He was nearly shot out of hand, then spent some months imprisoned in a fortress, listening every night to the roar of rifle fire as batch after batch of Republicans was executed, and being most of the time in acute danger of execution himself.This was not a chance adventure which "might have happened to anybody", but was in accordance with Koestler's life-style.
Most of the European writers I mentioned above, and scores of others like them, have been obliged to break the law in order to engage in politics at all; some of them have thrown bombs and fought in street battles, many have been in prison or the concentration camp, or fled across frontiers with false names and forged passports.
One cannot imagine, say, Professor Laski indulging in activities of that kind.
One result of this is that there exists in England almost no literature of disillusionment about the Soviet Union.
There is the attitude of ignorant disapproval, and there is the attitude of uncritical admiration, but very little in between.
How many of its chosen volumes can you even remember the names of?
Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia, Spain, Abyssinia, Austria, Czechoslovakia--all that these and kindred subjects have produced, in England, are slick books of reportage, dishonest pamphlets in which propaganda is swallowed whole and then spewed up again, half digested, and a very few reliable guide books and text-books.English writers, over the past dozen years, have poured forth an enormous spate of political literature, but they have produced almost nothing of aesthetic value, and very little of historical value either.The Left Book Club, for instance, has been running ever since 1936.Also they are all alike in being continental Europeans.It may be an exaggeration, but it cannot be a very great one, to say that whenever a book dealing with totalitarianism appears in this country, and still seems worth reading six months after publication, it is a book translated from some foreign language.And English disapproval of the Nazi outrages has also been an unreal thing, turned on and off like a tap according to political expediency.To understand such things one has to be able to imagine oneself as the victim, and for an Englishman to write Darkness at Noon would be as unlikely an accident as for a slave-trader to write UNCLE TOM'S CABIN.There has been nothing resembling, for instance, FONTAMARA or DARKNESS AT NOON, because there is almost no English writer to whom it has happened to see totalitarianism from the inside.In Europe, during the past decade and more, things have been happening to middle-class people which in England do not even happen to the working class.One striking fact about English literature during the present century is the extent to which it has been dominated by foreigners--for example, Conrad, Henry James, Shaw, Joyce, Yeats, Pound and Eliot.Still, if you chose to make this a matter of national prestige and examine our achievement in the various branches of literature, you would find that England made a fairly good showing until you came to what may be roughly described as political writing, or pamphleteering.