Thursday, December 23, 2004
This is a novel of World War II. It's a spy novel but not in the tradition of, say, James Bond. Instead, it tells the story of Khristo Stoianev who, in 1934, witnesses his brother being kicked to death by the local fascists in his home town of Vidin, Bulgaria. With the help of a friendly recruiter he makes his way out of Vidin and into the embrace of the NKVD, the Russian intelligence service. He is trained in Moscow and proves to be a natural at espionage. He becomes a Russian spy.
Furst commands a wealth of detail about Europe during the 1930's and early 1940's. His book immerses you in the social milieus he depicts, down to the fine-grained class distinctions, cultural temperaments, and ethnic tensions of these worlds...and the bitterness, cynicism and humor to which they give rise.