Beyond Rubashov: Arthur Koestler’s Lesser-known Fiction and the Genre of the Novel

deadline for submissions: 
December 23, 2018
full name / name of organization: 
Zeno Vernyik / Technical University of Liberec
contact email: 

Arthur Koestler, the man, has been in the forefront of academic interest in the past twenty years. In this period, three critical biographies have been published in English alone, another three in Hungarian, two in German, one in Spanish, and another one in French, in other words, on average, one volume every second year. While this is a luxurious situation few other authors can claim, the fact remains that although Koestler was a writer who wrote seven novels and a play, six volumes of autobiography, and more than twenty book-length works of non-fiction, the last book in English devoted to his oeuvre was published in 1984. In terms of academic articles and book chapters, the situation is hardly any better. In terms of his fiction, with the exception of a handful of recent texts (Steen 2009; Weßel 2014; Vernyik 2016a, 2016b; MacAdam 2017), all that has been published in English in the last thirty-five years is limited to discussions of his most successful novel, Darkness at Noon (1940).

Yet, the topics discussed in his other novels could not be any more up-to-date and relevant: terrorism, massive migration, espionage, rape trauma, war trauma, the crisis of faith, the role and responsibility of intellectuals in major international crises; propaganda and fake news are all hot issues, thematizing daily news, political debates, and everyday discussions alike. In other words, Koestler’s novels are just as topical as they were at the time of their publication, if not more so. Thus, even for this reason alone, they would warrant meticulous scholarly analyses and a reintroduction into public discourse.

Beyond this, however, these books are also poignant love stories, journeys into the human mind and soul, dramatic renditions of the central dilemmas of human existence. They are written in a unique and personal style and have captivating plots. In addition, they are inhabited by characters who are unique and intriguing, yet, at the same time have a reference and validity beyond their specific context. In other words, these books are not only topical and interesting, but also literary works of art.

The planned volume is thus looking for proposals of book chapters on Arthur Koestler’s fictional works excluding Darkness at Noon (1940), focusing either on specific novels or comparative treatments of topics, features or symbolism in a range of his literary texts. The aim of the volume is to situate Koestler’s fiction in the Euro-American tradition of the novel, paying attention to its subgenres, historical, political and geographical variations. Thus, prospective authors should focus on one, or ideally more, of the following issues, either in terms of Koestler’s fiction in general, or in relation to specific novels:

  • The Modernist, the Postmodernist and the Anti-modernist Novel
  • Realism(s) and the Novel
  • The Bildungsroman
  • The Philosophical Novel
  • The Campus (or Academic) Novel
  • The Psychological NovelThe Historical Novel
  • Classical and contemporary influences and parallelisms (e.g. Conrad, Dickens, Dostoevsky, Hamsun, Hemingway, Huxley, Kafka, Kisch, Maupassant, Melville, Németh, Orwell, Proust, Silone, Tolstoy, Waugh, Zola)
  • The Political Novel

Chapter proposals of approximately 350 words, along with a 150-word bio-note, should be sent to the editor, Zénó Vernyik (zeno.vernyik@tul.cz) by December 23, 2018. Decisions about proposals are sent by January 6, 2019.