The Dropout

The dropout was not just a hippy-trippy hedonist but a paranoid soul, who feared brainwashing and societal control

…but it was another totalitarian classic from the era, Arthur Koestler’s Darkness at Noon (1940), that would celebrate disconnect as a route to an expanded and indeterminate inner life. Held captive in a solitary cell in Soviet Russia, Koestler’s protagonist Rubashov, a former political commissar, discovers a hitherto suppressed internal realm, a complex region of spiritual and emotional life that gives rise to an ‘oceanic sense’. Rubashov experiences his ‘personality dissolved as a grain of salt in the sea; but at the same time the infinite sea seemed to be contained in the grain of salt’. Koestler drew on his time as a prisoner of Franco during the Spanish Civil War and, in various memoirs, claimed that it was his experience of the oceanic that prompted him to quit the Communist Party in 1938. As he would argue in Darkness at Noon, the knowledge of the self as infinite and indeterminate disrupts both the logic and the project of totalitarian control, and illustrates the individual as essentially free.

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