Tuesday, September 13, 2005

'Darkness at Noon' and 'For whom the bell tolls'

'I don't approve of mixing ideologies,' Ivanov continued. 'There are 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. Whoever is burdened with power and responsibility finds out on the first occasion that he has to choose; and he is fatally driven to the second alternative. Do you know, since the establishment of Christianity as a state religion, a single example of state which really followed a Christian policy? You can't point out one. In times of need- and politics are chronically in a time of need - the rulers were always able to evoke "exceptional circumstances", which demanded exceptional measures of defence. Since the existence of nations and classes, they live in a permanent state of mutual self-defence, which forces them to defer to another time the putting into practice of humanism....'

-- Taken from the chapter 'The Second Hearing' of 'Darkness at Noon' by Arthur Koestler.

I took two books with me to read while travelling to East Coast. (which proved to be a wise decision, as I missed my first flight and had to wait for 5 hours to catch the next.) The first one was 'For whom the bell tolls' by Hemingway and the other 'Darkness at noon.' I did not have any idea about the subjects of these books and did not imagine that they could be related to each other in a strange way.

Both the books were published in 1940. In 'For whom the bell tolls', Hemingway portrays the struggle of left-wing group against the fascist forces during the Spanish Civil war. The protagonist is an American fighting for the Republican army.

'Darkness at Noon' on the other hand is based on infamous Moscow trials in which Stalin 'purged' the party and the armed forces. This book has many paragraphs, like one given above, which could very well apply to what is happening now.

Rise and fall of Communism could be considered as the most important event of 20th century, barring perhaps the two World wars. I was thrilled to read two great books which revolved around its two opposite facets.


Pooja said...

Good stuff, can you elaborate further? It is interesting Hemingway being an American wrote in favor of communism.

Sudhu said...

Argh!! Read it over thrice, fir bhi sab bouncer gaya. Might have to read those books to understand what it meant & what you deciphered out of them.
On a lighter note, only now do i know from where Metallica picked up its song title - "For Whom the Bell Tolls" :)

Nandan said...

Actually even Hemingway borrowed this title from musings of John Donne, an English poet of 16th century who wrote following poem on his deathbed.

No man is an Illand (island), intire of it itselfe, every man is the peece of the continent...because I am involved in the Mankinde; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee.

Pooja said...

You still have not answered my question, though you seemed to have replied to the comments posted later on.:(

Just kidding. Take your time, but would be glad to know more about it.

vb said...

i must thank sudhu for leading me to u r blog.pleasantly surprised to read about Darkness at Noon and For Whom The Bell Tolls.Arthur Koestler was an eyeopener when i was spending sleepless nights during college days thinking over the possibility of communism as a solution to our problems.Incidently Arthur Koestler fought in spanish civil war.