In the Financial Times an article was written by DJ Taylor presenting the new published book by Mike Scammel about Arthur Koestler’s life.
Although Koestler is referred to as indispensable, the article does not present the quality and value of Koestler as an intellectual and a political writer. I thought that the article would evaluate the writer in his entirety, but it fails to evaluate Koestler’s major impact on literature and politics, and instead decides to focus on Orwell’s success, (and Koestler’s supposed failings). This is a mistake made by many British reviewers and readers for several reasons. Out with Britain, Koestler is greatly respected and understood much more in Europe than within Britain.
Britain tries to minimise his achievements.
There is the overt implication that Koestler childishly picked up various theories and then dispensed with them when he encountered a disagreement. Like a spoiled child, the article suggests that Koestler was immature in his political behaviour-this is a complete misrepresentation.
As a proper intellectual, he had to thoroughly examine every theory before dismissing it. When other inferior intellectuals, proceeded to avoid Koestler’s over-examination (as they viewed it), they ended up accepting major mistakes which should not have been given the applause which ensued. They compromised themselves by ignoring major faults in theories. How were they any different from the common man on the street? Koestler on the other hand held his ground in fastidiousness. He was investigating theories psychologically and philosophically, which is the duty of a true intellectual.
The British people minorise his value to the point of rejecting him because his achievements and methods do not fit in with their own cultural defects. They lack the ability to be selective enough. Nobody should be forbidden, but everyone should be judged in democracy. Nobody is above judgment. Obviously it’s not possible to reject everything-there has to be some element of compromising, but at the same time we cannot automatically accept everything without discriminating between what is right and what is wrong. Let us take the example of Churchill and Hitler. They were both great leaders and adversaries with their accompanying defects and advantages but at the end of the day, one was trying to strangle democracy while the other was trying to uphold it. They should not be put at the same level. A choice has to be made. British people often accept people’s defects too much under the guise of ‘open -mindedness.’ They go too far and over-emphasise the acceptability of defects where others in Europe naturally see the need to reject.
Koestler totally rejected communism and accepted parliamentary democracy with free press, various parties, free elections and freedom of speech. Everything beyond this is rejected. He is too selective for the British mentality (for the reasons which I have mentioned above).Inside this belief system he remains within the left wing, so he cannot be referred to as conservative.
Orwell is not rejecting anyone and at the big political party everyone is invited. No criticisms are waged. No political system or idea is rejected. Orwell doesn’t reject communism. He focuses on the theory of communism by cheekily accepting communism without applauding the crimes of Stalin. He is therefore saying that it was the wrong person applying the theories rather than the theories themselves which were bad. This is a major fault of Orwell’s which many British people ignore. Unlike Orwell, Koestler highlighted the real reasons why communism couldn’t work. He described the problems of practicality in his books Darkness at Noon, and Commissar and the Yogi. The mistakes which he described foretold the later collapse of communism behind the iron curtain.
In D.J Taylor’s article the rape accusation is mentioned to minorise Koestler. Whether or not he was a rapist, it has nothing to do with politics. As a politician he was correct, and the rape claim was put forward by Michael Foot’s wife. This could have been one person’s attempt to blacken the name of a political adversary.
British people favour Orwell and reject Koestler. They look for peripheral reasons to reject the far greater intellectual Koestler. Do they also reject Koestler because he wasn’t a British native? Maybe the British people are trying to attribute greatness to Orwell simply because he was British born and not an emigrant. This is understandable in some respects. Without patriotism there is no sense of societal cohesion and pride. George
Orwell made a valuable contribution to British and international literature but he shouldn’t be placed in the position of ‘great’ intellectual. There are so many writers and intellectuals that Britain can be proud of-it is not as if we are lacking in that department and thus need to start clutching at straws by attributing greatness when it’s not necessarily deserved. British people need to take their blinkers off and accept Koestler for what he was-the true intellectual for all of the right reasons.