A.J. Ayer

  • Koestler by Iain Hamilton
    Secker, 397 pp, £12.00, April 1982, ISBN 0 436 19191 1

It is not easy to see what purpose this book is meant to serve. Koestler himself has written two excellent works of autobiography, An Arrow in the Blue and The Invisible Writing, and two others, The Spanish Testament and Scum of the Earth, of which the main interest is autobiographical. Mr Hamilton admits to drawing heavily upon these works, but does no more than summarise their contents in a less forceful style than Koestler’s own. His prolongation of the story beyond the year 1940, where Koestler abandons it, is mainly devoted to Koestler’s politics, with some side-glances at his scientific and philosophical pretensions. It throws little further light upon his character and apart from diffusing an aura of reverence makes no attempt to assess his contribution to literature.[*]

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[*] Koestler’s Bricks to Babel, selected writings with comments by the author, has recently been issued in paperback by Picador (697 pp., £3.95, 7 May, 0 330 26676 4).