Arthur Koestler

From Dr. Mardy’s Quotes of the Week – March 3 – 9, 2013, I learn about Arthur Koestler:

This Week in History:

On March 3, 1983, Arthur Koestler died at age 77 by consuming a lethal dose of barbiturates. A believer in voluntary euthanasia, he was suffering from leukemia, a metastasized cancer, and Parkinson’s Disease. His 56-year-old wife Cynthia shared his philosophical beliefs and joined him in the double suicide (her accompanying note said, “I cannot live without Arthur”). Born in Budapest, Hungary in 1905, Koestler was raised in a middle-class Jewish family, studied at Vienna Polytechnic, left school before graduation to live a couple of years in Israel, and returned to Europe to become a journalist. Deeply concerned about the rise of Nazism and seduced by the rhetoric of Soviet authorities, he joined Germany’s Communist Party in 1931 (he later wrote that it was “the only apparent alternative to Nazi rule”). Before the decade was over, though, Koestler rejected Communism, famously revealing his break in the bestselling 1940 novel “Darkness at Noon.” A stark and gripping tale about the Stalinist purges, it was a powerful indictment of a totalitarian system that sacrificed means to ends and viewed individuals as little more than robots. In the opening line of “The Invisible Writing” (1984), he metaphorically described his political evolution by piggy-backing on a famous Pablo Picasso observation:

“I went to Communism as one goes to a spring of fresh water, and I left Communism as one clambers out of a poisoned river strewn with the wreckage of flooded cities and the corpses of the drowned.”

Koestler settled in England after WWII, becoming a British citizen in 1948. Over the next several decades, he emerged as one of the country’s most prolific writers and influential thinkers. His six novels and thirty non-fiction works on a dizzying array of topics included “The Act of Creation” (1964), “The Ghost in the Machine” (1967), and “The Roots of Coincidence” (1972). In 1968, he was awarded the prestigious Sonning Prize, awarded biennially for “outstanding contribution to European culture” (previous recipients included Bertrand Russell, Winston Churchill, Albert Schweitzer, and Niels Bohr): One of the twentieth century’s most famous intellectuals, Koestler had a reputation for provocative and controversial ideas, often expressed passionately (and some would say, recklessly). Many of his thoughts and ideas were also extremely well-phrased, as you will see the selection of quotations I have assembled below:

“Thou shalt not carry moderation unto excess.”

“A publisher who writes is like a cow in a milk bar.”

“Nothing is more sad than the death of an illusion.”

“Scientists are peeping toms at the keyhole of eternity.”

“Courage is never to let your actions be influenced by your fears.”

“The more original a discovery, the more obvious it seems afterward.”

“Creative activity is a type of learning process where the teacher and pupil are located in the same individual.”

“Adolescence is a kind of emotional seasickness. Both are funny, but only in retrospect.”

“The most persistent sound which reverberates through men’s history is the beating of war drums.”

“Murder within the species is a phenomenon unknown in the whole animal kingdom, except for man and a few varieties of ants and rats.”

“The progress of science is strewn, like an ancient desert trail, with the bleached skeleton of discarded theories which once seemed to possess eternal life.”

I once owned “Darkness at Noon,” but fear I must have let it go when I recently moved and needed to thin out my stacks and stacks of books.  At the time, I didn’t know where I got it and since it was so old, didn’t figure I would ever read it.  I knew nothing about the book or the author.  Now I am wishing I kept it!  I think I will try to get this book at the library though – because I now very much want to read it.  Funny how those things go sometimes…

This entry was posted in Ruminations and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply