Maya Zlobina, “Koestler’s Version: The book and the life”


Maya Zlobina, ‘Koestler’s Version’ (re Darkness at Noon) – Novy Mir IN RUSSIAN

Maya Zlobina, ‘Koestler’s Version’


Posted here in both Russian and my own English translation (as separate downloadable Word documents, above), is the following essay/book review about Arthur Koestler’s novel Darkness at Noon, which appeared in the Russian journal Novy mir in 1989. The article came to my attention because of the mention (critical) therein of Theodore Dreiser. The citation is as follows:

Maya Zlobina. “Versiya Kestlera: kniga i zhizn” (Koestler’s Version: The book and the life), Novy mir, No 2 (1989)



I read Darkness at Noon in my high school history class in my senior year. I by no means fully appreciated the novel’s implications, because of my ignorance at that time of Russian history and of the worldwide political environment in the 1930’s, when Soviet-style Communism had great support among the intelligentsia.

I now see, thanks largely to this excellent, penetrating essay by Maya Zlobina, a literary critic and translator. The occasion of her Novy mir essay was the publication in 1988 of Darkness at Noon in Russian translation, during the Gorbachev era. The book had been banned in the Soviet Union.

Published in 1940, Darkness at Noon is the story of Rubashov, an Old Bolshevik who is arrested, imprisoned, and tried for treason. The novel is set in 1939 during the Stalinist Great Purge and Moscow show trials.

I see similarities between Darkness at Noon and George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four and feel that it ranks very high as a dystopian, politically oriented novel.


— Roger W. Smith

   August 2020

2 thoughts on “Maya Zlobina, “Koestler’s Version: The book and the life”

  1. GretchenJoanna

    Did you read Whittaker Chambers’s “Witness”? It was in that book that I read about Koestler, and I think I even bought his book, but never read it. I keep thinking that “Witness” would be well worth a re-read. I can’t remember the details of the story, and would like to be refreshed on them; but it’s a big book. Such a story….

  2. Roger W. Smith Post author

    I have a nice paperback edition of “Witness.” I read parts of it, but never got around to reading it in full. I read Sam Tanenhaus’s biography of Chambers and Allen Weinstein’s “Perjury: The Hiss-Chambers Case.” And, as noted in my post, I read “Darkness at Noon” in my high school history class. Chambers writes very well.

    I believe that Chambers, undeniably, was telling the truth about his relationship with Alger Hiss.

    “Witness” is definitely worth a read. In translating Maya Zlobina’s article, I realized what a powerful book “Darkness at Noon” is and appreciate more the horror of the Moscow show trials.

    You have prompted me to post an excerpt from a past issue of the Daily Worker on my site.

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