Synopses & Reviews
In the autumn of 1940, Russian émigré journalist I. A. Serebin is recruited in Istanbul by an agent of the British secret services for a clandestine operation to stop German importation of Romanian oil—a last desperate attempt to block Hitlers conquest of Europe. Serebins race against time begins in Bucharest and leads him to Paris, the Black Sea, Beirut, and, finally, Belgrade; his task is to attack the oil barges that fuel German tanks and airplanes. Blood of Victory is a novel with the heart-pounding suspense, extraordinary historical accuracy, and narrative immediacy we have come to expect from Alan Furst.
"[Furst] glides gracefully into an urbane pre-World War II Europe....The wry, sexy melancholy of his observations would be seductive enough in its own right he is the Leonard Cohen of the spy genre..." Janet Maslin, The New York Times
"Through six novels, Furst has created characters and painted a political and social landscape, a dark world of fear and uncertainty, and, behind them, the purges and camps, that's uncanny in its detail and atmospheric accuracy." Peter Schrag, The Nation
"Richly atmospheric and satisfying." Deirdre Donahue, USA Today
"Furst's atmospherics are tangible, made up out of effectively described people and places....The devil, or perhaps I should say, the angel, lives in the details of this superbly entertaining and intelligent work of spy fiction." Alan Cheuse, San Francisco Chronicle
"No other espionage writer touches [Furst's] stylish forays....No other writer today captures so well the terror and absurdity of the spy, the shabby tension and ennui of emigre communities at the time....His voice is, above all, knowing." Sam Allis, Boston Sunday Globe
"[Furst] writes with a vivid sense of the murky world of espionage, of conflicted loyalties, shady characters and cryptic motives." Victorino Matus, The Wall Street Journal
In 1939, as the armies of Europe mobilized for war, the British secret services undertook operations to impede the exportation of Roumanian oil to Germany. They failed.
Then, in the autumn of 1940, they tried again.
In the autumn of 1940, Russian émigré journalist I. A. Serebin is recruited in Istanbul by an agent of the British secret services for a clandestine operation to stop German importation of Romanian oil a last desperate attempt to block Hitler's conquest of Europe. Serebin's race against time begins in Bucharest and leads him to Paris, the Black Sea, Beirut, and, finally, Belgrade; his task is to attack the oil barges that fuel German tanks and airplanes. Blood of Victory is a novel with the heart-pounding suspense, extraordinary historical accuracy, and narrative immediacy we have come to expect from Alan Furst.
About the Author
is widely recognized as the master of the historical spy novel. He is the author of Night Soldiers
, Dark Star
, The Polish Officer
, The World at Night
, Red Gold
, and Kingdom of Shadows
. Born in New York, he has lived for long periods in France, especially Paris. He now lives on Long Island, New York.
From the Hardcover edition.
Reading Group Guide
1. The title Blood of Victory
comes from a speech given by a French senator at a conference on oil in 1918: “Oil, the blood of the earth, has become, in time of war, the blood of victory.” Describe the role that oil plays in Fursts novel. How would you say the relationship between oil and war has changed over time? Given Americas relationship with the Middle East since World War II, to what extent would you say oil is now the cause of war?
2. During Serebins meeting with “Bastien” (Count Polanyi), Bastien describes the moral ambiguity of espionage in these terms: “People who trust you will get hurt. Is a dead Hitler worth it?” Consider Serebins response to this question. What moral calculus must he perform to answer this sort of question? How would you respond to the same question?
3. At lunch at the Hotel Helvetia, Kostyka proclaims, “For every man there are three cities. The city of his birth, the city he loves, and the city where he must live.” Discuss this themes of alienation and exile as they appear in Blood of Victory. Does Kostykas pronouncement hold true for the characters in the novel?
4. In Blood of Victory, I. A. Serebin finds himself facing the prospect of his fifth war. Why doesnt Serebin want to fight again? Why does he choose, ultimately, to fight? In the end, does it matter that he has?
5. In an unguarded moment in the Tic Tac Club, Marie-Galante is shown to be a French patriot. Would you say Serebin is a patriot? If so, for which nation? Is Polanyi? Is Kostyka?
6. Critics praise Fursts ability to re-create the atmosphere of World War II—era Europe. What elements of description make the setting come alive? How can you account for the fact that the settings seem authentic even though you probably have no firsthand knowledge of the times and places he writes about?
7. Fursts novels have been described as “historical novels,” and as “spy novels.” He calls them “historical spy novels.” Some critics have insisted that they are, simply, novels. How does his work compare with other spy novels youve read? What does he do that is the same? Different? If you owned a bookstore, in what section would you display his books?
8. Furst is often praised for his minor characters, which have been described as “sketched out in a few strokes.” Do you have a favorite in the book? Characters in his books often take part in the action for a few pages and then disappear. What do you think becomes of them? How do you know?
9. At the end of an Alan Furst novel, the hero is always still alive. What becomes of Fursts heroes? Will they survive the war? Does Furst know what becomes of them? Would it be better if they were somewhere safe and sound, to live out the end of the war in comfort? If not, why not?
10. Love affairs are always prominent in Fursts novels, and “love in a time of war” is a recurring theme. Do you think these affairs might last, and lead to marriage and domesticity?