Riley's Reviews > Arthur Koestler: The Homeless Mind

Arthur Koestler by David Cesarani
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Sep 01, 12

Read in August, 2012

I don't think I've ever encountered an author's life more devastating to his legacy than is Arthur Koestler's. This book, which is no hatchet job, shows Koestler at his worst as a hypocrite, a drunk, a rapist, and an arrogant, domineering and doctrinaire ass.

I really love Koestler's books, though more for their artistic and psychological heaviness than for the truths they may present. For instance, Darkness at Noon is a classic, but I've never really bought the reasons the Koestler presented for why Old Bolsheviks participated in their own demise in the Communist show trials. I don't think they were acting out of some final ideological service to the party, as Koestler suggests, but rather out of severe torture and the hope that they could save themselves or at least their family and friends.

Author David Cesarani hits upon this tendency of Koestler's in one passage I highlighted, about his tendency to see deeper meaning in his many drunken driving accidents:

"Cars were one bizarre channel through which destiny spoke to him. ... Recalling the weeks up to mid-March, he cataloged a series of car accidents. On 28 February he cut across the path of a truck and nearly ended up dead; the next day he accidentally rammed Janine Graetz's stationary car; the same afternoon she was caught by the police for speeding; and the following morning he collided with another vehicle in a snowstorm. On 10 March he drove to Yale University and almost caused a pile-up by stopping suddenly on the road. 'But what does it all mean?' he asked plaintively. The obvious answer is that he was an appalling driver who was often drunk while at the wheel. But Koestler was never one to see the obvious when a vast, self-serving and utterly unprovable cosmic theory could be maneuvered into place to obscure it while at the same time meeting some dramatic need in his life."

All I can say is that it is a good thing that an writer's works can ultimately stand apart from their actual lives.
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