Scum of the Earth seems to me the best possible illustration of Sartrism (if not of existentialism proper). Incoherence and absurdity. I am reading this book and taking a very lively interest in it. I believe I have read almost all the books of Koestler (not Spartacus or The Gladiators, which I had taken with me to Egypt and which bored me) beginning with his Spanish Testament (I must reread it), which probably remains his best. Read in English Darkness at Noon and The Yogi and the Commissar. Reread the latter in French (at Brussels). It seems to me that nothing better, more cogent, has been written on (or, rather, against) Stalinist Russia. It has an extraordinary eloquence and persuasive force, and through the mere exposition of facts presented with utter fairness. And what do I care
about his attacks in the beginning of this last book] I am ready to admit that he is right.
From The Journals of Andre Gide. Volume IV: 1939-1949. London: Secker & Warburg 1951.
Paris Post War: Art and Existentialism 1945-55 at the Tate Gallery until 5 September.
See next Monday's Independent for reader offers.