The Trail of the Dinosaur and Other Essays, by Arthur Koestler
Like everybody else, Koestler is sick and tired of politics. “The errors are atoned for, the bitter passion has burnt itself out; Cassandra has gone hoarse, and is due for a vocational change.” The language is apocalyptic, but the contents of this book are not. Koestler is not, as he would like to believe, the lone prophet crying in the wilderness; he is like the rest of us. His talent has always been to dramatize his own life as if it were the march of history. That is not a negligible talent and fulfills an important public function, but it has its limits. It puts the dramatist into the show; he is one of the actors—and not Cassandra who stood aloof and above the folly of her city.
Insofar as Koestler is one of us, it is easy for us to identify and sympathize; but it is also easy to see that his “insights and outlooks” are common property. The essays collected in the present volume (a sequel to The Yogi and the Commissar) express current attitudes, sentiments, and ideas; they do not probe beneath the surface of political phenomena; they do not transcend the public forum. They are “timely” in that they are produced and consumed for a timely occasion—for the Sunday magazine of the New York Times, for Life or Look, or some less popular periodical. There is nothing wrong with this; but it is a mistake to believe that Koestler does more than write as an observer of the surface—that he is really the voice of history.
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