How Der Sklavenkrieg became The Gladiators: Reflections on Edith Simon’s translation of Arthur Koestler’s novel

Henry Innes MacAdam


All German original manuscripts of Arthur Koestler’s first two novels (The Gladiators and Darkness at noon) were lost during World War II. A MS of each was recently recovered, allowing for the first time a comparison with their initial English translations, for almost 80 years the basis of all other translations. Both novels will be published in German and in a new English translation that allows comparison with the original English editions. This article provides context for the first translation of Der Sklavenkrieg by Edith Simon (1917–2003), through correspondence with Simon’s younger sister Inge Simon Goodwin (1923–2014), and Simon’s daughter, Antonia Reeve. It also briefly addresses some editorial changes in the table of contents for The Gladiators, anomalies within Simon’s rendition of descriptive prose, and an example of Simon’s skills as translator of Koestler’s imaginative prose. These are preliminary observations only, in anticipation of the novel’s retranslation and republication in 2018.


Arthur Koestler; Der Sklavenkrieg; Matthias Wessel; Michael Scammell; Edith Simon; The Gladiators; Inge Simon Goodwin; translation examples; correspondence

Full Text:



Alexander, P. F. (1989). William Plomer: A biography. New York, NY / Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Anonymous (1951). RGVA /former Special Archive records [The Central State Special Archive of the USSR, Moscow]. Fond k 613, op. 1, “Koestler, Arthur (1905–1983), writer, journalist (1937–1940)”. (NB: k stands for kollektsiya (collection)—it was added to all Fond numbers of the previous Special Archive).

Buckard, C. (2004). Arthur Koestler: Ein Extremes Leben (1905–1983). München: C.H. Beck.

Dove, R. (2000). Journey of no return: Five German-speaking literary exiles in Britain, 1933–1945. London: Libris.

Fast, H. (1951). Spartacus. New York, NY: Blue Heron Press.

Ghnassia, M. (1969). Arena: A novel of Spartacus and Crassus. New York, NY: The Viking Press.

Goodwin, I. (2005). Edith Simon. In I. Goodwin, G. Sutherland & A. Reeve (Eds.), Edith Simon: Moderation be damned! (pp. 3–17). Edinburgh: Privately published.

Goodwin, I., Sutherland, G. & Reeve, A. (Eds.). (2005). Edith Simon: Moderation be damned! Edinburgh: Privately published.

Isherwood, C. (1978). Prater violet. New York, NY: Avon Books.

Koestler, A. (1939). The Gladiators. New York, NY: Macmillan.

Koestler, A. (1965). The Gladiators. Danube Edition. New York, NY: Macmillan.

Koestler, A. (1966). Arrival and departure. Danube Edition. New York, NY: Macmillan.

Koestler, A. (1967). Thieves in the night. Danube Edition. New York, NY: Macmillan.

Koestler, A. (1969). The invisible writing. Danube Edition. New York, NY: Macmillan.

Koestler, A. (1972). Unpublished letter to William Plomer, 7 January. Item # 117 in the William Plomer Collection, Durham University Library (UK).

Koestler, A. (1973). Darkness at noon. Danube Edition. New York, NY: Macmillan.

Koestler, A. (2013). Die Erlebnisse des Genossen Piepvogel und seiner Freunde in der Emigration. Zurich: Europa-Verlag.

MacAdam, H. I. (2006). Arthur Koestler’s The Gladiators and Hellenistic history. Scripta Judaica Cracoviensia, 4, 69–92.

MacAdam, H. I. (2012). Spartacus Redivivus: Hollywood’s blacklist revisited. Left History, 16(2), 55–71.

MacAdam, H. I. (2015). Dramatizing Roman history: Spartacus in fiction & film. Roman Archaeology Group Magazine, 10(2), 1–5.

MacAdam, H. I. (2018, in preparation). The Gladiators: An epic film failure in blacklist Hollywood.

McKay, A. G. (1975). Houses, villas, and palaces in the Roman world (Aspects of Greek and Roman Life). Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

Mitchell, J. L. (1937). Spartacus. (2nd ed.). London: Jarrolds.

Scammell, M. (2009). Arthur Koestler: The literary and political Odyssey of a twentieth-century skeptic. New York, NY: Random House.

Scammell, M. (2016, April 7). A different Darkness at noon. New York review of books. Retrieved 1 November, 2016 from

Shaw, B. D. (2001). Spartacus and the slave wars: A brief history with documents. Bedford Series in History and Culture. Boston, MA / New York, NY: Bedford / St. Martin’s.

Simon, E. (2009). On translating Thomas Mann: An unpublished essay by Edith Simon (H. I. MacAdam, Ed., Intro. and commentary). Scripta Judaica Cracoviensia, 7, 111–142.

Simon, E. (2011). In defense of historical fiction: An unpublished essay by Edith Simon (H. I. MacAdam, Ed., Intro. and commentary). Left History, 15(2), 43–61.

The Scotsman. (2003, January 30). Edith Simon. Retrieved 1 November, 2016 from

Universität Kassel. (2015, August 10). Long missing original manuscript of the novel “Darkness at Noon” by Koestler has been found. Retrieved 1 November, 2016 from

Von Uxkull, W. K. H. A. (1920). Spartacus: Ein Roman aus der römischen Gladiatorenzeit. Dresden: Lehmannsche Verlag.

Wessel, M. (2014). “Becoming anglicized”? The increasing importance of English characters in the exile novels of Robert Neumann and Arthur Koestler. Moravian Journal of Literature and Film, 5(2), 41–50.

Wessel, M. (2017, forthcoming). Arthur Koestler’s novels written in exile. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Kassel, Germany.

Westington, M. M. (1941). Review of Arthur Koestler, Edith Simon (1939). The Gladiators. Macmillan. The classical weekly, 34(19), 222–223.

Whyte-Melville, G. J. (1938). The Gladiators: A tale of Rome and Judaea. London: J. M. Dent & Co.



  • There are currently no refbacks.