Arthur Koestler: The Invisible Writing


My obsession with Arthur Koestler led me to The Invisible Writing which is the writer’s second biography.  It details Koestler’s experiences as a member of the Communist party in Europe before the Second World War, including his experiences of the Party itself, the Communist struggle against the rise of Nazism, Koestler’s travels in the early Soviet Union, and his eventual westward move from the crushing, inexorable advance of the Third Reich (which would certainly have murdered him in its death camps).

Just like Arrow In the Blue, this volume contains a lot of lucid introspections that will remain relevant for generations to come. It captures and tells a remarkable time in European history from an inner circle of the time’s movers and shakers perception.

The history herein is irreplaceable, and his firsthand account of interactions with one political disaster after another is a warning every future generation should read. It is a lucid and intensely personal document of life between the wars, and a ruthless dissection of the rise of totalitarianism.

Most of all, this book is the story of Koestler’s involvement with the pre-war Communist movement. It’s the story of how Communism became a doctrine, then a cult that trammeled and suppressed free thought. He describes how he himself, this most original and lucid of thinkers, became almost religiously converted to Communism. He details how the Communist party developed a culture of stifling its own dissent. He explains how he began to censor his own criticisms of Communism, developing complicated mental filters that eventually allowed him to justify even the most obvious and horrific failings of the Soviet system. Communism itself is barely involved. The merits and failings of the political system are irrelevant to the story. This is the story of how an idea was corrupted by its own believers: first exalted, then made inviolable, whereupon it stagnated and was perverted into a monstrous, evil caricature of its original self.

I whole-heartedly recommend this book to students of early-twentieth-century history; to people who’ve read Koestler’s other books and appreciate his clarity and insight; to students of the human condition; and to those interested in Communism or in cult psychology.

Most of all, I recommend it to anyone who’s got an idea they think can change the world.