This was the first book that Arthur Koestler wrote in English. It starts at the beginning of World War II when he was living in the South of France, working on "Darkness at Noon". After retreating to Paris, he was imprisoned as an undesirable alien. Even though he had been a crusader against fascism, he and many other anti-Nazis, were treated as enemies and their internment was brutal. The worst of his imprisonment was at Vernet, where prisoners had to sleep without blankets in 20 degrees of frost, and where he finally collapsed during a session of forced labour. Some of his fellow internees were eventually handed over to Nazi executioners. Koestler ponders on the collapse of pride and honour in France and he asks "Was the tragedy of France merely accidental, due to an unfortunate constellation? Or was it due to the still undiscovered, secret laws of the rise and decline of races and nations?"