Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Darkness at Noon” as Want to Read:
Darkness at Noon
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Darkness at Noon

4.05  ·  Rating details ·  27,534 ratings  ·  1,632 reviews
Darkness at Noon (from the German: Sonnenfinsternis) is a novel by the Hungarian-born British novelist Arthur Koestler, first published in 1940. His best-known work tells the tale of Rubashov, a Bolshevik 1917 revolutionary who is cast out, imprisoned and tried for treason by the Soviet government he'd helped create.

Darkness at Noon stands as an unequaled fictional portray
Mass Market Paperback, 216 pages
Published March 1984 by Bantam Books (first published 1940)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Darkness at Noon, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Stacy I think another reason the author did not specify a particular country is that it really didn't matter. It was a picture of a socialist regime and how…moreI think another reason the author did not specify a particular country is that it really didn't matter. It was a picture of a socialist regime and how the socialist policies are enforced in that given country, which is proven out through history. It doesn't matter whether it was Russia, or China, or North Vietnam, or take your pick of many others-- the enforcement was always the same. The same tactics were always used, as if they were all going by some kind of manual to implement communism, which is the governmental side of socialism, which is the economic philosophy (2 sides of the same coin).(less)
Jennifer Quail Well...yes, he's going to be shot. That's what happens to prisoners like him in the system he's describing, especially the show trials in the Thirties…moreWell...yes, he's going to be shot. That's what happens to prisoners like him in the system he's describing, especially the show trials in the Thirties that inspired Koestler in the first place. The inevitability of torture, oppression, and judicial murder is a given and kind of the whole point-he helped build this machine and now he's dealing with it coming for him. Being surprised at the end is a bit like watching Titanic and being surprised the boat sinks, or going into the Star Wars prequels anticipating a happy ending. (less)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.05  · 
Rating details
 ·  27,534 ratings  ·  1,632 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Darkness at Noon
Jeffrey Keeten
Aug 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: the-russians
”This is a diseased century.
We diagnosed the disease and its causes with microscopic exactness, but wherever we applied the healing knife a new sore appeared. Our will was hard and pure, we should have been loved by the people. But they hate us. Why are we so odious and detested?
We brought you truth, and in our mouth it sounded a lie. We brought you freedom, and it looks in our hands like a whip. We brought you the living life, and where our voices is heard the trees wither and there is a rustli
Ahmad Sharabiani
Sonnenfinsternis = Darkness at Noon, c1940, Arthur Koestler

Darkness at Noon is a novel by Hungarian-born British novelist Arthur Koestler, first published in 1940. His best known work, it is the tale of Rubashov, an Old Bolshevik who is arrested, imprisoned, and tried for treason against the government that he had helped to create.

Darkness at Noon is divided into four parts: The First Hearing, The Second Hearing, The Third Hearing, and The Grammatical Fiction. In the original English translation
The back of my 1972 copy of Darkness at Noon claims that it is "one of the few books written in this epoch which will survive it." To me, Darkness at Noon seems like a book on the verge of being forgotten. It's almost never on the shelves in bookstores or libraries, and I rarely hear it discussed. I don't think it's taught in schools, at least in my part of the world. Perhaps with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of communism and the Cold War, the importance of the great revolutions ...more
Steven Godin

This just might be the first time I've come across a novel in which it has been translated into many other languages not from the original text but from the English translated version - making it a translation of a translation. I've no idea how this supposedly superior new translated version compares to the original because I didn't read it, and can only go on what was in front of me -
which, I believe, is a masterpiece not in terms of plot, but of the human condition. While it isn't specified th
“The fact is: I no longer believe in my infallibility. That is why I am lost.”

For me, this a perfect book, a masterpiece- it has it all - the suffering, the guilt, discussions on morality, politics, tyranny, philosophy, spirituality, meaning and death, one not overshadowing other, all perfectly interwoven in the story, without the final conclusion it is trying to impose on the reader, just telling a story in a way it expands consciousness. Due to the controversy of the author I haven't read it s
Nov 21, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: anyone who feels guilty about not being political enough
Oh, how I do love those Russians! Plus I'm hoping reading this will make me feel better about my own life, which lately feels like a grim, freezing Stalinist dystopia of gray hopeless days. It could be worse, right?


I've got a lot of work to do tonight, and somehow I thought this would be an excellent time to go back and review Darkness at Noon. MUCH bigger priority than getting work done, wouldn't you say....?

Well, so, okay, this book was a little bit bleak. Yeah, not the feel-good date nov
Michael Finocchiaro
Darkness at Noon is a haunting picture of life in the darkest era of Stalinist Russia inside a political prison. The protagonist is Rubashov, an Old Bolshevik who is arrested and tried for treason by the government that he helped create. Vividly realistic, Koestler paints the life of Rubashov in his prison cell, his wall-tapping conversations with other inmates, his memories of life outside and some of the crimes he committed and the rationalizations for them, as well as his confrontation with h ...more
An Announcement Concerning the Class Traitor Not

After a scrupulously fair trial in the Amazon People's Court, Comrade Not has been found guilty of posting an ideologically unsound review. To protect other comrades from the possibility of being seduced into thought-crime, the review has now been removed from the community area. Amazon has also offered Not a course of reeducation. Their representatives arrived promptly at 4 am yesterday morning, and courteously but firmly helped Not to understand
Definitely one of the greatest novels of the 20th century. I am embarrassed, frankly, that I'm 37 and reading this only now. This is a work I should have read in high school, then in college, then again almost every year since. Standing guard silently behind greats like Orwell and Hitchens is Arthur Koestler. Rubashov is one of the best-realized characters and Darkness at Noon is a near-perfect novel. Dostoevsky would have killed Koestler with an axe, and Tolstoy would have pushed his ass in fro ...more
May 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is most appropriately classified as an autobiographical novel. The author, Arthur Koestler, became a member of the German Communist Party in 1931. In 1938, disillusioned by Stalin’s Moscow show trials and indiscriminate purges of the so-called counter-revolutionaries, he left the Party. In 1940 came his critique--Darkness at Noon--a novel sharply critical of Communism.

Both the author and the central protagonist of the novel, Rubashov, begin with a strong belief in Communism. Both become dis
Jan 27, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: libri-classici
I need reminders from time to time, like those in this novel, of psychological and moral atrocities, of the hyper-viciousness of a pack lead by unstable maniacs and sociopaths.

Darkness at Noon is a chilling novel about Nicholas Salmanovitch Rubashov, an old Bolshevik, formerly Commissar of the People, and a leader in the 1917 Russian REVolution, who is imprisoned during Stalin's purges after he speaks out against the tyranny of his former comrades. These former comrades torture Rubashov and bre
Aug 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: classics
Nothing is worse in prison than the consciousness of one's innocence; it prevents acclimatization and undermines one's morale...

Comrade Rubashov has been arrested. But this is nothing. He's been around this block before. He knows, for instance, this truth about the consciousness of innocence - as the unseen man in the neighboring cell clearly does not. The unseen man who taps at the pipe...who is in many ways not unlike the conscience Comrade Rubashov put into storage some forty years before; th
Jon Nakapalau
Sep 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, classics
"If you give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest of men, I will find something in them which will hang him" - Cardinal Richelieu. Nicholas Rubashov is about to find out that sometimes it doesn't even take six lines...
Jun 16, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2015
Darkness at Noon is one of the classics of anti-totalitarian literature, often mentioned alongside novels such as Brave New World and 1984. While both these novels are fictions based on an idea of a totalitarian state, Darkness at Noon is a clear allegory of Soviet Russia during the 1930's - the time of the Moscow show trials and the Great Purge.

Although the author openly acknowledges this in the preface, the country in which the book is set is never named - though he includes specific details r
Dave Russell
Jul 20, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: novels
At the end of 1984 Winston Smith asks O'Brien why the party acts the way it does. His answer always pissed me off: "Power for power's sake." That's not an explanation. That's a tautological cop out. It's like Orwell was content to warn us about what a totalitarian state would look like without exploring more deeply why it got there. Thanks George.
Darkness at Noon explores this question more fully and in a more honest way. According to Koestler the Soviets were basically a bunch of Raskolnikovs.
Written in the 1930's as Stalin purged the previous politburo members, Darkness at Noon offers a taste of the dark dreary Soviet world where the truth changes depending on who is now in power. In a visionary passage, there is talk about how the books were purged from the library and how the job would only be complete if they had taken the old newspapers and changed the news of the day. Other passages are eerie as well as the individual will is subordinated to the will of the party, whatever that ...more
May 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Arthur Koestler, through this tale, does a fine job explaining the sacrifices, accompanied with labyrinthine lies, necessary to sustain and propel a totalitarian regime. This might all feel ethereally remote, until, one day, you or I are sacrificed, at which point all becomes both immediate and very much lost. Living, as I do, in a nation with the highest incarceration rate per capita, it appears necessary sacrifice may be required even in a cherished democracy, a thought I believe Michel Foucau ...more
Stephen P(who no longer can participate due to illness)
A best friend with different literary tastes than myself recommended a book. An historian buff he reported this psychological, political rendered piece of fiction as his all time favorite. A friendship of many years deserves its many sacrifices. A bit of time seemed small. Maybe many of us here at GR have been in this situation. A small amount of time sacrificed does not only mean plowing instead of the grace of reading but also not getting the time for the next book we have been waiting to rea ...more
An interesting novel but I find it pale in comparison with real prison literature, I'd recommend Evgenia Ginzburg's memoir Journey into the Whirlwind above this without hesitation, not on account of literary merit but simply because of the author's sense of surprise at the unlikeliness of it all. Koestler's fiction is a work of the imagination. Something designed to serve the purposes of the author, that gives insight into their opinions and not into (save perhaps accidentally) the situation the ...more
J.G. Keely
May 26, 2007 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, novel, reviewed
A rather strange experience: here is a book which possesses many great qualities--it is well written, has a gripping story, and a great depth of psychology--but it ultimately falls into that secondary tier of modern novels that fail to make a full philosophical exploration of their quandries.

Perhaps the relative slimness of this book--often cited as the best novel of the Twentieth--is related to that shortcoming. While the political message is powerful and the philosophical questioning interesti
Jul 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing
There are only two conceptions of human ethics, and they are at opposite poles. One of them is Christian and humane, declares the individual to be sacrosanct...the other starts from the basic principle that a collective aim justifies all means, and not only allows, but demands that the individual should in every way be subordinated and sacrificed to the community.

Koestler believes in socialism; his question is, if achieving socialism means torturing and murdering a few people, do we throw out th
Feb 25, 2010 rated it really liked it
Before I read Darkness at Noon, I could never quite comprehend the source of the wretched servility and abject self-negation with which the Old Bolsheviks broadcast their guilt and apostasy in so convincing a manner at the Moscow Show Trials in the mid-thirties. Koestler—no stranger to dark, narrow prison cells and the exquisite torture of living minute to precious minute awaiting the stark drum roll of the executioner's approaching footsteps—brings all of his harsh experience to this swiftly-mo ...more
Nov 24, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A dark and intriguing study of the politics of revolution, counter-revolution, social experimentation on a grand scale – set against the backdrop of Stalin’s Moscow show trials.

This a dark story of one man’s (fictionalised although based on fact) experience of arrest, incarceration, torture and subsequent show trial.

This is all about thought control and the ethics / morals of ‘physical liquidation’ / execution and the wiping out of huge numbers of people as part of the revolutionary process and
Sep 27, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Comrade Nicholas Salmanovitch Rubashov is one of the founding Party of the Revolution. He is also perhaps the only man of that group of idealising thinkers still alive. For a long time he has had a recurring dream of being arrested in his bed, while sleeping under the poster of No. 1 (Stalin), the same poster that hangs above every bed, on every wall. And finally, he is arrested. As a politicial prisoner he is given solitude and time to sweat. There is a certain degree of fatalism in the way he ...more
Apr 01, 2016 marked it as to-read
Remarkable story on the translation history of this book from the NYRB:

The implications of Weßel’s discovery are considerable, for Darkness at Noon is that rare specimen, a book known to the world only in translation. This peculiar distinction has been little discussed in the vast critical literature about Koestler and his famous novel. In my lengthy 2009 biography of Koestler I barely touch on it, yet the phenomenon is all the more extraordinary when one considers that the novel has been transl
This is a brilliant book. To me it seems like the final reckoning with stalinism, and remarkably it was written at a time (the end of the 1930's) when still half of intellectual Europe raved about the Soviet Union. It's just incomprehensible that even after this book people like Jean-Paul Sartre doggedly stuck to his adoration for the Soviet model (and later on also the Chinese one). From a literary point of view this novel is not a real master work (hence the 3 stars), but still, it is nicely w ...more
Debbie Zapata
Oct 29, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020printbooks
Oct 29, 1pm ~~ Review asap.

Oct 30, 1158pm ~~ I wish I had written down where I saw this book mentioned. I know it was in an article about authoritarian states, but beyond that, I'm blank. I just remember that I thought it would be something almost vital to read during this bizarre year we are all trying to get through.

Author Arthur Koestler was Hungarian born but was raised in Austria, where he joined the Communist Party in 1931. But in 1938 he resigned because he did not agree with the way the
Jun 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Recommend through Postman, who described it as complementing the 1984-Brave New World discussion. He was right! D at N is about the hypocritical cycle of power, the failures of revolutions, and whether or not ends justify means. Rubashov is a sympathetic protagonist, which makes his own failures and complicity all the more engaging. The book is careful to never mention major historical figures or regimes by name - this isn't a book about how mean Stalin was. It's about how power will always be v ...more
B. Faye
Nov 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“What had he said to them? "I bow my knees before the country, before the masses, before the whole people...." And what then? What happened to these masses, to this people? For forty years it had been driven through the desert, with threats and promises, with imaginary terrors and imaginary rewards. But where was the Promised Land? Did there really exist any such goal for this wandering mankind? That was a question to which he would have liked an answer before it was too late. Moses had not been ...more
Mar 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing
A new development: A graduate student at the University of Kassel, Germany, discovered the original German-language manuscript of this book, which had been missing for decades, in a library in Switzerland. Readers know only the English version, which reflects a British interpretation of the original work. Unfortunately, this led to a variety of translation errors having the effect of softening the impact of the interrogations that Rubashov was forced to endure. In fact, instead of "interrogation ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Under the Volcano
  • The Heart of the Matter
  • A Mencken Chrestomathy
  • Henderson the Rain King
  • The Way of All Flesh
  • When God Looked the Other Way: An Odyssey of War, Exile, and Redemption
  • Chronicles of the Crusades
  • Victory at Stalingrad: The Battle That Changed History
  • One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich
  • Memoirs of a Warsaw Ghetto Fighter
  • On Both Sides of the Wall
  • Ehen in Philippsburg
  • The Decline of the Muslim Ummah
  • Appointment in Samarra
  • We
  • Crime and Punishment
  • Fundamentals of Physics: Mechanics, Relativity, and Thermodynamics
See similar books…
See top shelves…
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

News & Interviews

The last five years of world history have been nothing if not...eventful. When living in interesting times, there's nothing better for...
68 likes · 12 comments
“Satan, on the contrary, is thin, ascetic and a fanatical devotee of logic. He reads Machiavelli, Ignatius of Loyola, Marx and Hegel; he is cold and unmerciful to mankind, out of a kind of mathematical mercifulness. He is damned always to do that which is most repugnant to him: to become a slaughterer, in order to abolish slaughtering, to sacrifice lambs so that no more lambs may be slaughtered, to whip people with knouts so that they may learn not to let themselves be whipped, to strip himself of every scruple in the name of a higher scrupulousness, and to challenge the hatred of mankind because of his love for it--an abstract and geometric love.” 99 likes
“History had a slow pulse; man counted in years, history in generations” 36 likes
More quotes…