Blog by Sumana Harihareswara, Changeset founder

15 Nov 2005, 6:22 a.m.

It Always Comes Back

Hi, reader. I wrote this in 2005 and it's now more than five years old. So it may be very out of date; the world, and I, have changed a lot since I wrote it! I'm keeping this up for historical archive purposes, but the me of today may 100% disagree with what I said then. I rarely edit posts after publishing them, but if I do, I usually leave a note in italics to mark the edit and the reason. If this post is particularly offensive or breaches someone's privacy, please contact me.

I thought Alan Furst's Dark Star would be a science-fiction novel, probably because I confused it with the film of the same name. Now that I'm two-thirds through, I've firmly convinced myself that it's Yet Another Europe-in-the-1930s Spy Novel, and a very good one. I like it much better than I liked Tim Powers's Cold War spy novel Declare, not just because there's no woo-woo fantasy, but because Furst does not hide from the reader important facts and memories attached to his viewpoint character.

Spoilers: Our protagonist, a Soviet journalist drawn/coerced into espionage, travels Europe in the guise of writing for Pravda. Szara witnesses Kristallnacht and reports back to his spymaster:

"And Germany?" [Goldman] asked.

"In a word?"

"If you like."

"An abomination."

Goldman's mask slipped briefly and Szara had a momentary view of the man beneath it. "We shall settle with them this time, and in a way they will not forget," he said softly. "The world will yet thank God for Joseph Stalin."

Pre-WWII Europe seems to have unlimited reserves of irony.