Spanish Testament
(First edition: London: Gollancz. 1937)

Dialogue with Death
(First edition: London: MacMillan 1938)

Spanish Testament and Dialogue with Death are two versions of the same book: when Koestler was set free form Franco's prisons,he set off writing his memoris of that moving experience. He extracted some parts of L'Espagne Ensanglantee, a propaganda book previously written in Paris for Willi Munzenberg's organization, and those pages became the first part of Spanish Testament. The second part of the book was made up of his personale experiences in Madrid, Malaga and Seville, and form the real core of the book.

After a very short while, with his distance form the Communist Party increasing, he re-edited the book, cutting the first part, that he found too often in the style of blatant propaganda pamphlets issued by the Communist Party's organizations. The modified book was published under the title Dialogue with Death. There are other slight differences between the two versions, and yet another elaboration of his experiences was later carried on in The invisible Writing, the second volume of his autobiography. Personally, I prefer Spanish Testament, that might be a little less polished and more tainted by political polemics, but after all I think it is the most authentic, in the meaning that it is the one that most closely resembles the Koestler of 1937.

There are not few books written form the death row, yet Spanish Testament remains one of the most touching ones. The particularly ghastly existence that Koestler and his in-mates was due not so much to life contitions, but to the apparent randomness in picking the ones to be executed every night. The chosen would then pass through the corridor in front of the cells, and all the prison would hold its breath, suspended between the relief of living one more day, the pain for seeing a friend being taken to death and the overall anguish of knowing that it was just a matter of when, not of if.

Add to this Koestler's acute lucidity joined with his sensibility and compassion for the other prisoners, and you will understand why this book is a most thought-provoking reading, and a first-class journey in the nightmare that the death row is. If you have read Darkness at Noon, and you remember the episodes with Rubashov watching through the peep-hole the guards dragging the prisonser away to meet their fate, you understand where Koestler got his inspiration from. But in Spanish Testament it's reality, not fiction.