• When I first read the newly discovered German typescript and decided to push for a new English translation of Arthur Koestler's dystopian novel, Darkness at Noon, I was aware there was a risk involved. When first published in 1941, the novel had been almost buried by the horrors of World War II, then borne aloft to best seller status by the upheavals of the Cold War, but that was in the latter hal…
  • The original German text of Arthur Koestler's Darkness at Noon (see my last news entry) has just been published by Elsinor Verlag in Coesfeld, Germany, with my introduction and an afterword by the young German scholar who discovered the text, Matthias Wessel. Elsinor published the original German edition of Darkness at Noon as long ago as 1946, but that was a back-translation from a flawed English…
  • "Under history, memory and forgetting,
    Under memory and forgetting, life.
    But writing a life is another story.
    Incompletion."

    These lines by the French philosopher and poet, Paul Ricoeur, are a good introduction to my next topic, a two-day conference on biography I attended in Mexico City in October. The conference was the brainchild of Daniela Spenser, a historian at the Centro de Investigacione…
  • 27 February 2024

    Natalya Gorbanevskaya RIP

    It may seem odd to write two obituaries in a row, but by a strange coincidence, Daniel Weissbort's death was followed less than two weeks later by the death of the former Soviet dissident and Russian poet, Natalya Gorbanevskaya, who inspired some of his best translations. They were both members of my generation, and while I'm getting used to bad news of this nature, it's always a shock to lose fri…
  • 27 February 2024

    Daniel Weissbort RIP

    A delay in putting up my new website makes this a little later than I would wish, but I'd like to mark the death of my good friend and fellow translator, Daniel Weissbort, in London on November 18. Danny and I met in London a couple of years after I had returned from graduate school in the USA in 1963. We were both translating from Russian, he mainly poetry and I prose (I had just finished Nabokov…
  • 27 February 2024

    My First Medal

    Well, well, I've just been awarded my first medal. On June 5, I was awarded the Officer's Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland by the President of the Republic of Poland, Bronislaw Komorowski, "for outstanding services rendered to the promotion of Poland's transition to democracy." I haven't received it yet, because I was unable to go to Warsaw for the official ceremony, and I don…
  • 27 February 2024

    The CIA and Pasternak

    Long term suspicions that the CIA had a hand in publicizing Doctor Zhivago have just been confirmed in a new book, The Zhivago Affair (see my article on Pasternak for the NYRB of July 10 and my Essays page). The unexpected appearance of this book, by American journalist, Peter Finn, and Dutch Slavist, Petra Couvee, was an unpleasant surprise for me at first, because I too had acquired copies of th…
  • MORE LIGHT ON DARKNESS AT NOON? 

    An interesting email from the Rev. Richard Martin of Glasgow arrived in my inbox a few weeks ago. “Apologies if I am the 4000th person to make this point!” he writes, but after reading my introduction to Paul Boehm’s new translation of Koestler’s Darkness at Noon, he is wondering if my explanation for the English title could be wrong. Surely, the translator, who c…
  • Sensational news for Koestler watchers. A German graduate student, Matthias Wessel, was searching some files in the Zurich Central Library last July and stumbled across a manuscript that turned out to be nothing less than the long lost original German text of Darkness at Noon. Few people realize that the only version of the novel available till now has been a translation into English, an odd situa…
  • When I wrote and published my biography of Arthur Koestler, I was completely unaware that Koestler’s work had so narrowly failed to make it to the screen in Hollywood. I knew that soon after Koestler’s one and only visit to Hollywood in 1948, a small studio called Pioneer Pictures had briefly considered making a movie of Darkness at Noon, but gave up when Koestler refused to let them to update the…