Darkness at Noon examines the show trials and executions conducted by Josef Stalin in the late 1930s. The story is told through the sad eyes and sharp mind of Rubashov – a man imprisoned for crimes against the Communist Party and crimes against the state.
It is a fairly short, tightly written work consisting of the story a man restrained physically by a prison in the Soviet Union. However, he is also restrained spiritually by guilt over his own participation in cruel communist executions and he is restrained intellectually by regret over his realization that everything he believed to be true as a communist, is actually a pack of lies.
Ultimately, it is a great story – an individual against all odds standing up the full-force and brute strength of a totalitarian regime. A cruel, heartless communist regime resistant to any appeal to non-Marxist thought.
Is an individual a multitude of one million divided by one million or is the individual much more than that? Do the ends justify the means – even if it means killing millions? Is it better to be clever or decent?
These are some of the questions this loyal party member Rubashov wrestles with, all while being falsely accused of treason.
Darkness at Noon is a masterpiece and it has the distinction of influencing Orwell’s 1984.
I originally read this book back in the 1980s and I am glad I gave it another read over the last week. It is an important and profound book – and ultimately a sad story. Especially when one considers how many people were murdered by Communist governments and revolutionaries, all promising a “more just world.”
I highly recommend it.