Columbia University School of the Arts Writing Program Professor and award-winning biographer Michael Scammell will host a conversation at Columbia University Cafe Arts on Monday, December 6, from 6-7 pm. He will discuss Arthur Koestler's Darkness at Noon and its relevance today. The event takes place at PicNic Cafe, 2665 Broadway, and entry is $10 (cash only, includes one drink).
Scammell recently won the 2010 PEN/Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award for Biography for “Koestler: The Literary and Political Odyssey of a Twentieth-Century Skeptic,” published by Random House in December 2009.
The judges of the prize, Elizabeth Frank and Jeffrey Meyers, wrote in their citation:
“Arthur Koestler was central European, Jewish and deracinated; cosmopolitan, hedonistic and unscrupulous with women; a demonic worker, heavy drinker and restless traveler; eager for experience and politically committed; racked by self-doubts and torn by despair. Permanently indignant, Koestler lived for ideas and was ready to die for them.
Michael Scammell has written a brilliant and intellectually impressive life that does full justice to the complex character of its polymath subject—a Renaissance man in his range of learning and overreaching ambition. He has done exhaustive research in Hungarian, German, Russian, French and Spanish sources; is excellent on the political and cultural background; provides brief but incisive analyses of the works; and tells the story in a brisk and lively narrative. He shows the importance of a fascinating personality and leading intellectual, who was at the center of all the political movements of his time and, with Darkness at Noon, changed the West’s idea of Russia.”
The PEN/Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award for Biography is a prize of $5,000 given to a distinguished biography possessing notable literary merit that was published in the United States during the previous calendar year.
“Koestler,” the fruit of nearly twenty years of work, received extraordinary reviews and praise from critics across national and international media.
Scammell’s last biography, “Solzhenitsyn, A Biography” won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for biography and English PEN’s Silver PEN Award for nonfiction. Scammell has translated numerous books from Russian, including “Crime and Punishment” by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, “Childhood, Boyhood and Youth” by Lev Tolstoy, and memoirs by Soviet dissidents Anatoly Marchenko and Vladimir Bukovsky. He collaborated with Vladimir Nabokov in translating two of the latter’s novels, “The Gift” and “The Defense,” and has translated short stories and poetry from Serbo-Croatian and Slovenian, notably “Nothing Is Lost,” a book of selected poems by the celebrated Slovenian poet, Edvard Kocbek.
Scammell has regularly contributed articles and criticism to the New York Review of Books, The New York Times Book Review, The Los Angeles Times Book Review, Harper’s, The New Republic, The Times Literary Supplement, The Observer, The Guardian, and other publications.