Saturday, September 05, 2009

Darkness at Noon

The fellow above is one Arthur Koestler born this day, 1905, in Budapest, Hungary. He was educated, and spent most of his childhood in Austria. He joined the German Communist Party in 1931, but left the party in 1938 after becoming disillusioned with the Party. My major exposure to him is reading (more than once) his witheringly anti-Communist novel "Darkness at Noon." I highly recommend it, and have read it several times over the years. It sort of reminds me of a couple of "relationships" I have had in my past. Read it, and that comment will make all the sense in the world. He lived an extremely active, and adventurous life. Joining, and deserting from the French Foreign Legion, being imprisoned by Francisco Franco's Nationalists forces during the Spanish Civil war, meeting Menachem Begin when he was still just a Jewish terrorist. All of this before he was forty! He was a prolific author, and wrote books until the effects of Parkinson's Disease made the physical act of writing nearly impossible. He always stated he wasn't afraid of death but of the act of dying, and on March 1st, 1983 he and his wife committed suicide. Since it is so very poignant I have pasted a copy of his suicide note below.

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 dome 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 friend 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.

Pretty sad stuff, and it saddens the heart to read it, but at least it went out on his on terms, and in his own time. But for showing me that Darkness sometimes comes at Noon, and that we are in some respects all Sleepwalker, Arthur Koestler (September 5th, 1905- March 1st, 1983 by suicide), you are my hero of the day.

1 comment:

Lindsay said...

That's a beautiful letter.