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27/04/2017

El Cero y el Infinito / Darkness at Noon

  • Arthur Koestler
  • Visto: 328

Read the Book Review in English further below

Título original/Original title: Sonnenfinsternis
Editorial:
   Macmillan Publishers (English version)
   Contemporánea de Bolsillo (versión en español)
Fecha de 1ª Edición/Date first published: 1940
ISBN 0-553-26595-4 (English)  9788499087436 (Spanish)

El cero y el infinito (Sonnenfinsternis <Eclipse solar, en alemán>; Darkness at Noon <Oscuridad al mediodía, en inglés>) es la principal novela del autor británico de origen húngaro Arthur Koestler. Publicado originalmente en 1940, narra la historia de Rubashov, un miembro de la vieja guardia de la Revolución rusa de 1917, quien es primeramente alejado del poder, para luego acabar encarcelado y juzgado por traición al Gobierno de la Unión Soviética que él mismo había ayudado a crear.

El cero y el infinito es un intento de excelente calidad literaria por encontrar la verdad entre la confusión, la desinformación y la mentira ideológica del totalitarismo comunista. Es una introspección en los mecanismos ideológicos, administrativos y psicológicos que llevaron a la autodelación y autorecriminación de decenas de intelectuales soviéticos, algunos de ellos destacados bolcheviques, en especial en el conocido como "Juicio de los Veintiuno". En efecto, como advierte Vargas Llosa en su introducción a una de las ediciones en español de esta obra, los hechos que narra no son especialmente terribles (sobre todo si los comparamos con lo que Solyenitzin describiría en Archipiélago Gulag, por ejemplo), sino que al protagonista le someten a una tortura psicológica de luces brillantes, privación de sueño, humillaciones (métodos que todavía se utilizan en países como China, Cuba o Corea del Norte), pero lo que sobre todo interesa y sobrecoge es mostrar la retorcida lógica y la monolítica retórica que sirvió para construir una maquinaria administrativa y punitiva implacable e inhumana.

Porque el protagonista, Rubachof, es él mismo un convencido del marxismo y su aplicación a la Unión Soviética; porque él mismo ha aplicado a otros los mismos castigos (detención, tortura, expulsión del Partido, destierro, ejecución...) que ahora se le aplican a él.

Es una obra apasionante.


In the world of literature, perhaps only Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn did more to expose the lies and cruelty of 20th century totalitarianism. As a writer for Cyril Connolly’s Horizon magazine in the early 1940s, Koestler also was one of the first European journalists to alert the continent to the genocide committed by the Nazis, which earned him brickbats from such esteemed British writers as Osbert Sitwell. Koestler’s rejection of Communist principles likewise raised the public ire of such writers as George Orwell who, in short, thought the Hungarian was throwing out the proverbial socialist baby with Joe Stalin’s bathwater.

75 years after first published, Darkness at Noon continues to grab headlines. An original manuscript of the novel was discovered last year in the Zurich Central Library by a doctoral candidate. The published versions English readers know today is a hasty translation made during the early years of World War II. The original manuscript was written in German, and was thought to have been lost forever after Koestler abandoned his personal possessions while fleeing Paris in 1940 as the German army invaded. A new English translation and more in other languges are to be expected soon.

What makes Darkness at Noon such an enduring artistic work is Koestler’s firsthand knowledge of his source material. Indeed, Darkness at Noon is an imaginative effort documenting its author’s reasons for abandoning the Communist Party of which he had been a loyal adherent. Koestler explained his motives: "I was twenty-six when I joined the Communist Party, and thirty-three when I left it. The years between had been decisive years, both by the season of life which they filled, and the way they filled it with a single-minded purpose. Never before nor after had life been so brimful of meaning as during those seven years. They had the superiority of a beautiful error over a shabby truth."

Darkness at Noon is a fictionalized account of the persecution of Nikolai Bukharin, given the name Nicolas Salmanovitch Rubashov in the novel. Like Bukharin, Rubashov is a Bolshevik arrested by the regime of Josef Stalin during the Soviet Great Purges for alleged counterrevolutionary activities. Koestler brings to bear his familiarity with Stalinist dialectics learned in the Communist Party cell in which he participated during his time working as a science journalist in Germany. This knowledge lends credibility to the dialogue Rubashov conducts with his interrogators, Ivanov and Gletkin. Additionally, Rubashov’s solitary confinement is depicted in a fashion reminiscent of Koestler’s portrayal of his own harrowing internment in a Republican gaol during the Spanish Civil War, which he documented in his first memoir, Dialogue with Death (1938). 

Since the Socialist/Marxist fantasy will never become realized, encouraging young people leaning toward socialism – “soft” or otherwise – to read Koestler might bring them to the realization that all utopian goals of egalitarianism result in the substantial sacrifice of liberties they may have taken for granted. And there’s no better Koestler book to begin with than Darkness at Noon.