Birth: 3 September 1905
Place or Registered Place of Birth: Budapest, Hungary
Baptism: Not Known
Place of Baptism: Not Known
Death: 1 March 1983
Place or Registered Place of Death: Montpelier Square, London, England
Date of Burial: 11 March 1983
Place of Cremation: Mortlake Crematorium, Richmond, London
Father: Henrik Koestler
Mother: Adela Jeiteles Hitzig
1. Dorothy Asher
3. Cynthia Jefferies
Date of Marriage:
1. March 1935
2. 15 April 1950
3. 8 January 1965
Place or Registered Place of Marriage:
1. Zurich, Switzerland
2. British Consulate, Paris, France
3. New York City, New York, U.S.A.
The Times - April 27, 1950
Koestler : Paget. - On April 15, 1950, at the British Consulate in Paris, Arthur Koestler to Mamaine Paget.
The Times - March 4, 1983
Arthur Koestler found dead
By John Witherow
Arthur Koestler, the Hungarian-born writer who escaped execution by the Fascists in the Spanish Civil War to become a leading intellectual figure of the twentieth century, was found dead yesterday alongside his third wife, Cynthia, at their west London home.
The police were alerted at 11 am by a maid, who found a note on the hall floor of their Montpelier Square house saying "Don't go upstairs." It told her to call the number of a local police station.
The couple were found in armchairs in their first-floor sitting room with the curtains drawn "There were no suspicious circumstances ;and no sign of injuries", a police: spokesman said. "It was a scene of calmness."
A note was found near their bodies, and they were thought to have died. from an overdose of tablets. No one had seen the couple for about a day, and they had given their pet dog to friends.
Mr Koestler, who was 77, was a vice-president of the Voluntary Euthanasia Society, formerly Exit, and had written the preface to their controversial pamphlet which outlined methods of suicide. Friends said he was suffering from Parkinson's disease, and had not been well for at least a. year.............
Koestler suffered from Parkinson's disease for about seven years which later culminated in Leukaemia. Both he and his wife, Cynthia Jefferies committed suicide by an overdose of barbiturates and alcohol on March 1, 1983, in their London flat. His wived bore him no children (mainly due to abortions!!)
Koestler's Suicide Note:
To whom it may concern. The purpose of this note is to make it unmistakably clear that I intend to commit suicide by taking an overdose of drugs without the knowledge or aid of any other person. The drugs have been legally obtained and hoarded over a considerable period. Trying to commit suicide is a gamble the outcome of which will be known to the gambler only if the attempt fails, but not if it succeeds. Should this attempt fail and I survive it in a physically or mentally impaired state, in which I can no longer control what is done to me, or communicate my wishes, I hereby request that I be allowed to die in my own home and not be resuscitated or kept alive by artificial means. I further request that my wife, or a physician, or any friend present, should invoke habeas corpus against any attempt to remove me forcibly from my house to hospital.
My reasons for deciding to put an end to my life are simple and compelling: Parkinson's Disease and the slow-killing variety of leukaemia (CCI). I kept the latter a secret even from intimate friends to save them distress. After a more or less steady physical decline over the last years, the process has now reached an acute state which added complications which make it advisable to seek self-deliverance now, before I become incapable of making the necessary arrangements.
I wish my friends to know that I am leaving their company in a peaceful frame of mind, with some timid hopes for a de-personalised after-life beyond due confines of space, time and matter and beyond the limits of our comprehension. This 'oceanic feeling' has often sustained me at difficult moments, and does so now, while I am writing this.
What makes it nevertheless hard to take this final step is the reflection of the pain it is bound to inflict on my surviving friends, above all my wife Cynthia. It is to her that I owe the relative peace and happiness that I enjoyed in the last period of my life – and never before.
The above note was dated June 1982. Below it appeared the following:
Since the above was written in June 1982, my wife decided that after thirty-four years of working together she could not face life after my death.
Further down the page appeared Cynthia's own farewell note:
I fear both death and the act of dying that lies ahead of us. I should have liked to finish my account of working for Arthur – a story which began when our paths happened to cross in 1949. However, I cannot live without Arthur, despite certain inner resources.
Double suicide has never appealed to me, but now Arthur's incurable diseases have reached a stage where there is nothing else to do.
The Times - March 9, 1983
Koestler. - The cremation of Arthur and Cynthia Koestler will take place privately (close friends only), at 2.30 p.m. on Friday, March 11th at Mortlake Crematorium. Details of memorial Meeting will be announced later.
The Times - March 4, 1983
Mr Arthur Koestler
Mr Arthur Koestler, CBE, the; Hungarian-born British novelist, dramatist, journalist, essayist, one-time political activist and cultural and scientific historian, has been found dead at his home in London at the age of 77.
Koestler first gained world- wide fame for his novel Darkness at Noon (1940), certainly a classic of international literature. Though he: never equalled this achievement in fiction, he remained in the public eye both for his other novels and for his famous and highly influential repudiation of communism in the book edited by the late Richard Crossman called The God that Failed (1949).
He travelled and lectured world-wide. Later in life he became equally well-known in another field, as a critical. commentator on scientific matters and an explicator of paranormal phenomena.
Arthur Koestler was born in Budapest on September 5, 1905, the son of Henrik and Adela Koestler (Henrik Koestler was a wealthy Jewish businessman who financed disastrous inventions like the envelope-opening machine and radioactive soap.)
His father was a would-be inventor and promoter and he spent his childhood in Hungary, Austria and Germany. His first language was Hungarian; but he wrote in German until 1940, and from then on in English. (He also wrote two collaborative works in French).
As a child he saw his family and his native land disintegrate as a result of the First World War. In Vienna he attended the Polytechnic High School and then the University (1922-26).
From then on he travelled widely as a journalist in the Middle East, particularly Palestine, of which he was later to write a history. Among his more curious assignments was as Science Editor of Vossiche Zeitung, in, which capacity he was a member of the Graf Zeppelin Arctic Expedition of summer 1931 - the only newsman aboard.
In 1932-3 Koestler travelled through Central Asia and spent a year in Soviet Russia, where he saw the famine and the chaos. He joined the Communist Party, of which he remained a member until 1938. Of all the writers on Soviet communism, Koestler probably knew and absorbed more information about it than any other. He parted from it earlier than most others, on account of the Moscow Trials of 1938.
Often on the move; in 1936 he joined the London News Chronicle as Spanish Civil War correspondent; here he collected evidence on the extent of Fascist aid to the rebels. In August he managed to get out of Spain one hour before a warrant for his arrest was issued. But he returned to Madrid - still held by the Republic - and covered the War from Loyalist Spain until in February 1937, he was captured on the Andalusian front.
He was condemned to death as a spy by the Fascists and spent 100 days in prison, expecting on each of them to be led out and shot. He described this experience in vivid detail in Spanish Testament (1937) which was translated from the German. In May 1937 he was exchanged for another prisoner on the intervention of the British Government and returned to London.
In 1939 he published his first novel, The Gladiators (translated from the German by Edith Simon), the story of the Roman slave, Spartacus and his uprising. This was an allegory of the corruption of Russian socialism by Stalinism.
In September 1939, on the outbreak of the Second World War Koestler was back in France, He was arrested by the French as a refugee and imprisoned at the notorious camp at Le Vernet, an experience he described in Scum of the Earth (1941), his first book in English.
He was released in January 1940 but was unable to make his way directly to England. He therefore joined the French Foreign Legion (1940-1) from which he eventually deserted and made his way back to England by a circuitous route. In April 1941 he enlisted in the British Army, in the Pioneer Corps, from which he was discharged in the following year. During the rest of the war Koestler worked for British Information, and as a night ambulance driver.
In 1945 Koestler became Special Correspondent for The Times in Palestine. Promise and Fulfilment (1949) was his important and informative history of Palestine between 1917 and 1949.
By then he had published the first four of his six novels. His masterpiece, Darkness at Noon appeared in a translation by Daphne Hardy - on which he collaborated - in 1940. He deals with the fate of an old Bolshevik Rubashov, not unlike, Bukharin, who is arrested by the GPU and persuaded to confess the crimes ("errors") of which he is not guilty.
No more powerful account of Soviet Russia and its strangely theological and heretic-hunting system of thinking has ever appeared. Although the novel shows a remarkable penetration of the Soviet mentality, it is above all, a triumph of the creative imagination. The portrait of Rubashov has a sombre intensity which is unique in fiction. Darkness at Noon transcends the category of political fiction by its pity, compassion and honesty; but it is nonetheless by far and away the greatest novel of its kind of this century, and is certain to remain a classic.
Arrival and Departure (1943) Koestler's first novel to be written in English, is the story of a young man who returns to his country to take part in the struggle for freedom. A woman psychoanalyst working for his captors, reveals to him that he is motivated by personal impulses. But he fights on. This somewhat underrated novel - it was difficult for Koestler to follow up Darkness at Noon with anything less than another major masterpiece - declares the author's belief in the existence of ethical imperatives, not withstanding the nature of personal motivation. It is another novel of pathos and power with vivid and horrifying descriptions of totalitarian police methods.
Thieves in the Night (1946) records the struggle of Palestinian Jews, in the years before the foundation of the State of Israel to build up their own society in the face of oppression and injustice. This book came in for criticism by Zionists on account of its harsh realism and its unblinkered view of the gallant but not always justified idealism and optimism of the protagonists. This was his last important novel, The Age of Longing (1951) and The Call Girls (1972) having been written rather in spite of himself.
For Koestler would only admit to being "one-fifth of a novelists”. Answering friends who tried to persuade him to "Stick to fiction", he wrote: "From my schooldays onward, my interests have been divided. and sometimes rather painfully, between the two cultures. Out of my quarrels with the human condition I made my novels;, the other books are attempts to analyse that same condition in scientific terms. In my more optimistic moments it seems to me that the two add up to a whole. At any rate, without both media I would feel only half alive."
Arthur Koestler's prolific non-fiction is highly distinguished, although not on the level of Darkness at Noon. But he fulfilled a vital role as a scientifically well-informed critic of the closed-mindedness of many scientists and, in particular, of the scientific establishment.
The most important books are The Yogi and the Commissar (1945); The Sleepwalkers (1959); a long, detailed and scholarly examination of the lives and works of medieval scientists such as Johannes Kepler who made important. discoveries despite, or perhaps partly because of, their superstitious beliefs; The Case of the Midwife Toad (1971), a harrowing true story of bigotries, fraud and cruelty on the part of a paranoid scientist and Bricks to Babel (1980), a substantial selection from his non-fiction writings.
Koestler also wrote an autobiography Arrow From the Blue (1952), and a number of provocative and stimulating books about the paranormal, in the reality of which he. was - though never gullibly - convinced.
A firm believer in the right of a human being to terminate his own life Koestler was, with his wife, Cynthia, a member of EXIT, the voluntary euthanasia society and had been a vice-president of the society since 1981. He had also contributed to the society's controversial publication Guide to Self Deliverance.
Arthur Koestler was a consistently lucid and humane writer, and was hardly ever superficial. As a man, with his hatred of capital punishment (upon which he wrote two books, and which he lived to see abolished in the country he adopted in 1948) his love of liberty and his honesty, he was as exemplary as his friend George Orwell, who wrote about him. His thinking about Communism influenced a generation. From 1956, when he became immersed in questions of science and mysticism, he had a huge following amongst young people. His reputation as one of the most versatile and protean writers of our century is thoroughly deserved.
He received the Sonning Prize from the University of Copenhagen in 1968, and was awarded honorary doctorates by the Universities of Kingston, Ontario (1968), and Leeds (1977). He was a Fellow of both the Royal Society of Literature and of the Royal Astronomical Society. He was made a CBE in 1972, and a Companion of Literature in 1974. On three occasions he was nominated for the Nobel Prize.
Arthur Koestler married Dorothy Asher in 1935; this marriage ended in divorce in 1950. In the same year he married Mamaine Paget from whom he was divorced in 1953. He married his third and last wife, Cynthia Jefferies, by whom he had one daughter, in 1965. His wife was found dead with him.