Synopses & Reviews
Paris, 1940. The civilized, upper-class life of film producer Jean Casson is derailed by the German occupation of Paris, but Casson learns that with enough money, compromise, and connections, one need not deny oneself the pleasures of Parisian life. Somewhere inside Casson, though, is a stubborn romantic streak. When hes offered the chance to take part in an operation of the British secret service, this idealism gives him the courage to say yes. A simple mission, but it goes wrong, and Casson realizes he must gamble everything his career, the woman he loves, life itself. Here is a brilliant re-creation of France its spirit in the moment of defeat, its valor in the moment of rebirth.
"Imagine discovering an unscreened espionage thriller from the late 1930s, a classic black-and-white movie that captures the murky allegiances and moral ambiguities of Europe on the brink of war....Nothing can be like watching Casablanca for the first time, but Furst comes closer than anyone has in years." Walter Shapiro, Time
"With uninspired plotting, Furst makes disappointing use of a vividly evoked wartime Paris in his latest WWII espionage novel....Furst brings this fascinating, historic Paris to life with his usual masterful use of period detail. But while Casson makes an intriguing protagonist, his relationships with other characters are presented rather schematically in particular, his affair with Citrine, which ultimately proves so influential, is never satisfactorily developed. More importantly, Casson's career as a spy, marked by mixed success on missions that seem insignificant, is anticlimactic and a bit confusing. In the end, the novel never attains the dramatic pitch of Furst's recent The Polish Officer." Publishers Weekly
"Mr. Furst is careful not to make too much of Casson's exploits...portraying his spying as the reluctant and not fully understood actions of an Old World romantic. The World at Night is full of richly atmospheric detail, but the novel's plot is oddly old-fashioned and unconvincing; characters and events pop up and float away without much explanation, and even some of the most important moments seem listless and half formed. In places, the story verges on outright corniness." Scott Veale, The New York Times Book Review
"With the authority of solid research and a true fascination for his material, Mr. Furst makes idealism, heroism, and sacrifice believable and real." David Walton, The Dallas Morning News
"[The World at Night] is the world of Eric Ambler, the pioneering British author of classic World War II espionage fiction....The novel is full of keen dialogue and witty commentary....[T]hrilling." Herbert Mitgang, Chicago Tribune
"First-rate research collaborates with first-rate imagination....Superb." The Boston Globe
"[The World at Night] earns a comparison with the serious entertainments of Graham Greene and John le Carré....Gripping, beautifully detailed...an absorbing glimpse into the moral maze of espionage." Richard Eder, Los Angeles Times
"The throes of masculine existential torment are an unquestionable specialty for Furst, whose WW II fiction combines so much broad historical erudition with such genuine humanity that they ought to be made required reading. Once again, Furst loads the entire burden of an aspect of the war on the shoulders of a single character, then scrutinizes that character as he changes. It's the old rat-in-the-maze game, played for very high stakes....At times, the author seems more concerned with atmosphere than action, but fans will recognize his gift for making every gesture an expression of character and allow him to get away with it. The payoff is worth the wait. Furst has somehow discovered the perfect venue for uniting the European literary tragedy with the Anglo-American spy thriller. Nobody does it better." Kirkus Reviews
"With deft texturing and tight storytelling, Furst puts film producer Jean Casson into perilously exciting jams in German-occupied Paris....So complicated are Casson's problems, yet so clearly and cleverly constructed his extrications, that Furst never forces solutions, demonstrating that he wields that authentic literariness essential to the better espionage titles." Booklist
About the Author
Often compared to Graham Greene and Eric Ambler, Alan Furst is a master of the spy thriller and one of the great war novelists of our time. He is the author of Night Soldiers, Dark Star, The Polish Officer, The World at Night, and Kingdom of Shadows. He lives on Long Island, New York.
Alan Furst describes the area of his interest as “near history.” His novels are set between 1933–the date of Adolf Hitler’s ascent, with the first Stalinist purges in Moscow coming a year later–and 1945, which saw the end of the war in Europe. The history of this period is well documented. Furst uses books by journalists of the time, personal memoirs–some privately published–autobiographies (many of the prominent individuals of the period wrote them), war and political histories, and characteristic novels written during those years.
“But,” he says, “there is a lot more”–for example, period newsreels, magazines, and newspapers, as well as films and music, especially swing and jazz. “I buy old books,” Furst says, “and old maps, and I once bought, while living in Paris, the photo archive of a French stock house that served newspapers of Paris during the Occupation, all the prints marked as cleared by the German censorship.” In addition, Furst uses intelligence histories of the time, many of them by British writers.
Alan Furst has lived for long periods in Paris and in the south of France. “In Europe,” he says, “the past is still available. I remember a blue neon sign, in the Eleventh Arrondissement in Paris, that had possibly been there since the 1930s.” He recalls that on the French holiday le jour des morts (All Saints’ Day, November 1) it is customary for Parisians to go to the Père Lachaise Cemetery. “Before the collapse of Polish communism, the Polish émigrés used to gather at the tomb of Maria Walewska. They would burn rows of votive candles and play Chopin on a portable stereo. It was always raining on that day, and a dozen or so Poles would stand there, under black umbrellas, with the music playing, as a kind of silent protest against the communist regime. The spirit of this action was history alive–as though the entire past of that country, conquered again and again, was being brought back to life.”
The heroes of Alan Furst’s novels include a Bulgarian defector from the Soviet intelligence service, a foreign correspondent for Pravda, a Polish cartographer who works for the army general staff, a French producer of gangster films, and a Hungarian émigré who works with a diplomat at the Hungarian legation in Paris. “These are characters in novels,” Furst says, “but people like them existed; people like them were courageous people with ordinary lives and, when the moment came, they acted with bravery and determination. I simply make it possible for them to tell their stories.”