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THE FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT, A NOVEL. (original 2006; edition 2006)

by Alan. Furst

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
953219,110 (3.73)58
Authors:Alan. Furst
Info:Random House, (2006), Hardcover
Collections:Your library, To read
Tags:espionage, journalism, Award-Booker, xyz, HM12, mystery

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The Foreign Correspondent by Alan Furst (2006)

  1. 20
    Epitaph for a Spy by Eric Ambler (Anonymous user)

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Showing 1-5 of 19 (next | show all)
Yet another book that causes me to lament the fact that genre fiction gets no respect. This is beautifully written, beautifully crafted and much more than a "spy novel." ( )
  susan259 | Jan 20, 2016 |
The Foreign

Promised much, delivered little.
It felt a little like he was avoiding telling the story he should have, maybe even really wanted to. A huge missed opportunity, no matter how languid, evocative and well-written it was.
I'll give some of his others a go, but there's gonna have to be a dramatic improvement after this let-down. ( )
  Speesh | Mar 29, 2014 |
Carlo Weisz is the foreign correspondent in question, a refugee from Trieste now covering the coming war for Reuters Paris. Weisz also is active in an Italian resistance group publishing Liberazione, a revived paper originally crushed by the Italian fascists, now smuggled into Italy, printed by sympathisers and distributed by hand. It becomes clear Mussolini's secret police, the OVRA, have targeted Liberazione and Weisz's group come under threat. Weisz, too, for reasons personal and patriotic, becomes involved in efforts to undermine the National Socialists, after renewing an affair with Christa Zameny, now married to a Prussian in Berlin. The narrative follows the threads of various activities, slowly revealing in miniature the overall clandestine efforts to oppose fascism in Europe 1938-39.

The familiar Furst study of Hitchcock's Everyman caught up in extreme circumstances, and as with Alfie's protagonists, the Everyman (and Woman) here is primer inter pares, not James Bond but clearly not a typical example of resourcefulness, personal initiative, or nerve. Nevertheless, Furst weaves an engaging history lesson amid the wide-ranging action, and invites meditation on the place of the individual in history.


The question arises: To what extent is the outcome of this war, of any war, influenced by these espionage efforts? Similar question with respect to individual efforts in battle, dilemma besetting individual soldiers when asked to defend a hopeless position or follow dubious orders, whether the war at large is steered one way or another. Suspect it cannot be answered in the individual case, but trusted that overall it can tip the balance. Layered on that: the personal meaning arising from one's choice to uphold personal ideals, translating principles into action, irrespective of the outcome.

Tempting to portray Furst as telling the same archetypal story repeatedly, in different guise and across various milieux. It is comforting, and somehow fittingly realistic in that we know the overarching outcome, what is unknown are the particulars attending this or that person, one or another mission or event. Perhaps a restatement of the above question on individual efficacy.

The simple map as frontispiece finally made clear to me that the Arrondissements of Paris are arranged in a clockwise spiral, not concentric circles. The Brasserie Heininger awaits customers in the 4th. ( )
  elenchus | Nov 24, 2013 |
Definitely worth a read. ( )
  stacy_chambers | Aug 22, 2013 |
I’ve heard good things about Alan Furst’s spy novels. They’re set almost exclusively in the pre-WWII “rise of fascism” era or during WWII itself and contain immersive detail about the events, politics, and general life of the time period. I like spy novels. I like WWII history. From the sounds of things, it should be just the type of thing to float my boat. Or trip my trigger. Or tickle my pickle. Take your pick. So when I selected The Foreign Correspondent (Furst’s 2006 entry in his Night Soliders series, now 11 books strong) as one of my audio book reads for my trip down to Orlando last month, I expected to be treated to a riveting tale of WWII espionage, intrigue, and danger.

But I wasn’t.

Oh, there was espionage, intrigue, and danger—just not enough of it to make the tale riveting. Actually, it was kind of boring. The historical aspect was well done and quite interesting, but the plot moved sluggishly, and I kept waiting for a rise in action that never came. Guess it was a good thing I wasn’t holding my breath. Let me tell you a little bit about the plot so you can see what I mean.

The protagonist is one Carlo Weisz, a foreign correspondent for the Reuters news agency during the Spring of 1939. He’s also an Italian émigré living in Paris, one of the many artists, professors, and intellectuals that were forced to flee Italy when Mussolini and his blackshirts took power. He and his émigré friends operate one of the many émigré newspapers in Paris, writing propaganda against the Fascisti regime and covertly distributing it back within Italy. When the editor of the magazine is killed by the Italian secret police, Carlo agrees to take on the editorial duties. In the meantime, he makes several trips to reporting assignments around the region for Reuters—hot button locales like Spain, Prague, and even Germany itself. War is looming, the Germans and the Italians have allied themselves in war, and the only question is which spark is going to set off the European powder keg—stuff that makes for entertaining newsprint if nothing else.

Carlo’s travels have two primary outcomes. They put him in contact with an old lover, a German countess who is involved in resistance activities against the Nazis. They also get him noticed by the British Secret Service. Carlo helps both parties (the former willingly, the latter only with heavy-handed coercion). He helps his lady by smuggling secret documents out of Germany. He helps the British by writing the biography of an Italian colonel that fought in Spain against Franco and his fascists. Somewhere along the line he tries to convince the lady to leave Germany, but no dice. By the time she’s willing to go, it’s too late for her to leave legally and Carlo can’t get her out himself. Therefore he appeals to the Brits for help. They strike a deal—Carlo will make an appearance in Italy to rally the home team and increase production on their magazine. The Brits will exfiltrate the girl. They huddle, break, and go off to take care of business.

The whole time I kept expecting the slowly mounting tension to explode, to finally get to the high point of the novel where the shit hits the fan, everyone’s running for their lives, and feats of derring-do save the day. Well, maybe not derring-do. This ain’t a James Bond flick. But something, y’know? In the end Carlo goes to Italy for a while, has a few tense moments when he believes he’s being followed by the secret police (but isn’t), and then hitches a ride home with some Swedes. When he gets to Paris his lady love is waiting for him, and it’s happily ever after—except for that whole impending war thing.

That was my problem with the book overall. Nothing really happens. Oh, there’s enough subtle intrigue and foreboding to give an old lady a heart attack, but nothing ever comes of it. It’s just… kind of boring. Then again, maybe that’s the point. Spycraft isn’t all excitement and shootouts and naked chicks. Real spycraft is long periods of tedious boredom punctuated by heart-racing fear. Given his attention to historical detail, I guess it’s not surprising that Furst’s novel was more realistic than most—even if it made for a less entertaining book. And really, how much derring-do can you expect from a journalist whose idea of “fighting back” against fascist oppression is writing some whiny articles?

What The Foreign Correspondent lacks in excitement, though, it makes up for with nearly everything else. The novel is amazingly-well researched. Furst crafts realistic (if somewhat boring) characters and an immersive historical setting using style and language that are measured, understated, and elegant. I could almost imagine I was back in Paris with Carlo and the rest of the gang. It was a lot like being thrown into the DeLorean and burning rubber back in time to punch Mussolini in the face. Or write nasty articles about him. Same thing.

The Foreign Correspondent wasn’t the most exciting book I’ve ever read, but it had enough of a silver lining to make me glad that I read it nonetheless. That’s why I give it three stars. ( )
1 vote WillyMammoth | Apr 29, 2012 |
Showing 1-5 of 19 (next | show all)
...this time around Furst has produced a curiously inert book that is missing both the percussive drive of more commercial spy novels and the fully realized characters of le Carré and Greene. It is an honest effort — Furst is too good a writer and too professional to offer anything less — and it has its pleasures, but they are served dutifully and without great vigor. No one will ask for a second helping of Carlo Weisz.

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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0812967976, Paperback)

From Alan Furst, whom The New York Times calls “America’s preeminent spy novelist,” comes an epic story of romantic love, love of country, and love of freedom–the story of a secret war fought in elegant hotel bars and first-class railway cars, in the mountains of Spain and the backstreets of Berlin. It is an inspiring, thrilling saga of everyday people forced by their hearts’ passion to fight in the war against tyranny.

By 1938, hundreds of Italian intellectuals, lawyers and journalists, university professors and scientists had escaped Mussolini’s fascist government and taken refuge in Paris. There, amid the struggles of émigré life, they founded an Italian resistance, with an underground press that smuggled news and encouragement back to Italy. Fighting fascism with typewriters, they produced 512 clandestine newspapers. The Foreign Correspondent is their story.

Paris, a winter night in 1938: a murder/suicide at a discreet lovers’ hotel. But this is no romantic traged–it is the work of the OVRA, Mussolini’s fascist secret police, and is meant to eliminate the editor of Liberazione, a clandestine émigré newspaper. Carlo Weisz, who has fled from Trieste and secured a job as a foreign correspondent with the Reuters bureau, becomes the new editor.
Weisz is, at that moment, in Spain, reporting on the last campaign of the Spanish civil war. But as soon as he returns to Paris, he is pursued by the French Sûreté, by agents of the OVRA, and by officers of the British Secret Intelligence Service. In the desperate politics of Europe on the edge of war, a foreign correspondent is a pawn, worth surveillance, or blackmail, or murder.

The Foreign Correspondent is the story of Carlo Weisz and a handful of antifascists: the army officer known as “Colonel Ferrara,” who fights for a lost cause in Spain; Arturo Salamone, the shrewd leader of a resistance group in Paris; and Christa von Schirren, the woman who becomes the love of Weisz’s life, herself involved in a doomed resistance underground in Berlin.

The Foreign Correspondent is Alan Furst at his absolute best–taut and powerful, enigmatic and romantic, with sharp, seductive writing that takes the reader through darkness and intrigue to a spectacular denouement.

From the Hardcover edition.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:24:52 -0400)

In 1939 Paris, the murder of an Italian political emigre OVRA, Mussolini's secret police, brings new danger to his successor, Carlo Weisz, who finds himself the target of OVRA, MI6, Stalin's NKVD, and Hitler's Gestapo.

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