Late 1938 in Europe was a time of dislocation and growing fear. In Germany, Kristallnacht signaled the end of hope for any Jew smart enough to understand its implications. Austria and Czechoslovakia were now part of the German Reich, adding to the flow of refugees. In Spain, Generalissimo Franco and his German and Italian allies were squashing the last remnants of resistance by the Republic. Mussolini’s Italy wavered between the neutrality urged by Britain and France and what would become the Pact of Steel with Nazi Germany. Alan Furst’s superb historical espionage novel, The Foreign Correspondent, opens during this period, late in the winter of 1938, and concludes late in the summer of 1939, shortly before Hitler’s invasion of Poland.
A superb historical espionage novel
The action in The Foreign Correspondent revolves around a small group of Italian antifascist emigrés who publish an occasional clandestine newspaper named Liberazione. (This was just one of some 500 such publications that came out of the growing Italian emigré community in Paris.) The central character is Carlo Weisz, the journalist of the book’s title who works by day as a foreign correspondent for the London-based Reuters wire service. He, and his collaborators in Liberazione, come under attack by the OVRA, Mussolini’s secret police force dedicated to stamping out antifascism.
The Foreign Correspondent (Night Soldiers #9) by Alan Furst (2006) 288 pages @@@@@ (5 out of 5)
Meanwhile, Carlo’s reporting assignments in Spain, Germany, and Czechoslovakia bring him into contact with agents of the British Secret Intelligence Service (MI6). As Furst notes, “spies and journalists were fated to go through life together, and it was sometimes hard to tell one from the other.” Furst brilliantly uses every opportunity to convey a visceral feeling for the tragic events unfolding in all those places. It would be difficult to find a nonfiction history book that does a better job of that than The Foreign Correspondent. This is truly an excellent historical espionage novel.
About the author
Alan Furst has been writing books since 1976. Following the publication of four standalone novels, he launched the Night Soldiers series of historical espionage novels in 1988. At this writing, he has published a total of 14 novels in the series. The Foreign Correspondent was number 9.
For additional reading
This book is included in The evocative Night Soldiers series from Alan Furst.
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