Hungarian-born British writer whose works, on a variety of topics, reflect his humane, versatile, and inquiring mind.
Koestler was born in Budapest and studied engineering at Vienna. He worked as a journalist in the late 1920s and 1930s, visiting the Soviet Union, the Middle East, Paris, London, Zürich, and Spain. While in Berlin (1930–32) he joined the Communist Party, but was subsequently disillusioned and resigned (1938). He reported the Spanish civil war and was taken prisoner by Franco, narrowly escaping death; this experience is related in Ein spanisches Testament (1937; translated as Spanish Testament, 1938) and also drawn upon in his novel about the Stalinist purge trials, Darkness at Noon (1940). In 1940 he made Britain his permanent home and thereafter wrote in English. From 1941 to 1942 he served in the British Pioneer Corps.
Koestler's interests covered a wide range of subjects. The novel Thieves in the Night (1946) about the Jews in Palestine and the political study The Yogi and the Commissar (1945) both had strong topical relevance, as did Reflections on Hanging (1956) during the anti-capital punishment debate. The workings of science and the scientific mind enthralled him and he published a number of books on the subject, including The Act of Creation (1964), The Ghost in the Machine (1967), and The Case of the Midwife Toad (1971). Parapsychology attracted his attention in his later years and he left money in his will to found a chair in the subject, which he wrote about in The Roots of Coincidence (1972). He also wrote autobiography: Scum of the Earth (1941), Arrow in the Blue (1952), and The Invisible Writing (1954). In 1983 he and his third wife Cynthia committed suicide together when Koestler could no longer cope with his terminal illness – Parkinson's disease.