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The Spies Of Warsaw (English Edition) [Format Kindle]

Alan Furst

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In the dying light of an autumn day in 1937, a certain Herr Edvard Uhl, a secret agent, descended from a first-class railway carriage in the city of Warsaw. Above the city, the sky was at war; the last of the sun struck blood-red embers off massed black cloud, while the clear horizon to the west was the color of blue ice. Herr Uhl suppressed a shiver; the sharp air of the evening, he told himself. But this was Poland, the border of the Russian steppe, and what had reached him was well beyond the chill of an October twilight.

A taxi waited on Jerozolimskie street, in front of the station. The driver, an old man with a seamed face, sat patiently, knotted hands at rest on the steering wheel. "Hotel Europejski," Uhl told the driver. He wanted to add, and be quick about it, but the words would have been in German, and it was not so good to speak German in this city. Germany had absorbed the western part of Poland in 1795-Russia ruled the east, Austria-Hungary the southwest corner-for a hundred and twenty-three years, a period the Poles called "the Partition," a time of national conspiracy and defeated insurrection, leaving ample bad blood on all sides. With the rebirth of Poland in 1918, the new borders left a million Germans in Poland and two million Poles in Germany, which guaranteed that the bad blood would stay bad. So, for a German visiting Warsaw, a current of silent hostility, closed faces, small slights: we don't want you here.

Nonetheless, Edvard Uhl had looked forward to this trip for weeks. In his late forties, he combed what remained of his hair in strands across his scalp and cultivated a heavy dark mustache, meant to deflect attention from a prominent bulbous nose, the bulb divided at the tip. A feature one saw in Poland, often enough. So, an ordinary- looking man, who led a rather ordinary life, a more-than-decent life, in the small city of Breslau: a wife and three children, a good job- as a senior engineer at an ironworks and foundry, a subcontractor to the giant Rheinmetall firm in Düsseldorf-a few friends, memberships in a church and a singing society. Oh, maybe the political situation- that wretched Hitler and his wretched Nazis strutting about-could have been better, but one abided, lived quietly, kept one's opinions to oneself; it wasn't so difficult. And the paycheck came every week. What more could a man want?

Instinctively, his hand made sure of the leather satchel on the seat by his side. A tiny stab of regret touched his heart. Foolish, Edvard, truly it is. For the satchel, a gift from his first contact at the French embassy in Warsaw, had a false bottom, beneath which lay a sheaf of engineering diagrams. Well, he thought, one did what one had to do, so life went. No, one did what one had to do in order to do what one wanted to do-so life really went. He wasn't supposed to be in Warsaw; he was supposed, by his family and his employer, to be in Gleiwitz-just on the German side of the frontier dividing German Lower Silesia from Polish Upper Silesia-where his firm employed a large metal shop for the work that exceeded their capacity in Breslau. With the Reich rearming, they could not keep up with the orders that flowed from the Wehrmacht. The Gleiwitz works functioned well enough, but that wasn't what Uhl told his bosses. "A bunch of lazy idiots down there," he said, with a grim shake of the head, and found it necessary to take the train down to Gleiwitz once a month to straighten things out.

And he did go to Gleiwitz-that pest from Breslau, back again!-but he didn't stay there. When he was done bothering the local management he took the train up to Warsaw where, in a manner of speaking, one very particular thing got straightened out. For Uhl, a blissful night of lovemaking, followed by a brief meeting at dawn, a secret meeting, then back to Breslau, back to Frau Uhl and his more-than-decent life. Refreshed. Reborn. Too much, that word? No. Just right.

Uhl glanced at his watch. Drive faster, you peasant! This is an automobile, not a plow. The taxi crawled along Nowy Swiat, the grand avenue of Warsaw, deserted at this hour-the Poles went home for dinner at four. As the taxi passed a church, the driver slowed for a moment, then lifted his cap. It was not especially reverent, Uhl thought, simply something the man did every time he passed a church.

At last, the imposing Hotel Europejski, with its giant of a doorman in visored cap and uniform worthy of a Napoleonic marshal. Uhl handed the driver his fare-he kept a reserve of Polish zloty in his desk at the office-and added a small, proper gratuity, then said "Dankeschön." It didn't matter now, he was where he wanted to be. In the room, he hung up his suit, shirt, and tie, laid out fresh socks and underwear on the bed, and went into the bathroom to have a thorough wash. He had just enough time; the Countess Sczelenska would arrive in thirty minutes. Or, rather, that was the time set for the rendezvous; she would of course be late, would make him wait for her, let him think, let him anticipate, let him steam.

And was she a countess? A real Polish countess? Probably not, he thought. But so she called herself, and she was, to him, like a countess: imperious, haughty, and demanding. Oh how this provoked him, as the evening lengthened and they drank champagne, as her mood slid, subtly, from courteous disdain to sly submission, then on to breathless urgency. It was the same always, their private melodrama, with an ending that never changed. Uhl the stallion-despite the image in the mirrored armoire, a middle-aged gentleman with thin legs and potbelly and pale chest home to a few wisps of hair-demonstrably excited as he knelt on the hotel carpet, while the countess, looking down at him over her shoulder, eyebrows raised in mock surprise, deigned to let him roll her silk underpants down her great, saucy, fat bottom. Noblesse oblige. You may have your little pleasure, she seemed to say, if you are so inspired by what the noble Sczelenska bloodline has wrought. Uhl would embrace her middle and honor the noble heritage with tender kisses. In time very effective, such honor, and she would raise him up, eager for what came next.

He'd met her a year and a half earlier, in Breslau, at a Weinstube where the office employees of the foundry would stop for a little something after work. The Weinstube had a small terrace in back, three tables and a vine, and there she sat, alone at one of the tables on the deserted terrace: morose and preoccupied. He'd sat at the next table, found her attractive-not young, not old, on the buxom side, with brassy hair pinned up high and an appealing face-and said good evening. And why so glum, on such a pleasant night?

She'd come down from Warsaw, she explained, to see her sister, a family crisis, a catastrophe. The family had owned, for several generations, a small but profitable lumber mill in the forest along the eastern border. But they had suffered financial reverses, and then the storage sheds had been burned down by a Ukrainian nationalist gang, and they'd had to borrow money from a Jewish speculator. But the problems wouldn't stop, they could not repay the loans, and now that dreadful man had gone to court and taken the mill. Just like them, wasn't it.

After a few minutes, Uhl moved to her table. Well, that was life for you, he'd said. Fate turned evil, often for those who least deserved it. But, don't feel so bad, luck had gone wrong, but it could go right, it always did, given time. Ah but he was sympathique, she'd said, an aristocratic reflex to use the French word in the midst of her fluent German. They went on for a while, back and forth. Perhaps some day, she'd said, if he should find himself in Warsaw, he might telephone; there was the loveliest café near her apartment. Perhaps he would, yes, business took him to Warsaw now and again; he guessed he might be there soon. Now, would she permit him to order another glass of wine? Later, she took his hand beneath the table and he was, by the time they parted, on fire.

Ten days later, from a public telephone at the Breslau railway station, he'd called her. He planned to be in Warsaw next week, at the Europejski, would she care to join him for dinner? Why yes, yes she would. Her tone of voice, on the other end of the line, told him all he needed to know, and by the following Wednesday-those idiots in Gleiwitz had done it again!-he was on his way to Warsaw. At dinner, champagne and langoustines, he suggested that they go on to a nightclub after dessert, but first he wanted to visit the room, to change his tie.

And so, after the cream cake, up they went.

For two subsequent, monthly, visits, all was paradise, but, it turned out, she was the unluckiest of countesses. In his room at the hotel, brassy hair tumbled on the pillow, she told him of her latest misfortune. Now it was her landlord, a hulking beast who leered at her, made chk-chk noises with his mouth when she climbed the stairs, who'd told her that she had to leave, his latest girlfriend to be installed in her place. Unless . . . Her misty eyes told him the rest.

Never! Where Uhl had just been, this swine would not go! He stroked her shoulder, damp from recent exertions, and said, "Now, now, my dearest, calm yourself." She would just have to find another apartment. Well, in fact she'd already done that, found one even nicer than the one she had now, and very private, owned by a man in Cracow, so nobody would be watching her if, for example, her sweet Edvard wanted to come for a visit. But the rent was two hundred zloty more than she paid now. And she didn't have it.

A hundred reichsmark, he thought. "Perhaps I can help," he said. And he could, but not for long. Two months, maybe three-beyond that, there really weren't any corners he could cut. He tried to save a little, but almost all of his salary went to support his family. Still, he couldn't get the "hulking beast" out of his mind. Chk-chk.

The blow fell a month later, the man in Cracow ...

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Furst (The Foreign Correspondent) solidifies his status as a master of historical spy fiction with this compelling thriller set in 1937 Poland. Col. Jean-François Mercier, a military attaché at the French embassy in Warsaw who runs a network of spies, plays a deadly game of cat-and-mouse with his German adversaries. When one of Mercier's main agents, Edvard Uhl, an engineer at a large Düsseldorf arms manufacturer who's been a valuable source on the Nazis' new weapons, becomes concerned that the Gestapo is on to him, Mercier initially dismisses Uhl's fears. Mercier soon realizes that the risk to his spy is genuine, and he's forced to scramble to save Uhl's life. The colonel himself later takes to the field when he hears reports that the German army is conducting maneuvers in forested terrain. Even readers familiar with the Germans' attack through the Ardennes in 1940 will find the plot suspenseful. As ever, Furst excels at creating plausible characters and in conveying the mostly tedious routines of real espionage. Author tour. (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Détails sur le produit

  • Format : Format Kindle
  • Taille du fichier : 1114 KB
  • Nombre de pages de l'édition imprimée : 328 pages
  • Pagination - ISBN de l'édition imprimée de référence : 0812977378
  • Editeur : Weidenfeld & Nicolson (25 août 2011)
  • Vendu par : Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Langue : Anglais
  • ASIN: B005GQ6E8A
  • Synthèse vocale : Activée
  • X-Ray :
  • Word Wise: Non activé
  • Composition améliorée: Activé
  • Classement des meilleures ventes d'Amazon: n°60.178 dans la Boutique Kindle (Voir le Top 100 dans la Boutique Kindle)

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Amazon.com: 4.3 étoiles sur 5  215 commentaires
209 internautes sur 214 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Before the Great Storm Breaks .... 8 juin 2008
Par Marco Antonio Abarca - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié|Achat vérifié
It is the Autumn of 1937 and a European War is on the horizon. The German people are bitter about their defeat during the First World War and Adolph Hitler is promising them revenge. Europe will soon be plunged into war and the French Military Intelligence Service is hard at work trying to devine German War Plans. In Warsaw, Colonel Jean-Francois Mercier is the new French Army Attache to Poland. His official job is to promote good relations between the French and Polish Army Staffs. His real job is to gather military intelligence from any source he can mine.

Alan Furst has made his career in espionage novels. His haunts are the more obscure European countries and his heroes are the average, working spies. "The Spies of Warsaw" fits his pattern. There are no master spies or high level conspiracies. Just an ordinary military attache at work in the charged atmosphere of pre-war Poland.

This is Alan Furst's tenth espionage novel and "Spies of Warsaw" is one his better books. He is a very strong writer who spends a lot of time on historical research. Furst fills this novel with all the rich details that allows him to recreate Warsaw in the late 1930's.

The greatest writer of these types of espionage tales is the remarkable English writer, Eric Ambler. He wrote great espionage novels in the late 1930's during the rise of facism in Europe. Through his many fine novels, Alan Furst has become the inheritor of Eric Ambler's legacy. "The Spies of Warsaw" is another great addition to Furst's body of work. Highly recommended.
59 internautes sur 61 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Fighting Nazis and Petain While Reading Simenon and Stendhal 14 juin 2008
Par Douglas S. Wood - Publié sur Amazon.com
Great news has arrived for those fans of Alan Furst who thought he mailed in his last work, The Foreign Correspondent: A Novel. The master of the historical spy novel is back at the top of his game in The Spies of Warsaw. Furst centers his story in Warsaw, the scene of some his best writing and the return is triumphal. The typical Furst protagonist is the ordinary man of above-average principles, thrust by accident of history into the dangerous interstices of inter-war Europe. This time, however, our man is one Jean-Francois Mercier, decorated hero of the Great War and wounded veteran of the Polish victory in the 1920 Battle of Warsaw - the Miracle at the Vistula - and new military attaché at the French embassy and a professional spook.

Mercier runs an agent who works as engineer in an armaments company Germany, but who also develops a taste for Warsaw honey and promptly falls into the honey trap. By indirect route that leads to a one-sided vendetta against Mercier of which he is the unknowing target. Mercier falls in lust early in the book, but later finds himself fully in love while he continues to troll for secrets and potential agents. His work leads him into several adventures in which the risks of failure range from embarrassing to deadly.

Furst brilliantly recreates the atmosphere of pre-war days - the end of happiness and hope. Mercier's attempts for even a brief mental respite from the looming NAZI threat are futile; the reminders everywhere. His description of the formal dining room at a Warsaw party in the city's finest hotel puts the reader in the room: the "sheen of the damask tablecloth, the heavy silver, and the gold-rimmed china glowed in the light of a dozen candelabra".

Details to delight. A trip to Paris includes the now-obligatory Furstian visit to Brasserie Heininger and a peak at the infamous bullet hole in the mirror of Table 14. We learn that Mercier is a fan of Georges Simenon and Stendhal.

Mercier struggles to help France resist the NAZI's in the coming war that palpably hangs over Europe and every page in the book. As he learns, however, there are those in France who view Soviet Russia as the true enemy and Nazi Germany as potential allies. Moreover, intelligence that questions accepted wisdom, in this case of Marshal Petain and the ruling clique in the military, is seldom welcome. The books powerful ending leaves the reader angry and impotent. Highest recommendation.
57 internautes sur 63 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 "What do you think spies are: priests, saints and martyrs?" 10 juin 2008
Par Lonya - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié|Achat vérifié
John LeCarre, "The Spy Who Came in From the Cold"

As its title suggests, there are more than a few spies in Alan Furst's latest novel "The Spies of Warsaw." None of them are priests, none are saints and none strive for martyrdom. What we find are a willing and unwilling collection of French, Polish, German, and Russian operatives in pre-WWII Poland. The result is a typically good Furst novel, one rich in atmospherics and character development but free of comic-book style heroics and world-saving, death-defying stunts or car chases.

Set in Warsaw, the character at the center of "The Spies of Warsaw" is Colonel Mercier. A career soldier and veteran of The Great War, Mercier is France's Military Attaché to Poland. It is 1937 and Mercier, not unlike the professional diplomats, military figures, and other assorted characters that he deals with, is aware that another war is not very far away. Mercier's real job function is that of chief intelligence officer. As the story opens he is simply gathering information on German armament programs. As the story progresses Mercier focuses on German tank building, strategy, and deployment.

Furst comes from a line of writers that can be traced back to both Graham Greene and Eric Ambler. Like Ambler (and unlike LeCarre for example) Furst often takes an unassuming, or unwitting civilian and immerses him in a world of mystery and intrigue in pre-World War II Europe. Furst's strong point has always been how he sets the scene. His atmospherics are tremendous. His descriptions of the streets of Warsaw, Berlin or Paris and the atmosphere of those cities reek of authenticity. Similarly, Furst has a keen eye for the inner life of his protagonists. Almost invariably Furst manages to convey a real sense of how those protagonists think and feel. Both of these elements of his writing generally dominate his plotting and are primarily responsible for getting the reader to turn to the next page. This is certainly the case with Spies of Warsaw. The plot, such as it is, really isn't a plot in the traditional sense, where after the first few chapters you have some central `goal' to grab a hold of. Rather, what we have here is a linear and (seemingly) realistically drawn story of a French intelligence officer and the people he interacts with in the months leading up to WWII. Mercier isn't searching for the Holy Grail or seeking to head off an assassination. Rather, he is tasked with gathering information even when he isn't quite sure exactly what information he needs or how to analyze the information he does receive. Similarly, the book did not really build to a real climax. The book ended more with a knowing sigh than with a bang. Everyone reading Furst will know the fate of Poland in 1939. Some may find that a bit disappointing. However, as readers of Furst's books already know his novels strive for authenticity. In much of life, particularly in the era Furst writes about, storybook endings or dramatic endings are more the exception than the rule. Everyone will know that the French High Command had a very strong idea as to how and where the war would start. They also had a very strong, an unassailable notion as to how best to defend France. It is no spoiler to realize how wrongly held that notion was. Furst, works with an outcome known to his readers and keeps that outcome in mind as he tells a story.

"The Spies of Warsaw" kept me engaged from the opening chapter. Recommended. L. Fleisig
22 internautes sur 23 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 One of Furst's Best 6 juin 2008
Par Bruce Trinque - Publié sur Amazon.com
1937. A German engineer working for a military contractor. A Polish countess who probably is not a countess. The French military attache. Welome to Alan Furst country. "The Spies of Warsaw" is yet another in Furst's cycle of novels set in the 1930s and WW2, dealing with spies and the shadow world. Reading a Furst novel is, in the best sense, like watching a classic black-and-white movie with a plot by Eric Ambler.

Alan Furst's plots are more John leCarre than Ian Fleming, but there is no shortage of desperate action and tense drama in "The Spies of Warsaw", combined with some very real-world espionage activity that could have come straight from the files of any spy agency. The central character, Lieutenant-Colonel Jean-Francois Mercier is a decorated veteran of the First World War who discovers a real talent and genuine passion for the war of espionage. And there is the usual supporting cast of shadowy characters living on the knife's edge. And of course -- as any Alan Furst reader will expect -- there is a visit to the Brasserie Heininger and its famous Table 14.

I bought a copy of the novel early this afternoon, and read it straight through to its conclusion in a marathon reading session. "The Spies of Warsaw" is one of Alan Furst's best, and that is saying something. It reminded me, in a very good way, of Furst's "The Polish Officer", perhaps my favorite of the entire cycle.
67 internautes sur 78 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
2.0 étoiles sur 5 Better than the last two, but... 8 juillet 2008
Par Don Graeter - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié|Achat vérifié
I'm a long time Furst reader and big fan of his works prior to the last few. Spies of Warsaw is much better than the last two--The Foreign Correspondent and Dark Voyage...the former was hum drum and the latter just plain mediocre. Despite this fact, I can only give two stars here.

Other than "Correspondent" and "Voyage," Furst's espionage works of Europe on the eve of or during WWII are superbly written. One is gripped by the plot, enamored of the characters, and engrossed in the subtle, but real, suspense fearing the appearance of the Gestapo, NKVD, etc.

Spies of Warsaw is as good as Furst's best in creating likeable, believeable characters about whom the reader really cares...to me, the ultimate testament to excellent and enjoyable fiction. Our hero and heroine here, Mercier and Anna, are as good as his very best amorous pairs of past works...say Jean Casson and Citrine of the excellent The World at Night, set in occupied Paris.

Yes, this one was more "romantic" ("sexual," perhaps?) than most of the others. But it was beautifully done. If you have ever had the wonderful experience of an overnight trip on The Orient Express, The Royal Scotsman, etc. you will truly enjoy Mercier and Anna's encounter on the train.

So, why do I praise Furst as finally getting his act back together after a couple of subpar efforts and then rate it only two stars? There is the continuing problem that the book leaves you hanging in mid story at the end, ending abruptly with no warning in the narrative. Like The Polish Officer and The World at Night, Spies just ends. Nothing is resolved, the fate of the characters is in limbo, etc.

The "book" is only about 250 pages (multiple blank pages of padding between chapters, etc.) At 350 to 375 pages, like Dark Star and Night Soldiers, Furst's best works because he actually finished the story, this would be a truly great historical spy novel with well done romance to boot. It would also be fine as is, if Furst would pick up the story and the characters in a subsequent work.

We know, however, that Furst will never resurrect these characters again. In the last paragraph of the book, in just four sentences, he tells us what happens to our heroine and hero over the next six or seven years and the entire course of WWII! That was worse than the non-ending endings of his other incomplete works.

Is Furst getting too commercial, too sloppy, too much into "the life" now that he is a success, does he think he's Hemingway? Who knows. What we know we can expect from him now, at best, is a well written, engrossing story which will end abruptly leaving the reader very disappointed, even angry, at having had him do this to us again. A well written, but incomplete story which leaves me angry at the end doesn't get more than two stars from me.

For my money, read Dark Star and Night Soldiers and then move to another author who writes in this genre. If Furst can put forth the effort to develop a work of 350 pages or so, I'll bite again. But not before.
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