Read Scum of the Earth by Arthur Koestler Online


At the beginning of the Second World War, Koestler was living in the south of France working on Darkness at Noon. After retreating to Paris he was imprisoned by the French as an undesirable alien even though he had been a respected crusader against fascism. Only luck and his passionate energy allowed him to escape the fate of many of the innocent refugees, who were handedAt the beginning of the Second World War, Koestler was living in the south of France working on Darkness at Noon. After retreating to Paris he was imprisoned by the French as an undesirable alien even though he had been a respected crusader against fascism. Only luck and his passionate energy allowed him to escape the fate of many of the innocent refugees, who were handed over to the Nazis for torture and often execution.Scum of the Earth is more than the story of Koestler's survival. His shrewd observation of the collapse of the French determination to resist during the summer of 1940 is an illustration of what happens when a nation loses its honour and its pride.--From the 2006 paperback edition....

Title : Scum of the Earth
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ISBN : 9780907871491
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 253 Pages
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Scum of the Earth Reviews

  • Ahmad Sharabiani
    2018-10-21 15:59

    Scum of the Earth = ‎La lie de la terre‬, Arthur Koestler, Kösztler Artúrتاریخ نخستین خوانش: بیست و هفتم سپتامبر سال 2004 میلادیعنوان: وازدگان خاک؛ نویسنده: آرتور کوستلر (کستلر)؛ برگردان: علینقی حجت اللهی؛ پوراندخت مجلسی؛ تهران، سپیده سحر، 1382؛ در 315 ص؛ شابک: 9647101260؛ موضوع: داستانهای نویسندگان اروپایی - قرن 20 منظیر آن جواهرتراش هرکولانوم که وقتی زمین شکاف برمیداشت، گدازه ها میجوشید و باران خاکستر فرومیریخت، با آرامش به کار خود مشغول بود. رابرت نیومن: کنار آبهای بابلبه یاد همکارانم نویسندگان تبعیدی از آلمان؛ که پس از شکست فرانسه، دست به خودکشی زدند: والتر بنجامین، کارل اینشتین، والتر هاسن کله ور، اتو پوهل، ارنست ویس، و تقدیم به پل ویار؛ که بدون کمک او این کتاب نوشته نمیشد، شامل: پیشگفتار، احتضار، برزخ، فروپاشی، پی آمدا. شربیانی

  • Buck
    2018-09-28 21:03

    Oh France, why must you be so full of fail?For anyone who’s a fan of Western civilization—as I am, most days—the fall of France in 1940 represents a spectacular, game-seven meltdown on the part of the home side. Born decades later and a continent away, I can still access some vicarious shame at that whole debacle. A great, modern democracy folding up like a set of Wal-Mart patio furniture – well, it’s something you never want to see, any more than you want to see your dad cry.Scum of the Earth is Arthur Koestler’s brilliant, bitter take on the French collapse. Its main theme is that 1940 was more than just a military disaster; it was a complete moral capitulation. In his view, France—sour and divided, and half in love with easeful death—was already whupped before the first panzers nosed their way out of the Ardennes.Koestler had good reason to be pissed off. Living in Paris when the war broke out, he was rounded up with hundreds of other ‘undesirable aliens’ and placed in an internment camp. Most of these men, including Koestler himself, were refugees from fascism, and asked for nothing better than to join the French army and fight the Nazis. Instead, the government let them rot in atrocious conditions and, when the Germans came, simply handed them over to the Gestapo (helpfully providing their dossiers). Koestler managed to escape to England, where he immediately sat down and wrote Scum of the Earth, at least in part as a well-deserved fuck you to France.I’ll probably have a new theory next week, but as of now, I believe that one of literature’s noblest functions is to rescue things from oblivion. Which sounds pompous, but just amounts to this: bearing witness, getting it all down. You read a book like Scum of the Earth and suddenly a whole vanished world is before you again, with its stinks and slang, its gadgets and ambience. And then there are the people: ordinary people, mostly, who leer up out of the book for a page or two, say something trivial or profound, and fade back into history. At one point, Koestler catalogues some of his fellow internees in the filthy barrack at Le Vernet:There was also the ex-Buddhist monk from Mongolia who sold postcards of nudes in Montparnasse cafes, and Balogh the Hungarian, who had been commander of a warship on the Danube and a stamp-collector, and who had been invited by King George V to London in 1912 to show his collection…There was Dessauer, the ex-rabbi and medical orderly, who wore his wristwatch on the wrist of a prosthesis which replaced his right arm; at night the prosthesis with the watch hung on a nail over his place in Barrack 33, and whoever wanted to know the time took Dessauer’s arm and carried it to the oil lamp next to the entrance. And there was Herr Birn, a German business man who had spent the four years of the Great War as a civilian prisoner in England and had learnt all the variants of the Italian opening by heart from the chess book and now, interned for a second time, learnt with the same German thoroughness the variants of the Queen’s Gambit, and yet, when it came to playing, lost every game within twenty moves.So there they are: the exotic offscourings of wartime Paris, all doomed by some combination of French malice and French inertia. But a writer remembered them and put them in a book: a tenuous afterlife, you might say, but more than most of us will enjoy.

  • Mark
    2018-10-22 21:23

    The dedication says it all 'To the memory of my colleagues, the exiled writers of Germany who took their lives when France fell;'This is a book double edged in its title. 'The Scum of the earth' initially seems to refer to the people interned by the French government at the beginning of the Second World War. This was the way in which they were collectively spoken of by politicians and the press as they desperately sought to shore up the rotten edifice of France. However, as the account continues and the betrayal and crass stupidity of the authorities and the disingenuous cowardice of those in power unfolds, the title switches in Koestler's mind and indeed in the mind of any right thinking reader to crown the ruling class of France in all its traitorous, heartless guilt.We journey through the first 18 months of the war being led by the experiences and raging anger and frustration of Arthur Koestler a Hungarian writer who through his experiences in the civil war and its aftermath in Spain has both a hatred of Fascism and of the totalitarian expression of Soviet repressive communism. He looks with a piercingly horrified look at the betrayal of the French Authorities and I found myself again and again shaking my head in confused horror as the ruling class abrogated any responsibility to justice or decency. Many of the men and women rounded up by the military and police were people who had expressly fled from the repression and viciousness of the growing power of Nazism in Germany. They had sought, and thought they had found, a safe haven in France. With the outbreak of war they were betrayed by the very people with whom they had sought refuge. Refused permission to join up to fight for France they were then accused of undermining France because they were not fighting.....Orwellian doublespeak, doublethink, doubleinsanity....and imprisoned and then as the Germans swept across Europe and into France the 'New Government of France' not only did not help these opponents of the Fascists France had previously declared war against but handed them over, dossiers and all, to those very invaders.The amazingly moving thing is the book was written in January-March 1941. The copy I read was that first edition, the book I was holding in other words was first read by a man or a woman who had no idea whilst they turned the pages whether this was the last cry of a dying hero or the courageous growling of a beast regaining strength to re-enter the fight. I read it as a history of over seven decades ago, though still raw enough and embittered with Koestler's sense of betrayal and agonized frustration to exhaust me, but I knew that the courage shown by so many in this book, their sacrifices and their decency, did win out in the end but I also knew how many of those people disappeared into camps and ovens and pits and were never heard from again. It is a book of fury and sadness intermingled with flashes of overpowering compassion and goodness. All life is here, as the cliché goes, but from Koestler's vantage point, a Canute-like figure standing out against the seemingly unstoppable crashing waves of Nazi Germany, the milk of human kindness is rankly curdled and vile.He writes lovingly and movingly of individual characters, people of courage and nobility, the true tragedy of the book is many if not all of those thus acclaimed would almost certainly have been tortured and murdered by the Nazis as they were, almost without exception, still imprisoned as the Nazis arrived.As I read the book I fell in love with his skill as a writer. He has a great flair for extended metaphor. His use of imagery and words is startling and though some may appear overblown, when you consider he was writing what might have been a eulogy for European civilization (as it must have appeared at the darkest time of 1941 when only the UK stood out free against German occupation and power), he can surely be forgiven.When area after area is subjugated:-"And so another lump of Europe's bleeding flesh would be thrown to the monster to keep him quiet for six months - and another lump next spring and another next autumn. And, for all one knew, in due time the monster might die a natural death of indigestion"On the spineless capitulation and lack of leadership of the Authorities:-"If a nation is a body, the working classes are its muscles and sinews. By cutting them, the body becomes paralysed - a helpless bleeding prey to be stamped on by the boots of the goose-stepping conqueror"Of the mindless Ostrich-like hiding from reality:-"Utterly unconscious of what has happened. Sparrows chattering on telegraph wires while wire flashes telegram that all sparrows must die.""As if the dark powers of history had chosen on purpose the loveliest season and the loveliest town on this planet to demonstrate their superiority over the powers of light"Simple sentences which speak volumes"The type of Frenchwoman who already as a bride has the future widow written on her face ""They wore their martyrdom like a robe too large for them"Two images which are brilliantly effective is his use of the Marianne figure of France now changed from a fresh faced hope-filled figure to a gnarled old crone scared to death of her people and 'waiting for the barbarian prince to save her'. And secondly of the exchange by modern day rulers of the antiquated scapegoat for a dragon. How all governments of the time realized that the dragon 'Could receive one deadly blow after another but never completely could be re-baptized and consisted, so to speak, of interchangeable parts' and thus the unscrupulous government could keep re-launching the horror and thus re-panic its citizens into the corner in which they wished them to cower.An extraordinary piece of writing, an almost unimaginable betrayal. Something that shouts out 'Lest we forget'.

  • Sarah (Presto agitato)
    2018-10-04 21:15

    Arthur Koestler had a knack for getting himself locked up. For several years in the 1930s and ‘40s, he took an inside tour of European prisons and concentration camps in Spain, France, and the UK. (Strangely, my edition of this book was published by a travel book publishing company, but I can’t think they would recommend this particular itinerary). Koestler’s friend George Orwell attributed his predilection for incarceration to his “lifestyle,” which is a bit unfair, but there is no doubt Koestler was often in the wrong place at the wrong time. Or maybe the right place from a literary point of view, since he had plenty of life experience from which to draw in writing his most famous novel, Darkness at Noon, about a Russian revolutionary in prison.In Scum of the Earth, Koestler recounts his experiences of being interned in a concentration camp in France. Koestler, a Hungarian living in France working as a writer and journalist, was rounded up along with other “undesirables” shortly after France entered the war against Germany in 1939. They were a ragtag group, outcasts who “could be divided into two main categories: people doomed by the biological accident of their race and people doomed for their metaphysical creed or rational conviction regarding the best way to organise human welfare” (p. 93). His fellow prisoners included refugees who had fled from country to country as the German forces advanced across Europe as well as socialists and Communists. Ironically, almost all of them were fiercely anti-Nazi, sometimes much more so than the French police and soldiers they dealt with. Many, including Koestler, were Jewish, and many of them had volunteered to fight in the French army against Germany. Koestler’s camp, Le Vernet, was one of the more unpleasant ones. Koestler and his fellow ethnic and political outsiders had no legal protection of any kind, with no official charges against them and no due process. They were kept in miserable conditions doing unpaid hard labor. He writes,“In Liberal-Centigrade, Vernet was the zero-point of infamy; measured in Dachau-Fahrenheit it was still 32 degrees above zero. In Vernet beating-up was a daily occurrence; in Dachau it was prolonged until death ensued. In Vernet people were killed for lack of medical attention; in Dachau they were killed on purpose. In Vernet half of the prisoners had to sleep without blankets in 20 degrees of frost; in Dachau they were put in irons and exposed to the frost” (p. 94).Koestler points out that the pro-Nazi prisoners in France, who were taken elsewhere, were often treated better due to oversight by the Red Cross and the fear of German retaliation against French prisoners of war. He describes seeing photographs of the conditions for actual Nazi prisoners of war in France, who lived in comparative luxury, “We saw them having a meal in a tidy refectory, and there were tables and chairs and dishes and knives and forks. And we saw them in their dormitory, and they had real beds and mattresses and blankets” (p. 117). Koestler managed to be released from Le Vernet before France capitulated to Germany, but most were not so lucky. The Gestapo took over the French concentration camps without missing a beat. Helpfully, the French supplied the Gestapo with records and dossiers on the prisoners, so that there was no doubt about their anti-Nazi activities.Koestler writes vividly of the chaos in France following the capitulation. Caught in a bureaucratic nightmare, he and other undesirable foreigners tried to escape from the country before being captured by the Germans. Many of Koestler’s friends and acquaintances, including fellow writers and intellectuals, commited suicide to avoid being captured. After a lot of complicated maneuvering, Koestler managed to make it to England, where he was promptly imprisoned for six weeks, but at least in relative comfort compared to his experience in France.Before and during World War II, there was an epidemic of nationalistic and xenophobic feeling. Hitler and Stalin win the dubious prize for infamy with their death camps and gulags, but it was a fairly shameful time in history for “the good guys” as well, with American internment of Japanese-Americans, the concentration and forced labor camps in France described here, and numerous other instances of officially sanctioned persecution of “foreigners” (including citizens of “foreign” descent) in the US, Canada, the UK, and the British colonies. Scum of the Earth provides a disturbing example of how, given the right mixture of xenophobia and national security concerns, a supposedly democratic nation can willingly sacrifice the civil rights, liberties, and due process of its own people and legal visitors.

  • Julian Gray
    2018-10-04 13:58

    By describing his own experiences of internment and harassment during 1939 and 1940, Koestler reveals the circumstances that led to the collapse of France in the face of Nazi invasion. He describes the reluctance of French army conscripts, asked to fight and perhaps die in yet another war against the Germans. He asks how it is that he and others, committed anti-Nazis, are persecuted by the French authorities, instead of being welcomed as allies in the struggle against the Germans. Koestler points to the moral and political bankruptcy of the upper echelons of French society at the time, and the near-Fascist opinions of so many of its functionaries, which eventually led to the dismaying horrors of the Vichy regime. Amongst other things, this state of mind, even before the German invasion, involved extreme paranoia about foreigners, especially those, such as the Hungarian, Jewish ex-communist Koestler, with a history of left wing activism, so that they were rounded up, interned, imprisoned, hounded, tormented and finally, handed over to the Gestapo. Koestler’s particular story involved internment at Le Vernet camp, near the Pyrenees, designed for those, like him, considered particularly dangerous or unruly. A punishing regime, involving forced labour, sometimes brutal guards, inadequate food, shelter and medical care, resulted in great suffering and many deaths, although Koestler was protected from the very worst of this by virtue of his contacts outside the camp. They sent him food and, ultimately, were able to lobby successfully for his release. After that there were uneasy weeks in Paris, always risking re-arrest and another internment, waiting for the Germans to come, negotiating unsuccessfully with the Kafkaesque French bureaucracy to depart for Britain, where he hoped to join the British armed forces in struggling against Fascism. When the invaders reached Paris, he fled south, just in front of the Germans, and eventually made an adventurous escape from the country, with the new identity of a French foreign legionnaire. During much of this time, incredibly, he was writing his book Darkness at Noon, which many consider to be his masterpiece. How he managed to focus on this work in the midst of the eventful life he was leading is beyond me, but write it he did, and when he eventually got to Britain, he immediately dashed off this work, Scum of the Earth, which was first published in 1941, earning him enough to live on for the initial period of adjustment to life in England. The book provides more than just insights into the mentality of the French ruling class, or the attitudes of conscripts. In fact, the majority of such insights concern the mental and emotional effects of persecution and imprisonment, in many cases on men who have experienced this in one country or another for years on end, so that they have become, and all too often think of themselves, as the ‘scum of the earth.’ Koestler is an expert on the psychology of the persecuted, both by virtue of his own experiences, and his acute capacity to observe the people with whom he shares his fate. He notes the corrupt hierarchies that emerge within the inmate population, the continuation of ideological squabbles between communists and other elements of the left, the fate of idealism when faced with the gnawing demands of hunger and the struggle for safety and survival. The book is dedicated to a number of exiled writers, including Walter Benjamin, who took their own lives as France fell. Throughout, Koestler reminds readers of the people who, unlike him, failed to get away, many of whom will have ended up in the German concentration camp system by the time the book was published. A preface, though, written in 1968 in the edition that I read, records his continuing friendship with one ex-internee, who like him, escaped. I found this book taught me a great deal about aspects of world war two that I had only sketchily known about before. I found it instructive to compare Koestler’s camp experiences with the situation of people in migrant and refugee camps today, thinking about both points of difference and of similarity. I can recommend it to anyone interested in the period.

  • Sergiu Pobereznic
    2018-09-28 18:20

    A mémoire by Arthur Koestler, a Hungarian journalist that survived and later wrote about the events surrounding the German invasion of France, of which he was a part. He was trapped, arrested by the French authorities and interned in a French prison-camp as an undesirable alien (a Jew). He was released and arrested once again, even though he was widely recognized for his vehemently vociferous, anti-fascist stance. This was quite normal during that period. Being arrested and spending time in prison – for your political aspirations and standing up for your rights (free speech) – was considered the norm.Koestler eventually escaped from the camp and joined the French Foreign Legion with the help of false identity papers and made his way to England through north Africa via Portugal.This story is about an egregious moment in French history. Instead of protecting the millions of immigrants that were fleeing the fascist evil of the 1930s, the French lost their national identity, their backbone and lazily went along with the Nazi wave that engulfed Europe with terrible consequences. The xenophobia of the French people easily matched the Nazi anti-Semitism that was rife at the time. This was further aided by the hesitant stance of other European governments. Many people that moved around Europe like homeless ghosts readily accepted that they were outcasts for being born in the wrong place or to an undesirable religious creed. People should know what happened and there is no one better to tell it than Arthur Koestler. It may seem like fiction and completely surreal because of the unbelievable injustice and the geography Koestler physically covers, but this is a true story that he survived through. Koestler’s writing ventures far beyond the obvious, literary epidermis of this non-fiction tale. It is also a travelogue about life in pre-war France; a political treatise; an observation of the Spanish Civil war (1936¬–1939) where he was also caught up, arrested, incarcerated and so much more.I fail to see how anyone would find this uninteresting, but I notice that some reviewers have. Personally, it held me captive.His reason for being in France during this important period of history was because he was writing his well known novel “Darkness at Noon” that was heavily influenced by his experiences as a prisoner in Spain. He dispatched the manuscript to his London publishers 10 days before the German invasion of France. It was published some time later – while he was being held in Pentonville prison, England – to great acclaim. One of my favorite quotes sits amongst the pages of Darkness at Noon: “History had a slow pulse; man counted in years, history in generations.” During this French apocalypse WWII, Koestler lost fifteen years of his journalistic work, unpublished books, and the only typescript copy of his travels through Soviet Central Asia and his journey to the Arctic on board the Graf Zeppelin.One thing that I really liked was that in this novel he personified his car by calling it Theodore. A quote: "Poor Theodore had been immobilized long ago and stood flat-footed in a corner of the garage, staring sadly with his blind eyes into the pools of oily water on the concrete floor." That and several other techniques about his writing tells me that Arthur Koestler was ahead of his time and completely original as a novelist. There is a Kafka-esque quality and a vast amount of profound symbolism swirling about this work if you are prepared to dig deep in-between the trenches of his beautifully constructed sentences.It is a wonder that Koestler didn't lose his mind considering what he saw and survived through during the war years. Not just that, but he managed to put his memories down eloquently in black and white for many generations to read, experience and learn. It must be due to his personal view about matters regarding his morale surrounding this difficult time in history. Of that he said: "Victories, big or small, are vitamins for the morale."Arthur Koestler – a great author.Sergiu Pobereznic (author)

  • حسین نوروزپور
    2018-09-23 17:05

    این کتاب به‌نوعی اتوبیوگرافی یک‌سال از زندگی نویسنده است... تقریباً از اوت 1939 تا اوت 1940 ... مقطعی حساس و بحرانی در تاریخ اروپا و بالاخص فرانسه که در این زمان محل اقامت این نویسنده‌ی پُرجنب‌وجوش بوده است. کتاب با مسافرت کستلر و دوستش به جنوب فرانسه آغاز می‌شود. آنها به دنبال جای آرامی می‌گردند تا در آن مکان، کستلر به نوشتن رمان تازه‌اش مشغول شود، رمانی که بعدها خواهیم فهمید، همان شاهکارش "ظلمت در نیمروز" است. جای مناسب پیدا می‌شود اما اتفاقات سرنوشت‌ساز به سرعت از پی هم می‌آیند؛ شوروی و آلمان به توافق مهمی می‌رسند (مولوتوف – ریبن‌تروپ) و دست آلمان برای حمله به همسایگانش باز می‌شود. با حمله‌ی آلمان به لهستان، فرانسه و انگلستان به آلمان اعلام جنگ نمودند و در این شرایط کستلر و دوستش به پاریس برمی‌گردند. در پاریس پلیس خارجیان را احضار و بازداشت می‌کند و این قضیه شامل کستلر هم می‌شود. او که مدتی را در زندان‌های اسپانیا (فرانکو) زیر حکم اعدام گذرانده است در اینجا نیز طعم زندان و اردوگاه کار اجباری را می‌چشد. او پس از سه ماه آزاد می‌شود اما با نزدیک شدن نیروهای آلمانی به دنبال راه فرار از فرانسه است و ... کتاب ضمن اینکه بیان مصائب نویسندگان و مبارزان ضدفاشیسم در کشوری است که مورد تهاجم نیروهای فاشیستی قرار گرفته است(!!!) به تحلیل وضعیت اجتماعی سیاسی فرانسه در این مقطع می‌پردازد که از این دو جنبه قابل تأمل است.این کتاب در فاصله‌ی ژانویه تا مارس 1941 نوشته شده و از طرف نویسنده به دوستان و همکارن تبعیدی‌اش از آلمان که پس از شکست فرانسه دست به خودکشی زدند نظیر والتر بنیامین، کارل انیشتین و... تقدیم شده است. عنوان کتاب برگرفته از اطلاعیه‌ایست که پلیس فرانسه در هنگام بازداشت خارجیان در روزنامه‌ها منتشر نموده است: «جماعت خارجی‌ها که در دو روز اخیر به وسیله‌ی پلیس هوشیار ما بازداشت شده‌اند سمبل خطرناک‌ترین عناصر تبه‌کار پاریس بوده‌اند. وازدگان واقعی خاک!» به قول نویسنده همین چند سال پیش بود که ما را شهیدان توحش فاشیستی، پیش‌آهنگان نبرد برای تمدن، مدافعان آزادی و چه چیزهای دیگری نامیده بودند. روزنامه‌ها و دولتمردان غرب در مورد ما سر و صدا و اعتراض کرده بودند، شاید به خاطر این‌که ندای وجدان خود را خاموش کنند و حالا ما شده بودیم وازدگان خاک. در صورت تمایل برای مطالعه کامل مطلب به آدرس زیر مراجعه فرمایید:

  • James
    2018-09-27 16:14

    This is an unusual autobiography because it's not so much about the author as a whole generation of political refugees who had to move across one border after another with little more than a suitcase. Usually in the middle of the night. Set from 1939 to 1941 the author tells how people fleeing facism, communism or both finally ended up in France by Sept 1939. They thought they were safe. They were wrong. The French media branded them the Scum of the Earth,responsible for all the crime and other ailments of 1939 France. They were put into concentration camps where few survived.This is the only book I know that mentions French concentration camps. One thing that adds to the interest of this book is that itwas published in 1941 before the United States entered the war. The prevailing mood in France was that Hitler would conquerBritian and Russia and with a mood of schadenfreude, the French were pleased with the thought. Few thought Hitler would ever be defeated. Not as well known as his fictional"Darkness at Noon",I found this book to be more interesting.

  • Iana
    2018-09-24 17:15

    Absolutely brilliant book. Koestler's ability to narrate his own travails and misfortunes as prisoner and refugee, as well as of all those persecuted at that time in France is quite astonishing. Yet even more astonishing is extraordinarily lucid understanding of the dynamics shaping French politics in the late 1930s (the 'sickness of the French body politic' as he called it) and his prescience about other coming developments there during the war. Don't read boring academic history books: read this.

  • Govnyo
    2018-10-06 14:21

    The fall of France as witnessed by Arthur Koestler. I seldom read non-fiction for fun (you could say my work is to read non-fiction for ten hours a day). I made an exception for this since I really like Darkness at Noon and I know his later stuff is meant to be awful. I liked it, though it is by no means a life-changing book. Koestler went to France with Daphne Hardy, who is G. here, to finish Darkness at Noon. Then World War 2 broke out, so they had to scramble. He was interned as an undesirable alien, spent some time in a camp then some more in Paris, then finally as the Germans were advancing he decided to flee (thankfully he made it).The chief attraction is the style. Koestler was a master polemicist, a proto-Hitchens if you will. Here, he is at his best. There are bits which contain excerpts from his diary, they frustrated me a bit since I wanted to see the polished stuff. I also did not know that the French had decided to imprison all anti-Fascists when they got into a war with the Fascists. It sounds like a pretty counter-intuitive strategy, and one which Koestler did not fully understand either. The point he pushes is that they wanted to pacify Germany. Or, in the alternative, they were Fascists too. If it is the former, then it is the most French thing imaginable. This was written while the war was still raging, and there are a few predictions which were subsequently proven wrong. The main one is the pact between the USSR and Nazi Germany, from which he draws quite a few conclusions about Russian socialism. The points in themselves might be valid, if we accept that there was a stage at which Stalin considered Hitler his bona fide ally. I find it unlikely. And in any event history absolved Stalin of that particular crime - though not of many others. In any event, it is interesting to read those bits.It falls short in a couple of respects. There are some parts which are filler - the availability of cigarettes in camps, the kind of soup served, conversations with soldiers in the Foreign Legion, etc. There is Koestler's love affair with Hardy and his occasional nervous breakdown. I am not saying that the book could have benefitted from more salacity. It is just that those are hinted at frequently enough to make the reader think they mattered, but they are never discussed at any length. Maybe it would have been better to leave them off altogether. That's just a minor complaint though, on the whole this was nice enough and I enjoyed reading it.

  • Susan
    2018-10-03 16:13

    This is a very interesting book about a Hungarian writer living in France when WWII begins. His account of his maltreatment as a foreigner is enlightening. It was difficult some times to follow all the many political factions and movements going on at that time. The book was written just after his escape from France while the war was still going on, and the timing brings a great sense of immediacy to the story.Strangely, although I have been trying to avoid recently written books on WWII because I am burnt out on that topic, I have found that books written by people who were there still attract me.

  • Montanna Wildhack
    2018-10-06 18:05

    This is from a letter I wrote to my grandma Rawn in August 1997:"I'm reading a book right now called 'Scum of the Earth', written by Arthur Koestler. He was a Hungarian, former Communist, turned anti-Fascist journalist and author. This book is about his internment in France during the second world war, and how he escaped to England just days before France turned all their anti-Fascist prisoners over to the Gestapo. It's very interesting - he's a very good writer and he's very good at making people's ways seem ridiculous, whatever their beliefs."

  • Tony
    2018-10-06 21:16

    Koestler, Arthur. SCUM OF THE EARTH. (1941). ****. This was the first book that Koestler wrote in English, and it chronicles his experiences at the beginning of WW II. He and the woman he was living with at the time, a sculptress, had moved to a remote area of France – she to carry on with her art, he to work on his novel, “Darkness at Noon.” When war broke out, however, he knew that they had to get out of France and over to England for their safety. In their attempt, Koestler ended up being detained in various prisons run by, respectively, the French, the English, and the Germans. His treatment in the German camp was especially harsh. He finally made it to safety after escaping the German prison after joining the French Foreign Legion using false identity papers. This memoir should be considered as a major document in WWII literature, but has somehow dropped out of the standard canon. It deserves a wider audience. Recommended.

  • Gary Sudeth
    2018-09-28 19:11

    Like so so many books I have recently encountered reflecting on lives lived in previous times of social upheaval and conflict, Koestler's autobiographical window into the lives of the undesirable, the outcasts of Europe before the fall of France in 1940, catches glimpses of the fault lines in man's humanity that appear across the ages; glimpses of 1940 France seen today in our land.

  • Malcolm Pellettier
    2018-09-25 22:03

    Koestler was a complicated dude, and appreciating him is complicated by the fact that he was, at best, a serial sexual harasser (of women)....but this is bloody harrowing stuff.We see several exiles including Benjamin take the cyanide capsule rather than get caught, as Germany storms towards the Champs Elysee. After having suffered through his travails in Spain (where he was pardoned from execution at the very last moment), why, he wouldn't have left Europe earlier is a bit of mystery, but......that's totally with the benefit hindsight.This is harrowing stuff, and I know I would've shat myself several times over..........

  • Wendy Capron
    2018-10-09 20:17

    Xenophobia - " must distinguish clearly between the popular origin of the mass psychosis, with its deep, mainly unconscious roots, and its conscious exploitation for political purposes. Hatred of foreigners, as such, seems to be the oldest collective feeling of mankind..." We've made no progress since 1941."In fighting the Communists, one is always embarrassed by one's allies."

  • Maurizio Manco
    2018-10-17 18:03

    "Nessuna morte è triste e definitiva come la morte di un'illusione. Il primo istante dopo aver ricevuto un colpo non si soffre; ma si sa già che la sofferenza comincerà presto." (p. 21)

  • Timothy Dymond
    2018-10-05 17:02

    A warning from history. How France, faced with the threat of Fascism, decided to lock up Anti-Fascists on 'public order' grounds.

  • Dan
    2018-10-05 18:18

    Arthur Koestler lived in France immediately before and during the German invasion and so was one witness to what that was like. As a civilian he did no fighting but as an alien (Hungarian) was rounded up and imprisoned horribly with the other aliens in France, no matter that most were either neutral or anti-Nazi like Koestler, many having tried like he did to join the armed forces of France. "Scum of the Earth" is the description applied by the media to those aliens in blaming handy scapegoats.The book is valuable both for this perceptive description of what he saw and experienced, and for his assessment of why France was overtaken and occupied by Hitler's forces.According to Koestler, thanks to the riches of its soil France had become a country of bread and wine in an environment of steam and steel. While the battles of the Marne and Verdun were achievements of a vigorous people, the Armistice of Compiegne and Treaty of Versailles were crafted by a degenerate ruling class.The French general staff did not want to be pestered by the warnings of DeGaulle and Reynaud, and they could get away with it because the Maginot Line served as a psychological Chinese Wall, a projection of the French people's wish to be left alone in their individualism and isolation following invasions in 1870 and 1914. After the first World War, the wall changed character from one to protect not the national community but instead a privileged class in decay.Fearing revolution more than Fascism, a minority of politicians and officers were blinkered by class hatred and so became Hitler's fifth column. Parties of the Right were fighting not so much against Fascism as for maintaining the status quo. A few openly preferred Hitler to the alliance of Left Wing movements and enjoyed more or less secret approval and protection. The working class fought against Nazism but had nothing to fight for, since there was no sign that a victory would improve their situation.The Vichy collaborating government blamed the loss of France on the French people's hatred of authority and preference for democracy as demonstrated by the French Revolution in 1789.The French populace initially was gladdened by the Nazi bombardment of England in that the British were getting a taste of what the French had suffered in both wars but the British homeland had escaped. Only after Britain held up did the French slowly realize the their best postwar hope was for Britain to prevail.Koestler was a penetrating observer and a fine writer. He wrote "Scum of the Earth" in 1941. Certain persons and episodes had to be disguised. He edited it for a 1955 edition, retaining the period character but correcting gallicisms and germanisms and removing grammatical errors and excessive adjectives. I recommend an edited edition.Minor quibbles:No indexAuthor was in France only for one year, beginning August of 1939A modest quantity of French is used but not always translatedAn acknowledged Leftish outlook from the author's seven years as a Communist until 1938

  • Haydn Corper
    2018-10-11 16:16

    Interesting and informative depiction of time and place

  • Mel
    2018-10-21 20:23

    Hungarian born journalist, writer, sometime communist and anti nazi Arthur Koestler, charts the outbreak of the Second World War through his own experience. Because it was written before the end of WWII, without the benefit of hindsight or retrospection, it has a very different feel to other factual or biographic accounts from the same period. Koestler, along with other anti nazis communists and various persecuted groups from all over Europe, find themselves rounded up and interned by the French. Koestler, only by the most drawn out and unlikeliest of escapes, avoided the inevitable fate of many of these unfortunate prisoners and managed, eventually, to get to Britain. The story gets bogged down in parts with detailed accounts of the chaotic politics of the time and Kafka-like bureaucracy as the French establishment melts down in the months preceding invasion and the desperate confusion before final capitulation. Great if you are an historian of the period; slightly laborious if you are not (in parts). However, this does not detract from the sense of injustice conveyed, the prejudice encountered by these 'undesirables' at the hands of the French and I found myself educated by a writer who skilfully kept me engaged even through the most convoluted intricacies of European Politics.

  • Calzean
    2018-10-19 20:14

    Koestler describes his life in pre WWII France, his arrest and imprisonment in Le Vernet Concentration Camp just prior to the German invasion of France, his release and escape from France and the many people he meets along the way.The scum of the earth were the liberal free thinkers. Communists and socialist exiles who were scooped up by the pro-Vichy fascists and sent to concentration camps were most were later taken by the Gestapo. The book’s strength is in his observations about the Spanish war and conflicts between political systems that occurred during the 20s and 30s. This book is so much better than any other on this period and why France was a failed State in 1939 and the French race had degenerated because of laziness, selfishness, alcoholism and lack of national identity.

  • Lysergius
    2018-09-24 21:05

    Arthur Koestler's harrowing account of his flight from the Nazi regime during the early years of WWII is harrowing and gripping. The impression of the dark cloud that passed across Europe during the 1930s and early 1940s is frightening, and is made worse by the reluctance of the European governments of the day to recognise the inexorable rise of Fascism and its warlike intentions, and failing to provide sanctuary and security to the millions fleeing the pestilence.Sad to say that the lessons of those years have not been learned as evidenced by the current European policy on refugees from persecution and war zones...

  • Jack London
    2018-10-01 14:12

    AK was a Hungarian journalist in the 1930’s who was trapped in France when Germany rolled in during the Spring of 1940. He was placed in a detention camp, released, placed in another, escaped, join the French Foreign Legion under a false name so they would stop arresting him, then escaped to England via Marseille, Africa, and Portugal. This is a true story, not fiction, written in 1942. It is one of the Eland publications of the best ‘travel’ writing of the last 100 years. Another is Naples 1944 by Norman Lewis, a British intelligence officer who was selected for his post solely because he had blue eyes, which the examining officer secretly believed to be ‘the color of truth.’

  • Barbara
    2018-10-08 15:09

    Koestler's description of the treatment of anti-Fascist "foreigners" in France in 1939-40, the mistreatment by the French police and bureaucrats of people who had fought against the Nazis or in Spain and ended up in camps in France is worth reading by anyone interested in contemporary history.These shameful episodes of French history are rarely mentioned but are still topical today as debates over immigration and migration are current in so many countries of the world.

  • Josh
    2018-10-06 14:08

    This book is so honest that the frustration and helplessness of the author at once challenges that humanity of the reader. The injustice of the idealists, the unfortunate, and the outcasts suffering in prison camps due to the ignorance of a Nation because of wartime hysteria has insights prudent for reflection for any age.

  • Phillip Scafidel
    2018-10-14 19:21

    I loved Darkness at Noon by Koestler but this book felt like I was swinging a 16 pound sledge hammer just to get from one page to the next. It's set in WW2 so that's the only positive I give this book.

  • Colby
    2018-10-04 21:58

    After reading this - BREXIT!

  • Tibor
    2018-09-28 20:24

    Arthur Koestler: flawed crusaderGuardian Books