National (In-)Security: Fifty Notable American Espionage Novels: 49-50.

 

Uris, Leon.  Topaz.  New York: McGraw Hill, 1967.

Leon Uris’s great subjects were the experience of combat in the Second World War, the post-war pursuit of war criminals, and the establishment of the Israeli state.  Topaz is set during the same general time period and treats many of the themes that recur throughout Uris’ work, but in its specific subject, it is somewhat atypical of that work.  It concerns the defection of a Soviet spy master to the C.I.A.  The defector reveals an extensive network of Soviet agents who have infiltrated the highest echelons of the French government and the French military-industrial complex.

The novel was an immediate bestseller because of Uris’ general reputation and because it seemed to present a very credible picture of how the intelligence services on both sides of the Iron Curtain were operating.  But the novel created a sensation, especially in France, when certain revelations about actual Soviet espionage operations in that country seemed to echo characters and other details of the novel.  This impression that the novel was a thinly disguised history of actual recent events was reinforced by the revelation that Uris was closely acquainted with one of the principle figures in the ensuing political scandal.  The relatively rapid adaptation of the novel to a highly regarded film directed by Alfred Hitchcock kept the novel and all of the issues surrounding it even longer in the spotlight.

 

Vonnegut, Kurt, Jr.  Mother Night.  Greenwich CT: Fawcett, 1961.

From the beginning of his long career, Kurt Vonnegut’s novels have defied classification, in large part because at the center of each novel is a synthesis of the conventions of several genres.  In his most enduring work, Slaughterhouse Five, he integrates the naturalistic combat novel with speculative fiction.  In Breakfast of Champions, he combines the celebrity expose with the doodle pad.  Although Vonnegut was initially classified with the meta-fictionists and the post-modernists such as William Gaddis, William S. Burroughs, John Barth, and Thomas Pynchon, his work is too accessible to sustain the comparison.  On the other hand, his work is more wildly improvisational in its conception than that of other inventively comic novelists such as Bruce Jay Friedman, and more formalistic than the work of extemporaneous novelists such as Richard Brautigan.

In Mother Night, he focuses on an American operative in Nazi Germany who hides behind the venomously anti-Semitic broadcasts he makes as a Nazi party member.  The novel forces its readers to consider at what point the harm caused by such a protective guise might outweigh the benefits of the intelligence that the operative is able to gather.

 

This is the end of this series of posts. The next, comparable series will be called “America Re-Imagined, in Retrospect,” and will treat U.S. novels about the  migration into and settlement of the American West by Europeans and their displacement of the Native Americans who had lived there.

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Previous Posts in This Series:

National (In-)Security: Fifty Notable American Espionage Novels: 1-3: https://academeblog.org/2014/05/30/national-in-security-fifty-notable-american-espionage-novels-1-3/

National (In-)Security: Fifty Notable American Espionage Novels: 4-5: https://academeblog.org/2014/05/31/national-in-security-fifty-notable-american-espionage-novels-4-5/

National (In-)Security: Fifty Notable American Espionage Novels: 6-7: https://academeblog.org/2014/06/01/national-in-security-fifty-notable-american-espionage-novels-6-7/

National (In-)Security: Fifty Notable American Espionage Novels: 8-10: https://academeblog.org/2014/06/04/national-in-security-fifty-notable-american-espionage-novels-8-10/

National (In-)Security: Fifty Notable American Espionage Novels: 11-13: https://academeblog.org/2014/06/06/national-in-security-fifty-notable-american-espionage-novels-11-13/

National (In-)Security: Fifty Notable American Espionage Novels: 14-16: https://academeblog.org/2014/06/11/national-in-security-fifty-notable-american-espionage-novels-14-16/

National (In-)Security: Fifty Notable American Espionage Novels: 17-19: https://academeblog.org/2014/06/18/national-in-security-fifty-notable-american-espionage-novels-17-19/

National (In-)Security: Fifty Notable American Espionage Novels: 20-22: https://academeblog.org/2014/06/25/national-in-security-fifty-notable-american-espionage-novels-20-22/

National (In-)Security: Fifty Notable American Espionage Novels: 23-25: https://academeblog.org/2014/07/07/national-in-security-fifty-notable-american-espionage-novels-23-25/

National (In-)Security: Fifty Notable American Espionage Novels: 26-29: https://academeblog.org/2014/07/11/national-in-security-fifty-notable-american-espionage-novels-26-29/

National (In-)Security: Fifty Notable American Espionage Novels: 30-32: https://academeblog.org/2014/07/23/national-in-security-fifty-notable-american-espionage-novels-30-32/

National (In-)Security: Fifty Notable American Espionage Novels: 33: https://academeblog.org/2014/07/29/national-in-security-fifty-notable-american-espionage-novels-33/

National (In-)Security: Fifty Notable American Espionage Novels: 34-36: https://academeblog.org/2014/08/10/national-in-security-fifty-notable-american-espionage-novels-34-36/

National (In-)Security: Fifty Notable American Espionage Novels: 37-39: https://academeblog.org/2014/08/15/national-in-security-fifty-notable-american-espionage-novels-37-39/

National (In-)Security: Fifty Notable American Espionage Novels: 40-42: https://academeblog.org/2014/08/21/national-in-security-fifty-notable-american-espionage-novels-40-42/

National (In-)Security: Fifty Notable American Espionage Novels: 43-45: https://academeblog.org/2014/08/23/national-in-security-fifty-notable-american-espionage-novels-43-45/

National (In-)Security: Fifty Notable American Espionage Novels: 46-48: https://academeblog.org/2014/08/26/national-in-security-fifty-notable-american-espionage-novels-46-48/

 

33 thoughts on “National (In-)Security: Fifty Notable American Espionage Novels: 49-50.

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