Friday, August 25, 2017
Ashenden or the British Agent
I just read Ashenden (also called The British Agent) by Somerset Maugham. I'd never read anything before by him, but I knew that he was considered a godfather of spy literature, so I had to try it out. I really enjoyed the book--it reads like a proto-LeCarre, with the antihero spy, the quiet, non-James Bond action, and the detailed reading of British class idiosyncracies. It's off-copyright now, so you can download it for free here. It is fascinating to see how much of World War One-era culture and espionage is similar to how we still do things today. It's from a hundred years ago, but the characters don't seem antiquated or old-timey at all. It's also a fun coincidence that lately I've been watching the Young Indiana Jones Chronicles with my sons, since much of the series depicts Indy's espionage escapades in the same war and the same era.