The World at Night (Jean Casson Series #1)

The World at Night (Jean Casson Series #1)

by Alan Furst

Paperback(Reprint)

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780375758584
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 01/08/2002
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 174,374
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.65(d)

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


From the Hardcover edition.

Hometown:

Sag Harbor, New York

Place of Birth:

New York, New York

Education:

B.A., Oberlin College

Read an Excerpt

10 May, 1940

Long before dawn, Wehrmacht commando units came out of the forest on the Belgian border, overran the frontier posts, and killed the customs officers. Glider troops set the forest ablaze, black smoke rolling over the canals and the spring fields. On some roads the bridges were down, but German combat engineers brought up pontoon spans, and by first light the tanks and armored cars were moving again. Heading southwest, to force the river Meuse, to conquer France.


In Paris, the film producer Jean Casson was sleep. His assistant, Gabrielle Vico, tried to wake him up by touching his cheek. They'd shared a bottle of champagne, made love all night, then fallen dead asleep just before dawn. "Are you awake?" she whispered.

"No," he said.

"The radio." she put a hand on his arm in a way that meant there was something wrong.

What? The radio broken? Would she wake him up for that? It had been left on all night, now it buzzed, overheated. He could just barely hear the voice of the announcer. No, not an announcer. Perhaps an engineer--somebody who happened to be at the station when news came in was reading it as best he could:

"The attack...from the Ardennes forest..."

A long silence.

"Into the Netherlands. And Belgium. By columns that reached back a hundred miles into Germany."

More silence. Casson could hear the teletype clattering away in the studio. He leaned close to the radio. The man reading the news tried to clear his throat discreetly. A paper rattled.

"Ah...the Foreign Ministry states the following..."

The teleprinter stopped. A moment of dead air. Then it started up again.

"It is the position of the government that that this agresssion is an intolerable violation of Belgian neutrality."

Gabriella and Casson stared at each other. They were hardly more than strangers. This was an office romance, something that had simmered and simmered, and then, one night. But the coming of the war turned out to be, somehow, intimate, like Christmas, and that was a surprise to both of them. Casson could see how pale she was. Would she cry? He really didn't know very much about her. Young, and slim, and Italian--well, Milanese. Long hair, long legs. What was she--twenty-six? Twenty-seven? He'd always though that she fitted into her life like a cat, never off balance. Now she'd been caught out--here it was war, and she was smelly and sticky, still half-drunk, with breath like a dragon.

"Okay?" He used le slang Americain.

She nodded that she was.

He put a hand on her neck. "You're like ice," he said.

"I'm scared."

He went looking for a cigarette, probing an empty packet of Gitanes on the night table. "I have some," she said, glad for something to do. She rolled off the bed and went into the living room. Merde, Casson said to himself. War was the last thing he needed. Hitler had taken Austria, Czechoslovakia, then Poland. France had declard war, but it meant nothing. Germany and France couldn't fight again, they'd just done that-- ten million dead, no much else accomplished. It was simply not, everybody agreed, logique.

Reading Group Guide

1. If you asked Jean Casson to define the word honor, what would he say? Which, if any, of the following would be included: Loyalty to friends? Loyalty to country? Loyalty in love? Loyalty to self?

2. After his meeting with Simic, in which he is first offered the chance to work for British intelligence, Casson thinks to himself, "You think you know how the world works, but you really don't. These people are the ones who know how it works.". How would you say Casson's understanding of the world has changed by the novel's conclusion? Has he become one of the people who know how the world "really works"?

3. To what extent is Casson culpable for the death of his friend Langlade?

4. During the early years of the German Occupation of France, a common question, which Langlade poses to Casson, was this: "If your barber cuts hair under the Occupation, does that make him a collaborator?" How would you respond? What would you have done in similar circumstances?

5. Alan Furst has said that his books are written from the point of view of the nation where the story takes place. Describe the French point of view as it appears in The World at Night.

6. Critics praise Furst's ability to re-create the atmosphere of World War II-era Europe. What elements 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. How do the notions of good and evil work in The World at Night? Would you prefer a confrontation between villian and hero? Describe Furst's use of realism in this regard.

Foreword

1. If you asked Jean Casson to define the word honor, what would he say? Which, if any, of the following would be included: Loyalty to friends? Loyalty to country? Loyalty in love? Loyalty to self?

2. After his meeting with Simic, in which he is first offered the chance to work for British intelligence, Casson thinks to himself, "You think you know how the world works, but you really don't. These people are the ones who know how it works.". How would you say Casson's understanding of the world has changed by the novel's conclusion? Has he become one of the people who know how the world "really works"?

3. To what extent is Casson culpable for the death of his friend Langlade?

4. During the early years of the German Occupation of France, a common question, which Langlade poses to Casson, was this: "If your barber cuts hair under the Occupation, does that make him a collaborator?" How would you respond? What would you have done in similar circumstances?

5. Alan Furst has said that his books are written from the point of view of the nation where the story takes place. Describe the French point of view as it appears in The World at Night.

6. Critics praise Furst's ability to re-create the atmosphere of World War II-era Europe. What elements 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. How do the notions of good and evil work in The World at Night? Would you prefer a confrontation between villian and hero? Describe Furst's use of realism in this regard.

Customer Reviews

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The World at Night (Jean Casson Series #1) 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 22 reviews.
Preserved-Killick More than 1 year ago
This is the forth of Furst's novels that I've read, and the best of them. Has a little bit of everything. I was stuck on the couch nursing a sore back, and I couldn' t have asked for a better companion.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Wonderful characters, spare prose, great settings... do not miss this one.
prenoun More than 1 year ago
Alan Furst's World War II espionage novels can sometimes read nothing like novels about spies. Instead they'll tell of a postcard from a lost friend, signed with an impersonal, intimate X. They'll contemplate the slow rolling of cigarettes at a Paris café, an untapped telephone under the bar, and former lovers pretending a kiss in order to escape unwanted attention. Jean-Claude Casson, hero of "The World at Night," is no James Bond, so when he is unlucky, we feel it sharply; when he loses, we lose at his side; and should Jean-Claude happen to find an occasional, small success, we understand how one can survive a war, and escape with dignity. Furst writes of passion and sacrifice and moments decided upon or missed with such sincerity that you might think all the world depended on the actions of a few unimportant men. As if that were possible. As if it didn't already occur. (Also posted at Gooreads.)
Bookworm1FG More than 1 year ago
Alan Furst gets first prize from me for his writing in this genre. Another page turner. Bookworm1FG
maggie1944 on LibraryThing 10 hours ago
Alan Furst's WW II novels do not fail to please me. Atmospheric, and steeped in the melancholy of ordinary people coping with the necessities of living in an environment of occupation by an alien nation. In this book, Mr. Furst does not dwell on the ugliness, just notes it, and moves on to explore how to work around it and just live your life. Many fine sketches of Paris in the 1930s and 1940s.
RichardWise on LibraryThing 10 hours ago
This is, perhaps, my favorite of Alan Furst's masterpieces of WWII fiction. It traces the story of Khristo Stoianev, a Bulgarian peasant, as fate shoves him from his remote village along the Danube to a KGB training camp in Moscow to revolutionary Spain and from there to Paris.His journey is the journey from Facism to Communism and finally to a sort of redemption. Along the way he finds himself fighting in all the major theaters of the European war and we see how it develops throug...more This is, perhaps, my favorite of Alan Furst's masterpieces of WWII fiction. It traces the story of Khristo Stoianev, a Bulgarian peasant, as fate shoves him from his remote village along the Danube to a KGB training camp in Moscow to revolutionary Spain and from there to Paris.His journey is the journey from Facism to Communism and finally to a sort of redemption. Along the way he finds himself fighting in all the major theaters of the European war and we see how it develops through his eyes.A must, must read for anyone interested in WWII.
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I like Spies in the Balkans this was not so good Poor character development the story was not there I did like the Paris backdrop and the desriptions of the food and libations
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Worst book I ever read not worth the money I paid for it would not recommend it