The limits of genius 1
2nd March 2010 David Cesarani (March) arrives at an odd conclusion in his review of the Arthur Koestler biography: “Genius may excuse almost anything, but Koestler fails the test.” What exactly does he mean by this? That had Koestler merely slapped Jill Craigie around a bit, as opposed to raping her, his genius would have made such behaviour excusable? Surely Koestler’s literary and intellectual achievements have no bearing on the reprehensibility on his private life, just as his treatment of women doesn’t affect how important a novel Darkness at Noon is.
William Skidelsky London SE5
The limits of genius 2
3rd March 2010 David Cesarani accuses me of “pouring doubt” on his account of Arthur Koestler’s alleged rape of Jill Craigie. In fact, I did no more than question the 100 per cent veracity of the testimony of someone who waited almost half a century (and well after Koestler’s death) to make a public accusation. Jill Craigie’s behaviour was not consistent with someone who had been surprised by an unprovoked violent assault. If Koestler was so notorious a humper-jumper, why did she consent to be alone with him in her house and return to it, while he was still there, after she had (she said) run out into street? Cesarani has a maidenly idea of female sexuality among the people with whom Koestler associated. At least one of Koestler’s ladies was a renowned masochist. Perhaps she should go on a blacklist too?
Cesarani is a little too gleeful about Koestler’s supposed iniquities. He truncates his quotes from my review to omit my suggestion that, if sexual impropriety is enough to ruin reputations, Bertrand Russell would not come out too prettily either. His defence of female virtue against Koestler’s assault may look gallant, but I suspect it has less to do with sexual morals than with how Koestler’s masterpiece, Darkness at Noon, showed that prolonged membership of the Communist party entailed acquiescence in “judicial” murder. Cesarani’s father was, he has told us with pride, just such a culpable dupe. I will refrain from pointing out in detail how Cesarani was alleged to have culled material for his Koestler book by making questionable (in the sense that questions were asked) use of copyright archive material. That doesn’t make the accusation true, of course, does it?
Frederic Raphael London SW7
The British property myth
19th February 2010 Wilhemina…