Scum of the Earth
AUTHOR of a work of fiction that is a good deal more truthful and realistic than the official accounts of the Soviet treason and sabotage trials, Arthur Koestler now contrives to blend a story of personal suffering and adventure with a picture of France in disintegration and collapse. His new book is immensely worth reading, even if other anti-Fascist refugees have told of their experiences in the concentration camps of a France where the higher military and police authorities were certainly anything but democratic in sympathy, and many observers, French and foreign, have described the Fall of France. For Koestler possesses both a first-rate reflective mind, capable of surveying scenes of bitter sorrow and injustice against a background of mellow irony, and a distinguished literary style. He is a master of the incisive biting phrase — ‘a hedge of steel and stupidity,’ as a description of a police guard. The title is suggested by the fact that no one was so badly treated in France during the war as the cosmopolitan militant anti-Fascist refugees, who were herded in concentration camps and described in the boulevard press as the ‘scum of the earth.’ The author himself escaped from the France that had become Germany’s captive after a series ot extraordinary escapades and adventures, which constitute an absorbing story in themselves. Despite his personal sufferings, Mr. Koestler preserves the poise and insight of a trained journalistic observer and conveys an uncommonly accurate picture of how French men and women of different classes felt and acted in their country’s supreme crisis. W.H.C.