Vol. 17 No. 1 1950 - page 94

Arthur Koestler. Macmillcn. $4.00.
Perhaps the most important thing to be said about this book
is that when one has finished it, he is left thinking about-Koestler. Its
ostensible subject is, of course, Palestine, or more precisely, the process
by which, in the past thirty-odd years, Palestine has become Israel; but
what Jew can treat such a subject without treating also his own relation–
ship, unique and typical, to the Land which is not only a social fact,
but an actual metaphor of the vexed condition of being a Jew. To
understand Palestine thoroughly might well be to be done with Jewish–
ness as a problem, once and for all. So at least, Koestler would like to
It is notable that he has returned twice to this same subject matter.
In the past, he has been accustomed to deal, in that fever of contempor–
aneity that has annoyed some of his readers, with practically every major
political crisis of our time. Spain, the Moscow Trials, the Fall of France
-he has turned them before the headlines were dry indifferently into
hist6ry or fiction; but to strike
while the iron is hot, is this not
the super-scoop! The essential response of Koestler is the journalist's
response; and he is, perhaps, our most extraordinary journalist; but he
is not satisfied ever with the flat, vivid particularity of reporting, and
uneasily he reaches toward tlle rich generalizations of the novel or the
historical account. In the case of Palestine, he has tried, as if com–
pulsively, both strategies, first
Thieves in the Night
and now
and Fulfilment.
The latter book might easily be read as a superior example of a
genre with which we are all familiar: the authoritative, summary work
on an area by the veteran correspondent returned home with his notes
and leisure enough to "tell all." Indeed,
Promise and Fulfilment
has the
obvious faults and virtues of the kind. On the one hand, the intimate
remembered scenes, the interview with the outlawed terrorist in the
darkened room, the immediacy of little eye-witness epiphanies, the low–
grade reality of events discussed at bars or over tables with fellow cor–
respondents. And on the other hand, there is the flashy rhetoric: "while
in the scorching light of the Judean hills, eternity looks on through
the window of time"; the inside story, given without documentation,
but with the certain air of someone "in on the know": the young
Talmudists presumably being trained secretly in the rites of animal
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