Darkness at Noon stands as an unequaled fictional portrayal of the nightmare politics of our time. Its hero is an aging revolutionary, imprisoned and psychologically tortured by the Party to which he has dedicated his life. As the pressure to confess preposterous crimes increases, he relives a career that embodies the terrible ironies and human betrayals of a totalitarian movement masking itself as an instrument of deliverance. Almost unbearably vivid in its depiction of one man’s solitary agony, it asks questions about ends and means that have relevance not only for the past but for the perilous present. It is —- as the Times Literary Supplement has declared —- “A remarkable book, a grimly fascinating interpretation of the logic of the Russian Revolution, indeed of all revolutionary dictatorships, and at the same time a tense and subtly intellectualized drama.”
Darkness at Noon
[I finished listening to this book last Saturday. It was haunting.
If you think Gulag Archipelago, Nineteen Eighty Four, and Animal Farm have something important to say you will find Darkness at Noon at or near the top of that list in the same genre.
It’s a novel, first published in 1940, but it was based on interviews with numerous real people within the USSR during the 1920s and 1930s. The main character is a composite of several real people.
There were a couple of things which really jarred me. One was there was a time, early on during the purges, that political criminals were arrested and sent to prisons which were more like resorts of beautiful gardens and lawns where they could be counseled about their errors of their ways. These “prisons” had better living conditions than the environments most of prisoners came from. This reminded me of Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler thinking that if he just talked to the rioters they would see the error of their ways, and the similar beliefs of the people behind the “defund the police” movement. Apparently the socialist mind cannot, at least initially, comprehend that people could be opposed to implementing the socialist utopia. The alternative is for me to believe the people of today, instead of independently arriving at the same mindset, have a playbook/script they are following and haven’t read the complete book yet to see how it’s really done.
The other thing that really stuck with me was how they got confessions. The confessions came from interrogations which lasted several days or even a month. The prisoner was confronted with evidence that was mostly true but the interpretation was twisted in some way that perhaps didn’t matter all that much in the present context. After sleep deprivation and hours of grilling the prisoner would sign the confession of the slightly twisted interpretation. Then a new piece of evidence would be presented. Again it would be twisted in the same direction as the previous evidence the prisoner had already signed off on. Eventually they would sign off on that one too. The process would continue like this until a complete narrative leading to the conclusion that the prisoner was such of a mindset that it was obvious they could not have had any other motive than the assassination of “Number 1” when they briefly spoke to the cook at the café where “Number 1” was to get his food a week later.
And, of course, as I have pointed out before, the every tightening of the purity tests that made a loyal, decorated, party member on one day into a saboteur the next week.
Today in our country, the mindset of the political left is racing down the same path as Russia of just over 100 years ago. They may believe they are “progressives” leading the world to new utopia, but that belief and mindset is a regression to that of the turn of the 20th century on a different continent. And, again, the destination is not utopia. It is dystopian nightmare of terror.—Joe]