Dark Star

( 20 )

Overview

Paris, Moscow, Berlin, and Prague, 1937. In the back alleys of nighttime Europe, war is already under way. André Szara, survivor of the Polish pogroms and the Russian civil wars and a foreign correspondent for Pravda, is co-opted by the NKVD, the Soviet secret intelligence service, and becomes a full-time spymaster in Paris. As deputy director of a Paris network, Szara finds his own star rising when he recruits an agent in Berlin who can supply crucial information. Dark Star captures not only the intrigue and ...
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Overview

Paris, Moscow, Berlin, and Prague, 1937. In the back alleys of nighttime Europe, war is already under way. André Szara, survivor of the Polish pogroms and the Russian civil wars and a foreign correspondent for Pravda, is co-opted by the NKVD, the Soviet secret intelligence service, and becomes a full-time spymaster in Paris. As deputy director of a Paris network, Szara finds his own star rising when he recruits an agent in Berlin who can supply crucial information. Dark Star captures not only the intrigue and danger of clandestine life but the day-to-day reality of what Soviet operatives call special work.

The acclaimed author of Night Soldiers offers a dramatic and exciting spy thriller of Eastern Europe on the brink of World War II. In the back alleys and glittering salons of Europe, there is a thin line between survival and betrayal, as Soviet NKVD agents and the Nazi Gestapo confront each other in a brilliant duel of espionage. "Like watching Casablanca for the first time."--Time.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Praise for Alan Furst and Dark Star
“A rich, deeply moving novel of suspense that is equal parts espionage thriller, European history and love story.”
The New York Times

“Compelling...An excellent novel of history, betrayal and, most important, survival...While the story offers enough twists and turns to satisfy the most ardent spy fan, author Alan Furst transcends genre. This is a novel with heart.”
San Francisco Chronicle

“This is a rich book, to be savored...for it is a work of an accomplished writer without obtrusively saying so on every other page. Furst has the instincts of the historian—he likes to get his sequences right, he tells a story straight, and he believes that setting matters—and the gifts of the storyteller.”
The Boston Globe

“The time-frame of the late 1930s on the Continent was once the special property of Eric Ambler and Graham Greene; Furst has ventured into their fictional territory and brought out a story that is equally original and engaging.”
–Herbert Mitgang, The New York Times

Dark Star is as fine an evocation of prewar Europe as anything I’ve ever read. An extremely well written and literate novel that practically creates a new genre: historical espionage.”
–Nelson DeMille, author of The Gold Coast

“Outclasses any spy novel I have ever read.”
–Richard Condon, author of The Manchurian Candidate

“Captures the murky allegiances and moral ambiguity 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

“[Dark Star] explores the ambiguous moral ground familiar to readers of Graham Greene, Robert Stone, and le Carré. . . . Terrific stuff–poignant, moving, provocative.”
–Adam Woog, The Seattle Times

“Gripping . . . [Furst’s] details of the period . . . give the book a forceful–and sometimes terrifying–reality.”
–New York Newsday

“A page-churner of the best sort . . . Brilliant detail and sure sweep . . . Here is a thriller more deeply satisfying than much of the nonthrilling ‘serious fiction’ around today.”
Los Angeles Times Book Review

“One of the best spy novels I’ve read in years. . . . The novel is impeccably researched. It’s as much historical fiction as it is spy fiction, and the atmosphere of danger and doom it creates by means of deftly employed historical details is matched only by the vividness of its mostly fictional characters. Dark Star doesn’t merely evoke the period. Because of its engaging plot and appealing hero, it makes you live there, suffer there, and hope.”
–Alan Cheuse, All Things Considered

“Kafka, Dostoyevsky, and le Carré sit up all night and talk to each other and this is what you get. It is absolutely wonderful.”
Kirkus Reviews

“Intelligent, provocative, and gripping . . . Beautifully and compellingly told.”
Publishers Weekly

New York Times
A rich, deeply moving novel of suspense that is equal parts espionage thriller, European history, and love story. The time frame of the late 1920s on the Continent was once the special property of Eric Ambler and Graham Greene; Furst has ventured into their fictional territory and brought out a story that is equally original and engaging.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Furst ( Night Soldiers ) will make his mark with this intelligent, provocative and gripping novel. In 1933, Andre Szara, a highly regarded Polish-born foreign correspondent for Pravda , is asked to perform small espionage tasks by the NKVD. These assignments escalate, until Szara finds himself responsible for obtaining vital production figures from a German-Jewish industrialist who fabricates steel wire essential to airplanes. Inevitably, Szara's integrity as a journalist is also compromised. During this period of Stalinist purges, clearly and chillingly described by Furst, only unpredictability is certain. Szara senses the precariousness of his position, which is compounded by an urgent appeal from a wealthy Jewish Frenchman for Szara to honor his own Jewish heritage by trading his steel wire information to the British in exchange for desperately needed immigration certificates to mandated Palestine. Furst depicts the historical, geographic and political context in lucid and highly readable prose; his observation that Russia annexed Lithuania and Estonia while the world's attention was focused on France's struggle with Germany has an eerie timeliness. As darkness descends over Europe, Szara clings to life while simultaneously attempting to make some meaning of it. His story is not a pretty one; but it is beautifully and compellingly told. (Mar.)
Library Journal
This is an intriguing combination of spy story and historical novel. It is about a Pravda journalist forced to become a Soviet intelligence agent in the years immediately before World War II. It is also about a Europe being driven into war, not simply by supposedly irresistible social forces but by the genuinely evil men who manipulate and direct events. Seen in this way, Stalin is as responsible for the coming of war as Hitler, and Stalin's Russian purges signal the future deaths of millions in Central Europe. Agents in this novel are not just spies but metaphors for the actors, large and small, on the stage of history. Entertaining, exciting, and thought-provoking reading.-- Charles Mi chaud, Turner Free Lib., Randolph, Mass.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780375759994
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 7/9/2002
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 464
  • Sales rank: 138,835
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Alan Furst
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, and The World at Night. He lives in Sag Harbor, New York.

From the Hardcover edition.

Biography

Alan Furst may have the narrowest purview in literature. His books – which he calls historical espionage novels -- are all set in Europe between 1933 and 1945, and all are stories of World War II intrigue.

But that brief eight-year period in history has given Furst a rich amount of source material; although he had published a handful of earlier novels (now out of print, some of them fetch hundreds of dollars) Furst hit his stride with 1988’s Night Soldiers , his first book to concentrate on the decade that would forever change the world. Furst had found his niche. As Salon rhapsodized in a 2001 review, "...to talk about one of his books is to talk about them all. He is writing one large book in which each new entry adds a piece to the mosaic of Europe in the years leading up to the war, as created by a partisan of the senses."

Furst's books are grounded in their author’s extensive research of the period, and are written in an almost newsy prose broken occasionally by beautiful, lyrical passages describing, say, a Paris morning in the 1940s, or night at the Czechoslavakian-Hungarian border. History buffs will find much to love here; while the books are fiction, some of the details are factual. In Night Soldiers, for example, immigrants arriving at Ellis Island exchanged their clothing for new outfits; in reality, the American government often bought clothing from immigrants to use as costumes for its spies.

And while Furst’s novels are entertaining and, often, elegant, they are not easy reads: the books traverse through a wide swath of Europe (an important character itself in Furst’s fiction), and characters duck behind corners and sometimes stumble into the continent’s more remote regions (while not partying in Paris, that is). Though his male protagonists manage to find and sometimes lose lovers, Furst’s books are primarily concerned with the moral slipperiness involved in fighting off Hitler's advance, where even the best intentions could produce regrettable results.

Furst's books have grown leaner and tauter over the years, the result of a conscious effort "to say more by saying less." Notwithstanding this paring back, or perhaps because of it, the praise for his books only seems to multiply, and Furst’s writing has lost none of its veracity or suspense. Furst, who many critics consider literature’s best-kept secret, may not be a household name yet, but with such buzz, his low profile won’t last much longer.

Good To Know

Night Soldiers originated from a piece Furst wrote for Esquire in 1983. He was also a reporter for the International Herald Tribune and wrote a biography of cookie entrepeneur Debbie Fields.

Furst wrote in a 2002 essay, "For me, Anthony Powell is a religion. I read A Dance to the Music of Time every few years."

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    1. Hometown:
      Sag Harbor, New York
    1. Education:
      B.A., Oberlin College

Read an Excerpt

SILENCE IN PRAGUE

In the late autumn of 1937, in the steady beat of North Sea rain that comes with dawn in that season, the tramp freighter Nicaea stood at anchor off the Belgian city of Ostend. In the distance, a berthing tug made slow progress through the harbor swell, the rhythm of its engine distinct over the water, its amber running lights twin blurs in the darkness.

The Nicaea, 6,320 gross tonnes, of Maltese registry, had spent her first thirty years as a coastal steamer in the eastern Mediterranean, hauling every imaginable cargo from Latakia to Famagusta, back to Iskenderun, down to Beirut, north to Smyrna, then south to Sidon and Jaffa—thirty years of blistering summers and drizzling winters, trading and smuggling in equal proportion, occasionally enriching, more typically ruining, a succession of owner syndicates as she herself was slowly ruined by salt, rust, and a long line of engineers whose enthusiasm far exceeded their skill. Now, in her final years, she was chartered to Exportkhleb, the Soviet Union’s grain-trading bureau, and she creaked and groaned sorrowfully to lie at anchor in such cold, northern seas.

Riding low in the water, she bore her cargo gracelessly—principally Anatolian wheat bound for the Black Sea port of Odessa, a city that had not seen imported grains for more than a century. She carried, as well, several small consignments: flaxseed loaded in Istanbul, dried figs from Limassol, a steel drum of Ammonal—a mining explosive made of TNT and powdered aluminum—en route to a sabotage cell in Hamburg, a metal trunk of engineering blueprints for an Italian submarine torpedo, deftly copied at a naval research station in Brindisi, and two passengers: a senior Comintern official using a Dutch passport with the alias Van Doorn, and a foreign correspondent of the newspaper Pravda traveling under his true name, André Szara.

Szara, hands thrust deep in pockets, hair blown about by the offshore gale, stood in the shelter of a passageway and silently cursed the Belgian tug captain who, from the methodical chug of the engine, was taking his own sweet time attending to the Nicaea. Szara knew harbormen in this part of the world; stolid, reflective pipe smokers who were never far from the coffeepot and the evening paper. Unshakable in crisis, they spent the rest of their days making the world wait on their pleasure. Szara shifted his weight with the roll of the ship, turned his back to the wind, and lit a cigarette.

He had boarded the freighter nineteen days earlier, in Piraeus, having been assigned a story on the struggle of the Belgian dockworkers. That was one assignment; there was another. Killing time in a dockside tavern as the Nicaea was eased into moorage, he had been approached by the World’s Plainest Man. Where, he wondered, did they find them? Russia marked people: deformed most, made some exquisite, at the very least burned itself deep into the eyes. But not this one. His mother was water, his father a wall. “A small favor,” said the world’s plainest man. “You’ll have a fellow passenger, he is traveling on Comintern business. Perhaps you will find out where he is stopping in Ostend.”

“If I can,” Szara had said. The word if could not really be used between them, but Szara pretended it could be and the NKVD operative—or GRU or whatever he was—graciously conceded his right to suggest he had a choice in the matter. Szara, after all, was an important correspondent.

“Yes. If you can,” he’d said. Then added, “Leave us a little note at the desk of your hotel. To Monsieur Brun.”

Szara spelled it, to make sure he’d got it right. Defiance was over for the day.

“Just so,” said the man.

There was ample time to do the small favor; the Nicaea had been at sea for nineteen days, an eternity of icy, seawater showers, salt cod for dinner, and the smell of coal fumes from the freighter’s rusting stack as she butted through the October seas. Squinting through the darkness at the lights of the wallowing tug, Szara ached for something sweet, sugar after salt, a cream cake, rain in a pine forest, a woman’s perfume. He had, he thought, been too long at sea. An ironist, he heard the theatrical echo of the phrase and grinned privately. La mélancolie des paquebots—that said it better. He’d come across the phrase in Flaubert and it had stayed with him; it was all in those four words, the narrow cabin with a light bulb swaying on a cord, the seaweed reek of harbors, slanting rains, a column of black smoke from a funnel on the horizon.

The ship’s bell sounded once. Four-thirty. The tug’s amber lights grew brighter.

The Comintern man known as Van Doorn stepped from his cabin carrying a leather valise and joined Szara at the railing. He was swaddled in clothing like a child dressed for a winter day, woolen muffler crossed precisely at his throat, cap set low on his head, overcoat buttoned to the very top. “One hour, eh? And we’ll be down the gangplank. What is your view, André Aronovich?” Van Doorn was, as always, wryly deferential toward “the famous journalist Szara.”

“If the port officer makes no difficulties, I would agree,” Szara said.

“That will not happen. He is nasch.” The word meant ours, we own him, and the tone suggested Szara’s great fortune in having such iron-fisted types as Van Doorn to watch out for him “in the real world.”

“Well, then . . .” Szara said, acknowledging superior strength.

It happened that Szara knew who Van Doorn was; one of his friends in the Foreign Department of the NKVD had once pointed him out, with a sneer, at a party in Moscow. Szara’s NKVD friends were, like himself, Russified Polish Jews or Latvians, Ukrainians, Germans, all sorts, and typically intellectuals. They constituted his khvost—the word fell somewhere between clique and gang. Van Doorn, in fact Grigory Khelidze, was from a different crowd: Georgians, Armenians, Russified Greeks and Turks, a khvost with roots in the southeast corner of the empire led by Beria, Dekanozov, and Alexei Agayan. It was a smaller group than the Poles and Ukrainians but easily its equal in power. Stalin came from down there; they knew what he liked and how he thought.

From the tugboat’s silhouette, a high shape against the rain-softened glow of the city, a blinkered signal light began to operate. This was progress. Khelidze rubbed his hands to warm them up. “Not long now,” he said merrily. He gave Szara a lecher’s grin; in no time at all he’d be with his “perfect dumpling.”

Thank heaven for the dumpling, Szara thought. Without her he might never have managed the small favor. Khelidze wasn’t much to look at, a fattish man in his forties with pale hair worn well brushed and pomaded. His hands were small and chubby, endlessly fussing with a pair of silver-rimmed spectacles of which he was very proud. But he fancied himself a ladies’ man. “I envy you, André Aronovich,” he’d said one night when they were alone in the ship’s wardroom after dinner. “You move in exalted circles. The way it is with my job, well, the best I can hope for is the frau of some German shop steward, a big Inga with red hands, and then, likely as not, all a man gets is an extra potato and a stolen cuddle in the kitchen. Ah, but a man in your position—for you it’s professors’ daughters and lawyers’ wives; those hot, skinny bitches that can’t leave a journalist alone. Isn’t it so?”

Szara had brought vodka to the feast, also brandy. The vast, green ocean rolled beneath them, the Nicaea’s engines coughed and grumbled. Khelidze rested his elbows on the faded oilcloth and leaned forward in expectation, a man who wanted to hear every detail.

Szara obliged. His talent, set alight by alcohol, burned and flamed. A certain lady in, ah, Budapest. Gold earrings like a Gypsy—but no Gypsy, an aristocrat who affected British tweeds and wore a silk scarf, the color of a cloud, knotted at her throat. Hair dark red, like autumn, Magyar cheekbones, long, delicate fingers. Szara, a good storyteller, took his time. He cast about for a name, came up with Magda, thought it commonplace, but could do no better. Magda, then. The husband was a lout, ignorant, nas kulturny—a man of no culture who exported wool. So Szara had the wife. Where. In the stables? On straw? No, in the apartment, a cinq-à-sept affaire by lamplight. The husband was . . . hunting wild boar. Szara watched the level in the brandy bottle on the table. As it descended, so did the pants. And there, the most delicate little triangle, also dark red, like autumn. And fine blue veins beneath the milky skin. The green silk divan was ruined. Khelidze’s ears were scarlet. Later it came to Szara that he’d been describing his private musings on a particular secretary he sometimes encountered at the Yugoslav Ministry of Posts and Telegraph.

Khelidze was drunk. He polished his glasses with a handkerchief, his eyes watery and vague. Yes well, he said, one sometimes imagined. For himself, well it was all a matter of taste in this life wasn’t it. He had, in all confidence, “a perfect dumpling” in Ostend, resident at the Hotel Groenendaal in the street of the same name. “A fat little thing. They dress her up like a child, with a bow and a party dress of white satin. My God, André Aronovich, how we carry on! Such a grand little actress she is, pouting, sulking, tossing her curls about, whining for cookies and milk. But she can’t have them. No, definitely not! Because, well, there’s something she must do first. Oh no, she wails. Oh yes.” Khelidze sat back in his chair, put his glasses on, and sighed. “A marvel,” he said. “She’ll suck ten years off a man’s life.”

By the time they went singing off to bed, holding each other upright in the passageway that rolled with the motion of the ship, the dark surface of the sea was turning gray with dawn.

Szara’s hotel in Ostend was all flowers: on the wallpaper, heavy cabbage roses on a somber field; on the bedspread, a jungle of vines and geraniums; and in the park below his window, frostbitten asters, dusty purple and faded pink. And the place was called the Hotel Blommen. Ignore this stern, northern, Flemish light, here we have flowers. Szara stood at the window and listened to the foghorns from the harbor and the rattle of dead leaves as the wind swept them through the deserted park. He folded the note and creased it between thumb and index finger: “M. Van Doorn will be visiting the Hotel Groenendaal.” He put it in an envelope, licked and sealed it, and wrote “M. Brun” on the front. He didn’t know what it meant, why a journalist was asked to report on a Comintern operative. But there was a reason, a single reason that lately explained anything you wanted explained: the purge had shuddered to a halt in ’36, now another had begun. The first had taken politicians, Stalin’s opposition, and more than a few journalists. This one, it was said, had gone to work on the intelligence services themselves. Szara, beginning in 1934, had learned to live with it: he was careful what he wrote, what he said, who he saw. Not yet what he thought—not yet, he told himself now and then, as though it needed to be said. He took the note down to the reception desk and handed it to the old man behind the counter.

The knock on the door was discreet, two taps with a knuckle. Szara had fallen asleep, still wearing shirt and trousers, on top of the bedspread. He sat up and pulled the damp shirt away from his back. It was a gray dawn outside the window, fog hanging in the tree branches. He looked at his watch—a little after six. The polite knock came a second time and Szara felt his heart accelerate. A knock at the door meant too much, nobody did that in Moscow anymore, they phoned first. “Yes, a moment,” he said. Somewhere within, a small, urgent voice: out the window. He took a breath, staggered to his feet, and opened the door. It was the old man from the hotel desk, holding a coffee and a newspaper. Had he left a call to be woken up? No.

“Good morning, good morning,” said the old man tartly. It never really was, but one had to pretend. “Your friend was kind enough to leave you the newspaper,” he added, putting it at the foot of the bed.

Szara fumbled for change and handed over a few coins. Drachmas, he thought. He’d bought Belgian francs in Athens; where were they? But the old man seemed happy enough, thanked him and left. The coffee was cooler than he would have liked, the boiled milk a little sour, but he was grateful for it. The front page of the newspaper was devoted to anti-Jewish riots that had broken out in Danzig, with a photo of shouting, black-shirted Nazis. In Spain the Republican government, under pressure from Franco’s columns, had fled from Valencia to Barcelona. On page 6, the misfortunes of Ostend’s soccer team. Printed down the margin in pen, in a fine Cyrillic hand, were detailed instructions for a noon meeting. The “small favor” had started to grow.

Szara walked down the hall, locked the door of the bathroom, and started to wash. The instructions in the newspaper frightened him; he was afraid of being forced into a car and taken away. The purge sometimes worked like that—the security apparat worked quietly when it took public figures. Senior NKVD officers were called to meetings in small towns just outside Moscow, then arrested as they got off the train, a tactic that kept friends and family from trying to intervene. A foreign country, he reasoned, would be even more convenient. Should he run? Was now the time? There was a part of him that thought so. Go to the British consulate, it said. Fly for your life. Call the friends in Moscow who protect you. Buy a gun. Meanwhile, he shaved.

Then he sat in the park, where a nursemaid with a baby carriage flirted with him. Go with her, he told himself, hide in her bed. She will do anything you want. Perhaps it was true. He very well knew, at the age of forty, somewhat past illusion, what she saw. The longish black hair he combed back with his fingers, the tight line of the jaw, a concentration of personality in the eyes. These were hooded, knowing, of a gray-green sea color that women had more than once called “strange,” and often read as both expectant and sorrowful, like dogs eyes. His features were delicate, skin colorless, made to seem pallid by a permanent beard shadow. It was, taken altogether, a sad, attentive presence, anxious for happiness, certain of disappointment. He dressed the role of worldly intellectual, favoring soft clothing: thick gray cotton shirts, monochromatic ties in the somber tones of basic colors. He was, in the world’s mirror, a man you could take seriously, at least for a time. Then, later, there would be affection or intense dislike, a strong reaction whichever way it went.

The nursemaid, in a starched cap, plain, hand mindlessly rocking the carriage where some other woman’s baby slept, had no doubts at all. He need only rescue her, from boredom, servitude, chapped hands, and she would do whatever was necessary. Below a broad forehead her eyes were frank. Don’t be frightened. I can fix anything.

Just before ten-thirty he stood, pulled his raincoat tightly about him, and walked away. Glancing back, he easily read her expression: Then no? Stupid man.

A series of tram lines took him to a neighborhood of worker tenements, the narrow streets smelled like fish, urine, fried onions. The November day was cool in the shadow of the buildings. Was he fol- lowed? He thought not. They had something better, a kind of invisi- ble cable, the method the psychologist Pavlov used with laboratory animals. It was called—he had to look for the word—conditioning. His last day on earth, yet he did what he was told. His mind stood off and watched the scene: a man of intellect, independence, delivering himself to the apparat. Pitiful. Contemptible. Szara glanced at his watch. He didn’t want to be late.

At a small market he stopped and bought fruit, then paid a few sou extra for a paper bag. The market woman wore a shawl over her head; her glance was suspicious. What was he, a foreigner, doing in this part of the city? Szara walked another block, made sure nobody was watching, and left most of the fruit in an alley. He watched the street behind him in a shop window where wooden soldiers were for sale. Then he moved off again, entering a small square lined by plane trees cut back to rounded pollard shapes for the coming winter. A driver slept in a parked taxi, a man in bleu de travail sat on a bench and stared at his feet, the war memorial fountain was dry: the square at the end of the world. A small brasserie, Le Terminus, had no patrons on its glassed-in terrasse.

Szara, more and more now the critic of his own abduction, was struck by the normalcy of the scene. What a placid, ordinary place they’d chosen. Perhaps they liked the name of the brasserie, Le Terminus—the terminal, the end of the line. Was the choice ironic? Were they that clever? Perhaps Pavlov was not, after all, the day’s guiding spirit; perhaps that honor belonged to Chekhov, or Gorky. He searched for a terminal, for tram tracks, a railroad station, but there was nothing he could see.

Suddenly he was in a hurry. Whatever this was, he wanted it over and done with.

The interior of the brasserie was enormous and silent. Szara stood in the foyer as the door behind him bumped back and forth until it came to rest. Behind the zinc bar a man in a white shirt with cuffs turned back was aimlessly stirring a coffee, a few patrons sat quietly with a glass of beer, one or two were eating. Szara felt himself swept by intuition, a sense of loss, a conviction that this still life of a brasserie in Ostend was a frozen image of what had been and would now vanish forever: amber walls, marble tables, a wooden fan slowly turning on the smoke-darkened ceiling, a florid-faced man with a handlebar mustache who rattled his newspaper into place, the scrape of a chair on the tile floor, the cry of a seagull from the square, the sound of a ship’s horn from the harbor.

There was an old weather glass on one wall, beneath it sat a woman in a brown, belted raincoat with buttoned epaulets on the shoulders. She glanced at him, then went back to eating, a plate of eels and pommes frites; Szara could smell the horse fat the Belgians used for frying. A red wool scarf was looped over the top of an adjacent chair. The glass and the scarf were the recognition signals described in the margin of the newspaper.

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Reading Group Guide

1. The protagonist of Alan Furst’s Dark Star, Andre Szara, is a journalist for Pravda. Do you like the idea of a writer as a lead character? What might having a writer as the protagonist provide the story? What problems might it raise?

2. Consider Furst’s use of suspense in Dark Star. How does he build suspense? Discuss different methods he uses in the novel.

3. Discuss the theme of heroism in the novel. How does Szara define the word? How does his definition compare with the way other characters understand the word?

4. Dark Star deals with the inability of German Jews to escape Nazi Germany by immigrating to other countries. In what ways does the novel suggest a broader responsibility for the fate of German Jews? What questions must a country consider before it can accept immigrant refugees?

5. Discuss the characters of General Bloch, Lady Angela Hope, Roddy Fitzware, Renate Braun, and the diplomat Von Polanyi as representatives of national secret services. In what ways are they similar? Different? What can you extrapolate about the service agency for which each one works?

6. Critics praise Furst’s 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. Furst’s 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 you’ve 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 this 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 Furst’s 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 war in comfort? If not, why not?

10. Love affairs are always prominent in Furst’s novels, and “love in time of war” is a recurring theme. What role does the love affair play in Dark Star?

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Sort by: Showing all of 20 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 23, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Espionage at the beginning of WWII

    The hero, Andre Szara, is a Soviet journalist; the setting is Europe in 1938 and 1939. He is, naturally, Jewish, a survivor of Polish progroms and a fighter in the Russo-Polish war and World War 1. He initially only does an occasional task for the NKVD, but discovers some embarrassing evidence that Stalin was an agent for the Czarist secret police, and finds a connection to industry in Nazi Germany, and is absorbed into the apparat as a spymaster. Through contacts with Jewish financiers in France, and with an agent in the German foreign office service, he survives, acquiring a mistress and lover. The story moves well but there is one plot device that makes no sense - there is no internal logic for Szara to be in the Polish countryside when war starts. The characters are believable, the logic of the spy world is fascinating.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 5, 2012

    Hello?

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 17, 2013

    Alex

    Y1 seen spencer.... the girl?

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 17, 2013

    Ashley

    Hey

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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