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"A Different Darkness at Noon"

New York Review of Books has the fascinating backstory on Arthur Koestler's great anti-totalitarian novel Darkness at Noon. The original manuscript (written in German) was lost during World War II; presciently, Koestler saw the need for an English translation, which was undertaken by his girlfriend Daphne Hardy while Koestler was still writing the original. Years later, with the German original having been lost, Koestler translated the book back into German from Hardy's English translation, which up until now has been the source document for translations into 30-plus other languages. As the writer of the article, Michael Scammell, notes, Darkness at Noon is a rare example of a work of literature known only in translation.

And now, remarkably, the original German manuscript has been found. Scammell has read the original and claims that Hardy's English translation is a fairly poor representation of the original (Hardy was apparently less than fully fluent in German) with the original being far superior. The funny thing is that I noticed hardly any shortcomings in the standard English translation that I read and loved - which makes me marvel at how the book could have been possibly have been so much stronger, as Scammell claims. ("...it is a tribute to the quality of Darkness at Noon that it has had such a strong impact on readers despite this [translation] handicap," Scammell writes.)

The original manuscript will soon be published in German, and I'm eager to someday read a new, more accomplished English translation.

March 16, 2016 in Books | Permalink


That was one of the few books in my life that I was not able to finish. Perhaps I should correct that.

Posted by: Paul at Mar 17, 2016 4:31:20 AM

Maybe with a better translation!

Posted by: Pete at Mar 20, 2016 10:59:13 AM