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Arthur Koestler

From Communism to Parapsychology.

Koestler (1905-1983) was a prolific author on politics, science and philosophy who continues to attract controversy and interest from numerous different angles. Born in Budapest, Hungary, Koestler was educated at the University of Vienna, and spent the next five years as a foreign correspondent, travelling and reporting the current situations in the Middle East, Paris and Berlin before joining the Graf Zeppelin Arctic Expedition in 1931. He then travelled in Russia and what was then Soviet Central Asia before being sent to Spain as the correspondent of the News Chronicle to cover the Civil War in 1936-37; as a result of this he was imprisoned by General Franco. After his release he saw war service in the French Foreign Legion and the British Pioneer Corps, and after the war became a full-time writer, fame having come with the publication of 'Darkness at Noon' in 1940. He won the Sonning Prize and was awarded an Hon DLitt by Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario in 1968, was made a CBE in 1972 and a CLit in 1974, and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society.

He set up a trust fund to establish, after his death, a Chair of Parapsychology at a British University. Edinburgh won this honour, and with it Koestler's own archive of most of his surviving manuscripts, correspondence and annotated books from his library.

The book collection includes over 1,000 items. Apart from copies of his own works, with translations into numerous languages, it contains other works on a wide range of topics, often books presented by their authors. One especial rarity is a copy of Koestler's first book, 'Von weissen Nachten und roten Tagen' (Kharkov, printed in about 1934), JA 4087. The original collection has been augmented by gifts from the London Library, bequests from Koestler's literary executor Harold Harris and purchases from the sculptor Daphne Hardy Henrion.

All the books appear in the Library's on-line catalogue. Shelf lists (SC 3875-4988; SCF 151; JA 3904-8; SD 4026-34) and provenance files are available via staff.

The archive, in over 170 boxes of material, includes Koestler's manuscripts and papers from 1940 to March 1983. There is correspondence with or about members of Koestler's family; personal material including diaries, address books and medical files; literary manuscripts including interviews, broadcasts and speeches; correspondence with specific people; personal and fan correspondence; material on specific subjects such as extra-sensory perception and euthanasia; business and financial papers; literary manuscripts by other authors; cuttings, offprints, and pamphlets; non-print material such as photographs, tapes and medals, and records; and, files gifted by publishers Hutchinson comprising of papers and correspondence on particular books. Most of Koestler's earlier papers were lost when France fell in 1940 when he left for England. Later papers bequeathed in 1993 include personal files which are restricted until 2045.

'The Koestler Archive in Edinburgh University Library: a checklist', by Susan Smyth, was published by the Library in 1987 and remains the main finding aid until an online listing is complete.