowed him to escape the fate of many of the innocent refugees, who were handed ...more
ebook, 253 pages
Published May 1st 2012 by Eland (first published 1941)
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Jul 07, 2012 Buck rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Oh France, why must you be so full of fail?

For anyone who’s a fan of Western civilization—as I am, most days—the fall of France in 1940 represents a spectacular, game-seven meltdown on the part of the home side. Born decades later and a continent away, I can still access some vicarious shame at that whole debacle. A great, modern democracy folding up like a set of Wal-Mart patio furniture – well, it’s something you never want to see, any more than you want to see your dad cry.

Scum of the Earth i
Jun 03, 2013 Mark rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: War-mongers, Glorifiers of violence and hatred
Recommended to Mark by: Buck Mulligan
The dedication says it all

'To the memory of my colleagues, the exiled writers of Germany who took their lives when France fell;'

This is a book double edged in its title. 'The Scum of the earth' initially seems to refer to the people interned by the French government at the beginning of the Second World War. This was the way in which they were collectively spoken of by politicians and the press as they desperately sought to shore up the rotten edifice of France. However, as the account continues
Sarah (Presto agitato)
Arthur Koestler had a knack for getting himself locked up. For several years in the 1930s and ‘40s, he took an inside tour of European prisons and concentration camps in Spain, France, and the UK. (Strangely, my edition of this book was published by a travel book publishing company, but I can’t think they would recommend this particular itinerary). Koestler’s friend George Orwell attributed his predilection for incarceration to his “lifestyle,” which is a bit unfair, but there is no doubt Koestl ...more
Julian Gray
Nov 11, 2015 Julian Gray rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
By describing his own experiences of internment and harassment during 1939 and 1940, Koestler reveals the circumstances that led to the collapse of France in the face of Nazi invasion. He describes the reluctance of French army conscripts, asked to fight and perhaps die in yet another war against the Germans. He asks how it is that he and others, committed anti-Nazis, are persecuted by the French authorities, instead of being welcomed as allies in the struggle against the Germans. Koestler point ...more
Sergiu Pobereznic
A mémoire by Arthur Koestler, a Hungarian journalist that survived and later wrote about the events surrounding the German invasion of France, of which he was a part.
He was trapped, arrested by the French authorities and interned in a French prison-camp as an undesirable alien (a Jew). He was released and arrested once again, even though he was widely recognized for his vehemently vociferous, anti-fascist stance. This was quite normal during that period. Being arrested and spending time in pris
May 25, 2011 Tony rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Koestler, Arthur. SCUM OF THE EARTH. (1941). ****.
This was the first book that Koestler wrote in English, and it chronicles his experiences at the beginning of WW II. He and the woman he was living with at the time, a sculptress, had moved to a remote area of France – she to carry on with her art, he to work on his novel, “Darkness at Noon.” When war broke out, however, he knew that they had to get out of France and over to England for their safety. In their attempt, Koestler ended up being de
May 14, 2015 Iana rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Absolutely brilliant book. Koestler's ability to narrate his own travails and misfortunes as prisoner and refugee, as well as of all those persecuted at that time in France is quite astonishing. Yet even more astonishing is extraordinarily lucid understanding of the dynamics shaping French politics in the late 1930s (the 'sickness of the French body politic' as he called it) and his prescience about other coming developments there during the war. Don't read boring academic history books: read th ...more
Jul 08, 2016 Mel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Hungarian born journalist, writer, sometime communist and anti nazi Arthur Koestler, charts the outbreak of the Second World War through his own experience. Because it was written before the end of WWII, without the benefit of hindsight or retrospection, it has a very different feel to other factual or biographic accounts from the same period. Koestler, along with other anti nazis communists and various persecuted groups from all over Europe, find themselves rounded up and interned by the French ...more
Apr 05, 2007 James rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: any one
This is an unusual autobiography because it's not so much about the author as a whole generation of political refugees who had to move across one border after another with little more than a suitcase. Usually in the middle of the night.

Set from 1939 to 1941 the author tells how people fleeing facism, communism or both finally ended up in France by Sept 1939.

They thought they were safe.
They were wrong.

The French media branded them the Scum of the Earth,
responsible for all the crime and other
Gary Sudeth
Like so so many books I have recently encountered reflecting on lives lived in previous times of social upheaval and conflict, Koestler's autobiographical window into the lives of the undesirable, the outcasts of Europe before the fall of France in 1940, catches glimpses of the fault lines in man's humanity that appear across the ages; glimpses of 1940 France seen today in our land.
Koestler describes his life in pre WWII France, his arrest and imprisonment in Le Vernet Concentration Camp just prior to the German invasion of France, his release and escape from France and the many people he meets along the way.

The scum of the earth were the liberal free thinkers. Communists and socialist exiles who were scooped up by the pro-Vichy fascists and sent to concentration camps were most were later taken by the Gestapo. The book’s strength is in his observations about the Spanish w
Jack London
Feb 28, 2010 Jack London rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
AK was a Hungarian journalist in the 1930’s who was trapped in France when Germany rolled in during the Spring of 1940. He was placed in a detention camp, released, placed in another, escaped, join the French Foreign Legion under a false name so they would stop arresting him, then escaped to England via Marseille, Africa, and Portugal. This is a true story, not fiction, written in 1942. It is one of the Eland publications of the best ‘travel’ writing of the last 100 years. Another is Naples 1944 ...more
Apr 02, 2015 Lysergius rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: autobiography
Arthur Koestler's harrowing account of his flight from the Nazi regime during the early years of WWII is harrowing and gripping. The impression of the dark cloud that passed across Europe during the 1930s and early 1940s is frightening, and is made worse by the reluctance of the European governments of the day to recognise the inexorable rise of Fascism and its warlike intentions, and failing to provide sanctuary and security to the millions fleeing the pestilence.

Sad to say that the lessons of
Phillip Scafidel
I loved Darkness at Noon by Koestler but this book felt like I was swinging a 16 pound sledge hammer just to get from one page to the next. It's set in WW2 so that's the only positive I give this book.
Colby Coombs
After reading this - BREXIT!
Mar 27, 2010 Barbara rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Barbara by: Mentioned in a review in the NYRB
Koestler's description of the treatment of anti-Fascist "foreigners" in France in 1939-40, the mistreatment by the French police and bureaucrats of people who had fought against the Nazis or in Spain and ended up in camps in France is worth reading by anyone interested in contemporary history.
These shameful episodes of French history are rarely mentioned but are still topical today as debates over immigration and migration are current in so many countries of the world.
Apr 10, 2016 Josh rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, nonfiction
This book is so honest that the frustration and helplessness of the author at once challenges that humanity of the reader. The injustice of the idealists, the unfortunate, and the outcasts suffering in prison camps due to the ignorance of a Nation because of wartime hysteria has insights prudent for reflection for any age.
Ahmad Sharabiani
Sep 26, 2009 Ahmad Sharabiani rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historical, novel
نظیر آن جواهر تراش هرکولانوم که وقتی زمین شکاف برمیداشت، گدازه ها می جوشید و باران خاکستر فرو می ریخت، با آرامش به کار خود مشغول بود. رابرت نیومن: کنار آب های بابل
Feb 14, 2010 Tibor marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Arthur Koestler: flawed crusader
Guardian Books
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Arthur Koestler CBE [*Kösztler Artúr] was a prolific writer of essays, novels and autobiographies.

He was born into a Hungarian Jewish family in Budapest but, apart from his early school years, was educated in Austria. His early career was in journalism. In 1931 he joined the Communist Party of Germany but, disillusioned, he resigned from it in 1938 and in 1940 published a devastating anti-Communis
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“It had a strange resemblance to Kafka's novel,The Trial- that dream-like allegory of a man who,having received a mysterious convocation to attend his 'trial",strives and struggles in vain to find out where the trial would be held and what it would be about; wherever he inquires he receives non - commital,elusive replies,as if everybody has joined in a secret conspiracy:the closer he gets to his aim,the farther it recedes,like the transparent walls of a dream:and the story ends abruptly,as it began,in tormenting suspense.The High Court which Kafka's hero is unable to find is his own conscience:but what was the symbolic meaning of all these nut-cracker-faced,nail-biting,pimpled,slimy features,spinning their spider webs of intrigue and sabotage in the bureaux of the French Administration?Perhaps I was really guilty,I and my like:perhaps our guilt was the past,the guilt of having forseen the catastrophe and yet failed to open the eyes of the blind.But if we were guilty-who were they to sit in judgement over us?” 4 likes
“There was a dense fog in my brain,impenetrable to any coherent thought,except the dull obsession of counting the minutes - an aching state of semi concsiousness and numb idiocy.” 4 likes
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