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The limits of genius

Michael Scammell’s authorised life of Arthur Koestler was intended to restore the reputation of Stalinism’s great scourge. Instead, Koestler emerges as a monster

By David Cesarani   March 2010

Koestler in the 1950s: cutting a “wide swath among his neighbours’ wives”

Koestler: The Indispensable Intellectual by Michael Scammell (Faber and Faber, £25)

The final illustration of the photospread in Michael Scammell’s impressive biography of Arthur Koestler shows the bust of Koestler fashioned by Daphne Henrion. Its fate illustrates the so-called “Koestler problem” and touches wider questions about the biographer’s craft and the claims that genius has on posterity. After I published a study of Koestler in 1998 (Arthur Koestler: The Homeless Mind) that revealed he had raped the feminist filmmaker Jill Craigie, wife of Michael Foot, students at…

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