Quotes from Darkness at Noon

Arthur Koestler ·  216 pages

Rating: (20.8K votes)


“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.”
― Arthur Koestler, quote from Darkness at Noon


“History had a slow pulse; man counted in years, history in generations”
― Arthur Koestler, quote from Darkness at Noon


“Our Press and our schools cultivate Chauvinism, militarism, dogmatism, conformism and ignorance. The arbitrary power of the Government is unlimited, and unexampled in history; freedom of the Press, of opinion and of movement are as thoroughly exterminated as though the proclamation of the Rights of Man had never been. We have built up the most gigantic police apparatus, with informers made a national institution, and the most refined scientific system of political and mental torture. We whip the groaning masses of the country towards a theoretical future happiness, which only we can.”
― Arthur Koestler, quote from Darkness at Noon


“The principle that the end justifies the means is and remains the only rule of political ethics; anything else is just a vague chatter and melts away between one’s fingers.”
― Arthur Koestler, quote from Darkness at Noon


“Ivanov- "Up to now , all revolutions have been made by moralizing diletantes. They were always in good faith and perished because of their dilettantism. We for the first time are consequent..."

"Yes," said Rubashov. "So consequent, that in the interests of a just distribution of land we deliberately let die of starvation about five million farmers and their families in one year. So consequent were we in the liberation of human beings from the shackles of industrial exploitation that we sent about ten million people to do forced labour in the Artic regions and the jungles of the East, under conditions similar to those of antique galley slaves. So consequent that, to settle a difference of opinion, we know only one argument: death, whether it is a matter of submarines, manure, or the Party line to be followed in Indo-China. ...”
― Arthur Koestler, quote from Darkness at Noon



“The Party denied the free will of the individual - and at the same
time it exacted his willing self-sacrifice. It denied his capacity to
choose between two alternatives - and at the same time it demanded that he
should constantly choose the right one. It denied his power to distinguish
good and evil - and at the same time spoke pathetically of guilt and
treachery. The individual stood under the sign of economic fatality, a
wheel in a clockwork which had been wound up for all eternity and could
not be stopped or influenced - and the Party demanded that the wheel
should revolt against the clockwork and change its course. There was
somewhere an error in the calculation; the equation did not work out.”
― Arthur Koestler, quote from Darkness at Noon


“The fact is: I no longer believe in my own infallibility. That is why I am lost.”
― Arthur Koestler, quote from Darkness at Noon


“It was quiet in the cell. Rubashov heard only the creaking of his steps on the tiles. Six and a half steps to the door, whence they must come to fetch him, six and a half steps to the window, behind which night was falling. Soon it would be over. But when he asked himself, For what actually are you dying? he found no answer.

It was a mistake in the system; perhaps it lay in the precept which until now he had held to be uncontestable, in whose name he had sacrificed others and was himself being sacrificed: in the precept, that the end justifies the means. It was this sentence which had killed the great fraternity of the Revolution and made them run amuck. What had he once written in his diary? "We have thrown overboard all conventions, our sole guiding principle is that of consequent logic; we are sailing without ethical ballast.”
― Arthur Koestler, quote from Darkness at Noon


“History knows no scruples and no hesitation. Inert and unnering flows towards her goal. History knows herway. She makes no mistakes.”
― Arthur Koestler, quote from Darkness at Noon


“I don't approve of mixing ideologies," Ivanov continued. "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, and asserts that the rules of arithmetic are not to be applied to human units. 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--which may dispose of it as an experimentation rabbit or a sacrificial lamb. The first conception could be called anti-vivisection morality, the second, vivisection morality. Humbugs and dilettantes have always tried to mix the two conceptions; in practice, it is impossible.”
― Arthur Koestler, quote from Darkness at Noon



“But who will be proved right? It will only be known later. Meanwhile he is bound to act on credit and sell his soul to the devil, in the hope of history's absolution.”
― Arthur Koestler, quote from Darkness at Noon


“The greatest temptation for the like of us is: to renounce violence, to repent, to make peace with oneself. Most revolutionaries fell before this temptation, from Spartacus to Danton and Dostoevsky; they are the classical form of betrayal of the cause. The temptations of God were always more dangerous for mankind than those of Satan. As long as chaos dominates the world, God is an anachronism; and every compromise with one’s own conscience is perfidy. When the accursed inner voice speaks to you, hold your hands over your ears….”
― Arthur Koestler, quote from Darkness at Noon


“The cause of the Party’s defectiveness must be found. All our principles were right, but our results were wrong. This is a diseased century. We diagnosed the disease and its causes with microscopic exactness, but whenever we applied the healing knife anew 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 rustling of dry leaves. We brought you the promise of the future, but our tongue stammered and barked…”
― Arthur Koestler, quote from Darkness at Noon


“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 allowed to enter the land of promise either, But he had been allowed to see it, from the top of the mountain, spread at his feet. Thus, it was easy to die, with the visible certainty of one's goal before one's eyes. He, Nicolas Salmanovitch Rubashov, had not been taken to the top of a mountain; and wherever his eye looked, he saw nothing but desert and the darkness of night.”
― Arthur Koestler, quote from Darkness at Noon


“and there was only one revolutionary virtue which he had not learned, the virtue of self-deception”
― Arthur Koestler, quote from Darkness at Noon



“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 voice is heard the trees wither and there is a rustling of dry leaves. We brought you the promise of the future, but our tongue stammered and barked...”
― Arthur Koestler, quote from Darkness at Noon


“Nothing is worse in prison than the consciousness of one's innocenc; it prevents acclimatizatin and undermines one's morale...”
― Arthur Koestler, quote from Darkness at Noon


“Cigarettes to be fetched for me from the canteen,' said Rubashov.
'Have you got prison vouchers?'
'My money was taken from me on my arrival,' said Rubashov.
'Then you must wait until it has been changed for vouchers.'
'How long will that take in this model establishment of yours?' asked Rubashov.
'You can write a letter of complaint,' said the old man.
'You know quite well that I have neither paper nor pencil,' said Rubashov.
'To buy writing materials you have to have vouchers,' said the warder.”
― Arthur Koestler, quote from Darkness at Noon


“...The arbitrary power of the Government is unlimited, and unexampled in history; freedom of the Press, of opinion and of movement are as thoroughly exterminated as though the proclamation of the Rights of Man had never been.”
― Arthur Koestler, quote from Darkness at Noon


“Perhaps he did not know himself - like all these intellectual cynics...”
― Arthur Koestler, quote from Darkness at Noon



“It was quiet in the cell. Rubashov heard only the creaking of his steps on the tiles. Six and a half steps to the door, whence they must come to fetch him,six and a half steps to the window, behind which night was falling. Soon it would be over. But when he asked himself, For what actually are you dying? he found no answer.”
― Arthur Koestler, quote from Darkness at Noon


“History has taught us that often lies serve her better than the truth; for man is sluggish and has to be led through the desert for forty years before each step in his development. And he has to be driven through the desert with threats and promises, by imaginary terrors and imaginary consolations, so that he should not sit down prematurely to rest and divert himself by worshipping golden calves.”
― Arthur Koestler, quote from Darkness at Noon


“That was probably the reason that history was more of an oracle than a science. Perhaps later, muck later, it would be taught by means of tables of statistics, supplemented by anatomical sections. The teacher would draw on the blackboard an algebraic formula representing the conditions of life of the masses of a particular nation at a particular period: 'Here, citizens, you see the objective factors which conditioned this historical process.”
― Arthur Koestler, quote from Darkness at Noon


“Every jump of technical progress leaves the relative intellectual development of the masses a step behind, and thus causes a fall in the political-maturity thermometer. It takes sometimes tens of years, sometimes generations, for a people’s level of understanding gradually to adapt itself to the changed state of affairs, until it has recovered the same capacity for self-government as it had already possessed at a lower stage of civilization.”
― Arthur Koestler, quote from Darkness at Noon


“Not only the portraits on the walls, but also the shelves in the library were thinned out. The disappearance of certain books and brochures happened discretely, usually the day after the arrival of a new message from above. Rubashov made his sarcastic commentaries on it while dictating to Arlova, who received them in silence. Most of the works on foreign trade and currency disappeared from the shelves – their author, the People’s Commissar for Finance, had just been arrested; also nearly all old Party Congress reports treating the same subject; most books and reference-books on the history and antecedents of the Revolution; most works by living authors on problems of birth control; the manuals on the structure of the People’s Army; treatises on trade unionism and the right to strike in the People’s State; practically every study of the problems of political constitution more than two years old, and, finally, even the volumes of the Encyclopedia published by the Academy – a new revised edition being promised shortly.
New books arrived, too: the classics of social science appeared with new footnotes and commentaries, the old histories were replaced by new histories, the old memoirs of dead revolutionary leaders were replaced by new memoirs of the same defunct. Rubashov remarked jokingly to Arlova that the only thing left to be done was to publish a new and revised edition of the back numbers of all newspapers.”
― Arthur Koestler, quote from Darkness at Noon



“Entirely my own opinion,” said Ivanov. “I am glad that we have reached the heart of the matter soon. In other words: you are convinced that “we” – that is to say, the Party, the State and the masses behind it – no longer represent the interests of the Revolution.”
“I should leave the masses out of it,” said Rubashov. […] “Leave the masses out of it, “ he repeated. “You understand nothing about them. Nor, probably, do I any more. Once, when the great “we” still existed, we understood them as no one had ever understood them before. We had penetrated into their depths, we worked in the amorphous raw material of history itself…” […] “At that time,” Rubashov went on, “we were called the Party of the Plebs. What did the others know of history? Passing ripples, little eddies and breaking waves. They wondered at the changing forms of the surface and could not explain them. But we had descended into the depths, into the formless, anonymous masses, which at all times constituted the substance of history; and we were the first to discover her laws of motion. We had discovered the laws of her inertia, of the slow changing of her molecular structure, and of her sudden eruptions. That was the greatness of our doctrine. The Jacobins were moralists; we were empirics. We dug in the primeval mud of history and there we found her laws. We knew more than ever men have known about mankind; that is why our revolution succeeded. And now you have buried it all again….” […] “Well,” said Rubashov, “one more makes no difference. Everything is buried: the men, their wisdom and their hopes. You killed the “We”; you destroyed it. Do you really maintain that the masses are still behind you? Other usurpers in Europe pretend the same thing with as much right as you….” […] “Forgive my pompousness,” he went on, “but do you really believe the people are still behind you? It bears you, dumb and resigned, as it bears others in other countries, but there is no response in their depths. The masses have become deaf and dumb again, the great silent x of history, indifferent as the sea carrying the ships. Every passing light is reflected on its surface, but underneath is darkness and silence. A long time ago we stirred up the depths, but that is over. In other words” – he paused and put on his pince-nez – “in those days we made history; now you make politics. That’s the whole difference.” […] "A mathematician once said that algebra was the science for lazy people - one does not work out x, but operates with it as if one knew it. In our case, x stands for the anonymous masses, the people. Politics mean operating with this x without worrying about its actual nature. Making history is to recognize x for what it stands for in the equation."

"Pretty," said Ivanov. "But unfortunately rather abstract. To return to more tangible things: you mean, therefore, that "We" - namely, Party and State - no longer represent the interests of the Revolution, of the masses or, if you like, the progress of humanity."
"This time you have grasped it," said Rubashov smiling. Ivanov did not answer his smile.”
― Arthur Koestler, quote from Darkness at Noon


“...Una vez hubo un matemático que dijo que el álgebra era una ciencia para la gente perezosa, puesto que uno no conoce el valor de X,pero opera con él como si lo conociese. En nuestro caso, X representa a las masas anónimas, al pueblo. La política es el arte de hacer operaciones con esta X sin preocuparse por conocer su naturaleza real, mientras que hacer historia consiste en dar a X el valor exacto que debe tener en la ecución.”
― Arthur Koestler, quote from Darkness at Noon


“There were so many who wished to speak. For the movement was without scruples; she rolled towards her goal unconcernedly and deposed the corpses of the drowned in the windings; such was the law of her being. And whosoever could not follow her crooked course was washed on to the bank, for such was her law. The motives of the individual did not matter to her. His conscience did not matter to her, neither did she care what went on in his head and his heart. The Party knew only one crime: to swerve from the course laid out; and only one punishment: death. Death was no mystery in the movement: there was nothing exalted about it: it was the logical solution to political divergences.”
― Arthur Koestler, quote from Darkness at Noon


“With you, thought Rubashov and looked at the whitewashed wall behind which the other stood—in the meantime he had
probably lit a cigarette and was blowing the smoke against the wall — with you I have no accounts to settle. To you I owe
no fare. Between you and us there is no common currency and no common language. ... Well, what do you want now?”
― Arthur Koestler, quote from Darkness at Noon


About the author

Arthur Koestler
Born place: in Budapest, Hungary
Born date September 5, 1905
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