Paris, Moscow, Berlin, and Prague, 1937. In the back alleys of nighttime Europe, war is already under way. Andr� Szara, survivor of the Polish pogroms and the Russian civil wars and a foreign correspondent for Pravda, is co-opted by the NKVD, the Soviet secret intelligence service, and becomes a full-time spymaster in Paris. As deputy director of a Paris network, Szara finds his own star rising when he recruits an agent in Berlin who can supply crucial information. Dark Star captures not only the intrigue and danger of clandestine life but the day-to-day reality of what Soviet operatives call special work.
Furst ( Night Soldiers ) will make his mark with this intelligent, provocative and gripping novel. In 1933, Andre Szara, a highly regarded Polish-born foreign correspondent for Pravda , is asked to perform small espionage tasks by the NKVD. These assignments escalate, until Szara finds himself responsible for obtaining vital production figures from a German-Jewish industrialist who fabricates steel wire essential to airplanes. Inevitably, Szara's integrity as a journalist is also compromised. During this period of Stalinist purges, clearly and chillingly described by Furst, only unpredictability is certain. Szara senses the precariousness of his position, which is compounded by an urgent appeal from a wealthy Jewish Frenchman for Szara to honor his own Jewish heritage by trading his steel wire information to the British in exchange for desperately needed immigration certificates to mandated Palestine. Furst depicts the historical, geographic and political context in lucid and highly readable prose; his observation that Russia annexed Lithuania and Estonia while the world's attention was focused on France's struggle with Germany has an eerie timeliness. As darkness descends over Europe, Szara clings to life while simultaneously attempting to make some meaning of it. His story is not a pretty one; but it is beautifully and compellingly told.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.
There are no customer reviews available at this time. Would you like to write a review?
Random House Trade Paperbacks
July 08, 2002
Number of Print Pages*
Adobe DRM EPUB
* Number of eBook pages may differ. Click here for more information.
Excerpt from Dark Star by Alan Furst
SILENCE IN PRAGUE In the late autumn of 1937, in the steady beat of North Sea rain that comes with dawn in that season, the tramp freighter Nicaea stood at anchor off the Belgian city of Ostend. In the distance, a berthing tug made slow progress through the harbor swell, the rhythm of its engine distinct over the water, its amber running lights twin blurs in the darkness. The Nicaea, 6,320 gross tonnes, of Maltese registry, had spent her first thirty years as a coastal steamer in the eastern Mediterranean, hauling every imaginable cargo from Latakia to Famagusta, back to Iskenderun, down to Beirut, north to Smyrna, then south to Sidon and Jaffa—thirty years of blistering summers and drizzling winters, trading and smuggling in equal proportion, occasionally enriching, more typically ruining, a succession of owner syndicates as she herself was slowly ruined by salt, rust, and a long line of engineers whose enthusiasm far exceeded their skill. Now, in her final years, she was chartered to Exportkhleb, the Soviet Union’s grain-trading bureau, and she creaked and groaned sorrowfully to lie at anchor in such cold, northern seas. Riding low in the water, she bore her cargo gracelessly—principally Anatolian wheat bound for the Black Sea port of Odessa, a city that had not seen imported grains for more than a century. She carried, as well, several small consignments: flaxseed loaded in Istanbul, dried figs from Limassol, a steel drum of Ammonal—a mining explosive made of TNT and powdered aluminum—en route to a sabotage cell in Hamburg, a metal trunk of engineering blueprints for an Italian submarine torpedo, deftly copied at a naval research station in Brindisi, and two passengers: a senior Comintern official using a Dutch passport with the alias Van Doorn, and a foreign correspondent of the newspaper Pravda traveling under his true name, André Szara. Szara, hands thrust deep in pockets, hair blown about by the offshore gale, stood in the shelter of a passageway and silently cursed the Belgian tug captain who, from the methodical chug of the engine, was taking his own sweet time attending to the Nicaea. Szara knew harbormen in this part of the world; stolid, reflective pipe smokers who were never far from the coffeepot and the evening paper. Unshakable in crisis, they spent the rest of their days making the world wait on their pleasure. Szara shifted his weight with the roll of the ship, turned his back to the wind, and lit a cigarette. He had boarded the freighter nineteen days earlier, in Piraeus, having been assigned a story on the struggle of the Belgian dockworkers. That was one assignment; there was another. Killing time in a dockside tavern as the Nicaea was eased into moorage, he had been approached by the World’s Plainest Man. Where, he wondered, did they find them? Russia marked people: deformed most, made some exquisite, at the very least burned itself deep into the eyes. But not this one. His mother was water, his father a wall. “A small favor,” said the world’s plainest man. “You’ll have a fellow passenger, he is traveling on Comintern business. Perhaps you will find out where he is stopping in Ostend.” “If I can,” Szara had said. The word if could not really be used between them, but Szara pretended it could be and the NKVD operative—or GRU or whatever he was—graciously conceded his right to suggest he had a choice in the matter. Szara, after all, was an important correspondent. “Yes. If you can,” he’d said. Then added, “Leave us a little note at the desk of your hotel. To Monsieur Brun.” Szara spelled it, to make sure he’d got it right. Defiance was over for the day. “Just so,” said the man. There was ample