Colin Wilson

Koestler, God, and the Right Brain

Bricks to Babel

By Arthur Koestler

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In the third volume of her autobiography, Simone de Beauvoir describes her first meeting with Koestler in Paris, shortly after the war. ‘He accosted Sartre with pleasing simplicity: “Hello, I’m Koestler.” … In a peremptory tone, softened by an almost feminine smile, he told Sartre: ” You are a better novelist than I am, but not such a good philosopher” …’ Beauvoir’s sketch of Koestler seems friendly enough, but there is an undertone of irritation, which comes out when she speaks of his ‘doctrinaire self-assurance and the scientism he’d retained from his rather mediocre Marxist training.’ She goes on to do a gentle but skillful razor job. ‘Touchy, tormented, greedy for human warmth, but cut off from others by his personal obsessions – ‘I have my furies … Koestler’s reactions with us were always fluctuating.’ She describes a dinner during which Koestler accused Camus and Sartre of compromising with Russia, and told them: ‘It is impossible to be friends if you differ in politics.’ ‘While Koestler continued his monologue’, (says Beauvoir), Camus disagreed, and said that he and Sartre placed friendship above politics. The overall implication is that Koestler is sour, humourless and conceited. Yet she has to concede that he finally turned out to be correct; Camus and Sartre discovered that friendship was not more important than politics.

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