Read Darkness at Noon Online

Authors: Arthur Koestler,Daphne Hardy

Tags: #SOC035000

Darkness at Noon

BOOK: Darkness at Noon
8.51Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

1230 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10020

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Copyright © 1941 by The Macmillan Company

Copyright renewed © 1968 by Mrs. F. H. K. Henries (Daphne Hardy)

All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form.

and design are trademarks of Macmillan Library Reference USA, Inc., used under license by Simon & Schuster, the publisher of this work.

For information regarding special discounts for bulk purchases, please contact Simon & Schuster Special Sales at 1-800-456-6798 or [email protected].


Set in Sabon

Manufactured in the United States of America

3   5   7   9   10   8   6   4   2

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data is available.

ISBN-13: 978-0-02-565200-2

ISBN-10: 0-02-565200-1

ISBN-13: 978-1-4165-4026-7 (Pbk)

ISBN-10: 1-4165-4026-1 (Pbk)

ISBN-13: 978-1-4165-4-0267

eISBN-13: 978-1-4391-8-8453

He who establishes a dictatorship and does not kill Brutus, or he who founds a republic and does not kill the sons of Brutus, will only reign a short time.


Man, man, one cannot live quite without pity.

Crime and Punishment

The characters in this book are fictitious. The historical circumstances which determined their actions are real. The life of the man N. S. Rubashov is a synthesis of the lives of a number of men who were victims of the so-called Moscow Trials. Several of them were personally known to the author. This book is dedicated to their memory.

PARIS. October, 1938-April, 1940.


The First Hearing

The Second Hearing

The Third Hearing

The Grammatical Fiction



The First Hearing

Nobody can rule guiltlessly.



The cell door slammed behind Rubashov.

He remained leaning against the door for a few seconds, and lit a cigarette. On the bed to his right lay two fairly clean blankets, and the straw mattress looked newly filled. The wash-basin to his left had no plug, but the tap functioned. The can next to it had been freshly disinfected, it did not smell. The walls on both sides were of solid brick, which would stifle the sound of tapping, but where the heating and drain pipe penetrated it, it had been plastered and resounded quite well; besides, the heating pipe itself seemed to be noise-conducting. The window started at eye level; one could see down into the courtyard without having to pull oneself up by the bars. So far everything was in order.

He yawned, took off his coat, rolled it up and put it on the mattress as a pillow. He looked out into the yard. The
snow shimmered yellow in the double light of the moon and the electric lanterns. All round the yard, along the walls, a narrow track had been cleared for the daily exercise. Dawn had not yet appeared; the stars still shone clear and frostily, in spite of the lanterns. On the rampart of the outside wall, which lay opposite Rubashov's cell, a soldier with slanted rifle was marching the hundred steps up and down; he stamped at every step as if on parade. From time to time the yellow light of the lanterns flashed on his bayonet.

Rubashov took his shoes off, still standing at the window. He put out his cigarette, laid the stump on the floor at the end of his bedstead, and remained sitting on the mattress for a few minutes. He went back to the window once more. The courtyard was still; the sentry was just turning; above the machine-gun tower he saw a streak of the Milky Way.

Rubashov stretched himself on the bunk and wrapped himself in the top blanket. It was five o'clock and it was unlikely that one had to get up here before seven in the winter. He was very sleepy and, thinking it over, decided that he would hardly be brought up for examination for another three or four days. He took his pince-nez off, laid it on the stone-paved floor next to the cigarette stump, smiled and shut his eyes. He was warmly wrapped up in the blanket, and felt protected; for the first time in months he was not afraid of his dreams.

When a few minutes later the warder tuned the light off from outside, and looked through the spy-hole into his cell, Rubashov, ex-Commissar of the People, slept, his back turned to the wall, with his head on his outstretched left arm, which stuck stiffly out of the bed; only
the hand on the end of it hung loosely and twitched in his sleep.


An hour earlier, when the two officials of the People's Commissariat of the Interior were hammering on Rubashov's door, in order to arrest him, Rubashov was just dreaming that he was being arrested.

The knocking had grown louder and Rubashov strained to wake up. He was practiced in tearing himself out of nightmares, as the dream of his first arrest had for years returned periodically and ran its course with the regularity of clockwork. Sometimes, by a strong effort of will, he managed to stop the clockwork, to pull himself out of the dream by his own effort, but this time he did not succeed; the last weeks had exhausted him, he sweated and panted in his sleep; the clockwork hummed, the dream went on.

He dreamed, as always, that there was a hammering on his door, and that three men stood outside, waiting to arrest him. He could see them through the closed door, standing outside, banging against its framework. They had on brand-new uniforms, the becoming costume of the Prætorian guards of the German Dictatorship; on their caps and sleeves they wore their insignia: the aggressively barbed cross; in their free hand they carried grotesquely big pistols; their straps and trappings smelled of fresh leather. Now they were in his room, at his bedside. Two were overgrown peasant lads with thick lips and fish-eyes; the third was short and fat. They stood by his bed,
holding their pistols in their hands, and breathing heavily at him. It was quite still save for the asthmatic panting of the short, fat one. Then someone in an upper story pulled a plug and the water rushed down evenly through the pipes in the walls.

The clockwork was running down. The hammering on Rubashov's door became louder; the two men outside, who had come to arrest him, hammered alternatively and blew on their frozen hands. But Rubashov could not wake up, although he knew that now would follow a particularly painful scene: the three still stand by his bed and he tries to put on his dressing-gown. But the sleeve is turned inside out; he cannot manage to put his arm into it. He strives vainly until a kind of paralysis descends on him: he cannot move, although everything depends on his getting the sleeve on in time. This tormenting helplessness lasts a number of seconds, during which Rubashov moans and feels the cold wetness on his temples and the hammering on his door penetrates his sleep like a distant roll of drums; his arm under the pillow twitches in the feverish effort to find the sleeve of his dressing-gown; then at last he is released by the first smashing blow over the ear with the butt of the pistol….

With the familiar sensation, repeated and lived through again a hundred times, of this first blow—from which his deafness dated—he usually woke up. For a while he would still shiver and his hand, jammed under the pillow, would continue to strain for the dressing-gown sleeve; for, as a rule, before he was fully awake, he still had the last and worst stage to go through. It consisted of a dizzy, shapeless feeling that this awakening was the real dream and that in fact he was still lying on the damp stone
floor of the dark cell, at his feet the can, next to his head the jug of water and a few crumbs of bread….

This time also, for a few seconds, the bemused condition held, the uncertainty whether his groping hand would touch the can or the switch of his bedside lamp. Then the light blazed on and the mist parted. Rubashov breathed deeply several times and, like a convalescent, his hands folded on his breast, enjoyed the delicious feeling of freedom and safety. He dried his forehead and the bald patch on the back of his head with the sheet, and blinked up with already returning irony at the colour-print of No. 1, leader of the Party, which hung over his bed on the wall of his room—and on the walls of all the rooms next to, above or under his; on all the walls of the house, of the town, and of the enormous country for which he had fought and suffered, and which now had taken him up again in its enormous, protecting lap. He was now fully awake; but the hammering on his door went on.


The two men who had come to arrest Rubashov stood outside on the dark landing and consulted each other. The porter Vassilij, who had shown them the way upstairs, stood in the open lift doorway and panted with fear. He was a thin old man; above the torn collar of the military overcoat he had thrown over his nightshirt appeared a broad red scar which gave him a scrofulous look. It was the result of a neck wound received in the Civil War, throughout which he had fought in Rubashov's
Partisan regiment. Later Rubashov had been ordered abroad and Vassilij had heard of him only occasionally, from the newspaper which his daughter read to him in the evenings. She had read to him the speeches which Rubashov made to the Congresses; they were long and difficult to understand, and Vassilij could never quite manage to find in them the tone of voice of the little bearded Partisan commander who had known such beautiful oaths that even the Holy Madonna of Kasan must have smiled at them. Usually Vassilij fell asleep in the middle of these speeches, but always woke up when his daughter came to the final sentences and the applause, solemnly raising her voice. To every one of the ceremonial endings, “Long live the International! Long live the Revolution! Long live No. 1”, Vassilij added a heartfelt “Amen” under his breath, so that the daughter should not hear it; then took his jacket off, crossed himself secretly and with a bad conscience and went to bed. Above his bed also hung a portrait of No. 1, and next to it a photograph of Rubashov as Partisan commander. If that photograph were found, he would probably also be taken away.

BOOK: Darkness at Noon
8.51Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Other books

To Seduce a Sinner by Elizabeth Hoyt
Taming Damian by Jessica Wood
The Green Remains by Marni Graff
All You Desire by Kirsten Miller
Magical Passes by Carlos Castaneda
Haunted Warrior by Allie Mackay