…latest book is the authorized biography of Arthur Koestler, Koestler: The Literary and Political Odyssey of a Twentieth Century Skeptic, published in the USA in December 2009 by Random House and in the UK in February 2010 by Faber and Faber under the title, Koestler: The Indispensable Intellectual. Koestler was widely acclaimed by critics on both sides of the Atlantic as a major literary biography and won two prizes, the PEN/Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award for the best biography of 2009 in the USA, and the Spears Magazine Award for best biography of 2010 in the UK. Koestler was also shortlisted for the 2010 Los Angeles Times Book Prize for biography, and was listed by the New York Times Book Review as one of the “100 Best Books of 2010.”
Michael Scammell’s earlier biography, Solzhenitsyn, A Biography, published by Norton in the USA in 1984 and by Hutchinson in the UK in 1985, was also a critical success and won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for biography and English PEN’s Silver PEN Award for nonfiction. He is the editor of Russia’s Other Writers (Praeger, 1971), Unofficial Art from the Soviet Union (Secker and Warburg, 1977), and The Solzhenitsyn Files (edition q, 1995).
“Michael Scammell, in his superb biography, tells us that Koestler read Hemingway....But what strikes me
especially is Scammell’s thorough and judicious account of Koestler’s organizational activities and
agitations as well.... Scammell feels a palpable admiration for Koestler, which is one of the charms of the
biography.... this huge and scrupulous and unfailingly intelligent book.”
“Scammell performs a much-needed act of restoration, separating the rumors surrounding Koestler’s
private life from what can reasonably known. Most important for the reader, he conveys the aggressive brio of
Koestler’s story and the sheer excitement of his reportorial adventures in the twentieth century.”
“Scammell is able to reconstruct complicated scenes from Koestler’s life with real historical and
literary flair.... The main characters are shown from every angle, with all of their faults and virtues. Koestler
himself seems so alive he might leap off the page.”
“Readers looking for a terrific biography, as well as a gripping work of intellectual history,
shouldn’t miss this record of “the literary and political history of a twentieth century
skeptic.” Every page is enthralling....”
“Arthur Koestler and the twentieth century glow with life in this biography, a triumph of scholarship,
moral acuity, and literary art.”
“Michael Scammell’s powerful new biography… explores the whole range of Koestler’s
achievements, from the invention of the Hebrew crossword to the abolition of the death penalty in Britain. The
research that has gone into this biography is prodigious.”
“Michael Scammell’s magisterial biography… will surely become the definitive life.”
“This is a skilfully structured work and… is vastly entertaining.... a warts-and-all work, not
with only warts. Koestler was a super-sophisticated man. At last, in Michael Scammell, he has a super-sophisticated
“This is the first authorised biography of the Hungarian-Jewish writer and it is a majestic achievement….
Scammell’s style is lively and authoritative, and the stuff of Koestler’s life is engrossing. He brings
alive a sparkling walk-on cast.”
“As Scammell’s exhaustively researched and often extremely illuminating biography makes clear,
Koestler… possessed undeniable greatness.... In the early twenty-first century, with a callow rationalism back in
fashion, he towers over the scene, a giant figure.”
British readers who couldn’t afford the hardback edition of Koestler (or were waiting for something lighter) will be pleased to hear that Faber & Faber have just republished the book as a paperback… Read more on the blog
The full text of the citation of Koestler for the PEN/Jacqueline Bograd Award for Biography can now be read at pen.org. For those who’d like to watch the awards ceremony (or part thereof), it’s now available online. The presentation of the biography award comes about 30 minutes in.
Koestler has been selected for the New York Times Book Review’s list of the “100 Notable Books of 2010” in its Holiday Books edition, published December 5. For details see http://www.nytimes.com/…, nonfiction section.
Koestler has received the 2010 PEN/Jacqueline Bograd Award for Biography. The award will be presented, together with PEN awards for poetry, fiction, translation, and other literary categories, at a special ceremony in New York on October 13, 2010. The New York Times wrote about the awards in its Arts Briefly column on September 23. More details can be found at http://www.pen.org/ “2010 Literary Awards.”
Koestler also won the Spears magazine award for the Best Biography of 2010 earlier this year. The announcement was made at a special awards ceremony held in London on July 5. For more details and the full story see under Blog.