Ronald J. Ambrosetti

A Dissertation

Submitted to the Graduate School of Bowling Green State University In partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of


August 1973 11


The literature of has roots which can be traced as far back as tales in the Old Test­ ament. However, and the spy genre remained waiting in the wings of the popular stage until well into the twentieth century before finally attracting a wide audience.

This dissertation analyzed the spy genre as it reflected the era of the . The Damoclean Sword of the mid-twentieth century was truly the bleak vision of a world devastated by nuclear pro­ liferation. Both Western and Communist "blocs" strove lustily in the pursuit of the ultimate push-button weapons. What passed as a balance of power, which allegedly forged a détente in the hostilities, was in effect a reign of a balance of terror. For every technological advance on one side, the other side countered. And into this complex arena of transis­ tors and rocket fuels strode the secret agent. Just as the detective was able to calculate the design of a clock-work universe, the spy, armed with the modern gadgetry of espionage and clothed in the accoutrements of the organization man as , challenged a world of conflicting organizations, ideologies and technologies.

On a microcosmic scale of literary criticism, this study traced the spy genre’s accurate reflection of the macrocosmic pattern of Northrop Frye’s continuum of fictional modes: the initial force of verisimili­ tude was generated by Eric Ambler’s early realism; the movement toward in the technological of ; the tragic high-mimesis of John Le Carre' and the subsequent devolution to low-mimesis in the spoof; and the final return to myth in religious affir­ mation and symbolism. This study concluded that the final accomplishment of the recent recrudescence of the spy genre lay in its narrowing of the traditional hiatus between "elitist" and popular literature. The achievement of the spy novel combined the traditions of popular formula and classical mimesis and myth. Ill


SPY LITERATURE IN THE TWENTIETH CENTURY: 1900 to 1935...... 12 The Enthusiasts andt he Disclaimers . . . .15 ...... 22

John Buchan...... «27 W. Somerset Maugham...... 32 ...... 37







Figure Page

1--The Rise and Pall of the Spy Genre...... 11 (



The spy genre is spawned by an organization-society.

The secret agent is the individual maneuvered by large,

corporate entities. The spy novel represents the death of

the hero in realistic popular fiction--the superman who

rises up in time of dire distress and saves his race and its destiny. The Aeneid and The Iliad and The Odyssey are

tales of supermen who by individual heroics perform sweep­

ing acts of salvation and destruction. The secret agent, however, must fight for his integrity as a virile savior and literary superstar. The organization (it makes no dif­ ference whose) is both protagonist and always antagonist-- whether it be SMERSH or THRUSH or some other nameless, face­ less, acronymic entity of malice. The recent formula in « popular spy genre tales pits the individual agent against some overpowering organization, and the end result--even when the mission is successful--is almost always a compro­ mised for the spy/individual. The secret agent is now a neurotic, humanized, and multi-dimensional hero with reluctance. Even , the most famous of spies, ends at this stage. The organization man as hero has been divested of his literary legacy of rebellion and the ability to say "nay in thunder." The spy is the conformist, sometimes and somewhat 1 2

reluctant, but nevertheless a stalwart pillar of the system.

Once again James Bond, a seeming Prometheus, is in actuality a Prometheus in a gray flannel suit with sleek briefcase.

The secret agent is a proponent of the organized system, and

this new type of heroism cramps the classic style of the hero

of tradition. Nevertheless, the organization man as hero is a viable hero of contemporary society. The organization has pre­

empted the former human roles of good guys and bad guys— both are now an organization. And the secret agent hero is merely an extension of the "good" organization, or at least what we think is the good system. The classic spy novel al­ ways exudes this aura of doubt and ambiguity. Not only have humans been replaced, but the former values also: the knowl­ edge of good and evil has also been lost. In a good spy tale,

It is difficult for both the protagonist and the reader to differentiate between good and evil. The tale of espionage is a suitable semblance of a modern world of complex and kaleidoscopic sets of values, where the distinct lines between good and evil have paled. The spy is also a man with a gun, and the genre further fosters the cult of "holy violence." The best spy novels have been British in origin, but the American reading audience really popularized the genre. The spy genre fulfilled a need for a purifying violence during the Cold War, an era of sup­ pressed hostility. The spy novel, it can be categorically stated, is a child of the Cold War. The spy novel flourished 3 between the years of 195U~1965, between the "hot wars" in

Korea and Viet Nam. With the release of actual violence in

Viet Nam, the spy novel phased into what has been a steady period of decline. There seems to be a direct correspond­ ence between periods of overt hostility and the partiality of the American reading public. This era has also been the age of "personnel manage­ ment." Authors such as Peter Drucker, Douglas McGregor,

Frederick Herzberg, Rensis Likert, and Abraham Maslow have published volumes on "organization behavior."3 The Organiz­ ation Man by W. Whyte is a popular version of these studies.

These management analysts dissect the attitudes and motives of the individual man who thrives in a conglomerate environ­ ment. These manuals pose as a gauge of the soul, or lack of soul, in the "mass man." And he, the organization man, is held up and exalted as the highest stage in the advancement of the species. Such attitudes undoubtedly have helped shape the spy genre, for the spy sacrifices himself and his indiv­ iduality, since the organization is the destiny of man, or so our contemporary society would have us believe.

•’■Peter Drucker, The Practice of Management (New York: Harper and Row, 195U)> The Age of Discontinuity (New York: Harper and Row, 1969), et alia; Douglas McGregor, The Human Side of Enterprise (New York: McGraw-Hill, I960), et alia; Frederick Herzberg, Work and the Nature of Man (Cleveland: World Publishing, 1966)f Rensis Likert, The Human Organiz­ ation (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1967); and Abraham Maslow, Toward a Psychology of Being (Princeton, N.J.: Van Nostrand, 1962)'. ^William H. Whyte, The Organization Man (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1956). u

Some critical insights into the organization man as

hero are offered by Whyte’s The Organization Man in a chapter

titled "The Organization Man in Fiction."3 Whyte’s central

observation concerning this new popular literature is the

presentation of the lack of a hero of tradition; or, if the hero does exist, the theme of consonance in the universe por­ trayed, a microcosm of smiling faces where everyone loves his boss, the system prevails, and two cars in every suburban garage. "Since 1900, to recapitulate, the vision of life presented in popular fare has been one in which conflict has slowly been giving way to adjustment."U That is, the pro­ tagonist now politely and graciously backs away from any type of rebellion, and more readily accepts the status quo. Whyte discusses The Caine Mutiny to prove his case, and also cites random fiction from contemporary slick magazines. "High

Noon" is also, quite interestingly, viewed as a morality play and a dramatization of the failure of the sense of community,

The American sheriff sincerely tries to avoid confrontation; but he is sheriff, and accepts the role imposed on him by the system. Quite clearly, however, the need for the individual hero is still necessary for the perpetuation of the system— and the spy novel has assumed this same posture. William Whyte seems to further indicate that the "hero of assent" is a quite recent (since 1900) involution of the hero of tradition. The hero, however, has been wrestling

3Ibid., pp. 2U3-67. Ulbid., p. 255 5

with overpowering "systems" and "organizations" for some

time. The system has been, by osmosis or perhaps evolution of the species, gradually and unobtrusively taking over the

lives of individuals. This is history, and perhaps re­

flective of the course of Western civilization. But even the earliest of our Western predecessors were aware of this mighty struggle between the hero and the organization. The

Greeks had at least two dramatizations of this conflict in the stories of Prometheus and Antigone. In that ancient con­

text, the "organization" was the laws of the gods and the

city-state. Both Prometheus and Antigone suffered retri­ bution for challenging the system and for following that peculiar inner voice which makes martyrs and heroes of mortal men. It is no accident that in the nineteenth century, Percy Bysshe Shelley rewrote the story of Prometheus Unbound from his ancient trammels. It was the mechanistic age, when man was indeed threatened by large systems, and Shelley sensed the need for a re-telling of the defiant individual. Nowhere does Shelley’s ringing faith in man’s future achieve more powerful expression. His central message in the play is one of defiance: only by the unyielding and courageous defiance of Power, a defiance combined with the of love, virtue and wisdom, can man conquer the old order of despotism and exploitation. This is Shelley’s Prometheus--tempered and less hostile, more willing to accept his limited role in the uni­ verse. Shelley’s radicalism favored a pamphlet warfare rather 6

than overt hostilities. The Prometheus of Aeschylus stands

somewhat compromised in the age of the Industrial Revolution.

Even Hamlet is more of an organization man than reck­ less rebel. In the last act of the play, Hamlet accepts his

world and we discover a different man. Whether it be termed

a sense of fatalism or open resignation, the point is that Hamlet has learned at that point, and accepted, the bound­ aries in which human action, human judgement, are enclosed.

At the final lowering of the curtain, Hamlet is dead, a new king is appointed, and the system perpetuates itself. Ham­ let's final role enunciates a testament of acceptance—the

hero has become a proponent of the organization. The system

itself is the deus ex machina which assures the rest of us

that life will go on as usual.

And in the field of American letters, another nineteenth-

century tale provides one of the famous portrayals of non­ heroic acceptance In the form of Melville’s Billy Budd. The

Handsome Sailor is perhaps the apotheosis of the organization man as hero. Unlike so many of his protagonist predecessors in the Melville canon, Billy Budd accepts his fate, almost cheerfully, and never dares to think of escape or open rebel­ lion. Billy’s act of acceptance is final and unequivocal, but perhaps his is not the real act of compromise in this short novel. Captain the Honorable Edward Fairfax Vere stands as the real organization man in the tale. At stake is something even more precious than his life, his soul. Captain Vere’s decision causes Billy Budd to lose his life, but Vere (and 7

his name is ironic here) knows that he stands to lose his soul

in such a terrible moral compromise. The same system with its inequity of law which demands the life of Billy Budd, de­ mands the soul and wracked conscience of its proponent—and

Captain Vere knows the consequences. In short, Captain Vere

is that compromised individual whose diminutive stature pre­ figures the organization man as hero in the twentieth century.

In many ways, the secret agent has much in common with Mel­ ville’s British officer; but the classic spy novel goes one step further when the disaffected spy attempts to rectify his compromise, or tries "to come in from the cold." Throughout this section, the term "classic spy novel" has been used with some freedom. Obviously a distinction is being made; and secondarily, it is averred that not all spy stories fall in this "classic" category. First of all, a classic tale of espionage is one of utter seriousness, occurs during the Cold War (thus includes all the post-Hiroshima angst of the nuclear age), and most importantly attempts to render knowledge of good and evil. The classic tale poses a moral dilemma, and in the process endeavors an epistemological consideration of the nature of good and evil. Almost always, the solution is that good/evil is in the eye of the beholder— a phenomenological answer which plays the appearance/reality game. The "other" category of spy stories consists in what may be termed the "epical." The story revolves around plot and action, and the hero may be of epic proportions and mytho­ 8

logical stature. One beauty of the life of is that

it is devoid of the moral dilerama--it is free from the con­ sideration of good and evil. This type tale is, of course, the often attributed "escape mechanism" of popular fare; but it nevertheless is popular, and must answer to certain queries. Much of this epical spy genre is interesting for its recrudescent folklore and mythology. James Bond becomes a genuine hero of tradition, fully drenched in several mil- lenia of folk and mythological heroic traditions. In the final analysis, the spy genre--whether a tale of existential angst or story of sex, violence, and re­ furbished folklore — is a viable form of contemporary art and popular culture. In Its embryonic microcosm, the tale of espionage reveals a modern world replete with betrayal. And the explanation must be given why a generation of readers chose such a literary paradigm of their contemporary ambience

Figure 1 represents the vicissitudes of interest, as manifested by the popular reading audience, in the spy genre. Those articles represented in the chart were largely non-aca­ demic by nature, and appeared in popular magazines as opposed to professional journals. As such, this chart faithfully mir rors the rise and fall of the modern spy genre tale of es­ pionage, and accurately concurs in this writer's opinion that the recent recrudescence of this genre was primarily spawned by that phenomenon of the Fifties known as the Cold War. According to this survey, the zenith of attention that focused on the spy story occurred between 195^- and 1965—the 9

period, interestingly enough, between two "hot wars" in Korea and Viet Nam. The tale of espionage was born of the

isolationist disillusion and mistrust which grew out of

Korea, and the betrayal which marked the Cold War epoch.

It was also an era of suppressed violence. Americans were refused the role of playing vicarious savior at least twice, in Hungary in 1956 and the Bay of Pigs in 1962. The "holy violence" of the cowboy and detective were to remain on the silver screen only; and in international affairs the spy found a new domain in the literary renaissance of his genre.

When Lyndon B. Johnson sent massive troop support to

Southeast Asia in 1965, the long-pent violence was finally unleashed. The vicarious experience was no longer needed, and the chart again faithfully reports the decline of the international savior in literature. Ian Fleming’s death in late 1961p also had some influence, to be sure.

Perhaps a requiem for the spy tale may be a bit prema­ ture. After all, literary resurrections have occurred be­ fore. One thing is certain, if the spy does not return, the popular reading audience will produce yet another man with a gun, along with the legacy of violence. 10

Figure 1. The Rise and Fall of the Spy Genre: as

indicated by the number of reviews in popular magazines and journals. 70



Uo LJ. TO C a> h- 30



SOURCE: Survey of periodicals and bibliographies, conducted by this author, Feb.1972. CHAPTER II


The formulaic tradition is at least as old as The Iliad

and The Odyssey, and is classically typified in all of the

refinements of the epic conventions. The concept of the form­

ula, however, seems to transcend all eras and genres, and rather appears to be a hallmark of popular culture and liter­

ature. The literary formula is more than just a code of con­ ventions or disembodied parameters: the formula has to do with the story told. The formula somehow tells the same story

over and over again, without the popular audience tiring of it. There resides a power, almost supernatural, in the rep­ etition of both the form and matter of a formulaic tradition.

In the form exist the outward conventions, and in the matter reposes the same story of good triumphing over evil—the par­ ticularly relevant fictionalizing of the values and mores presented. The western, for example, adheres much more strin­ gently to a formula than does the Victorian novel. In recent years, the formulaic tradition has proffered the popular reading audiences the Indian-captivity narrative, the cowboy western, story, and the tale of de­ tection. The most recent manifestation of the formulaic tra­ dition is the tale of espionage--the spy genre. The spy genre

3«John Cawelti, The Six-Cun Mystique (Bowling Green, Ohio: Bowling Green Popular Press, 1970).

12 13

contains various types of spy stories and tales of espionage,

and certain periods within the genre can be delineated. These

categories are best described in a chronological and evolu­ tionary progression, and certain definitions need explanation. The spy genre may be charted in the following definitive, gen­

eric headings:

1. The "hot war" spy story—This particular form of the

spy story derives its title from the "Teutoniphobia" of World

War I, and the purpose of the secret agent is to steal docu­ ments and gain information which will win a war. This is an inverted role of the later peacetime agent whose function Is

to prevent war. The "hot war" tale of espionage was best rep­ resented in the voluminous works of John Buchan. In his The

Thirty-Nine Steps (1915) and Greenmantie (1916), the war is actually being conducted, and Richard Hannay works toward the defeat of the Germans on the battlefield--which is presented at the conclusion of Greenmantie. Somerset Maugham’s memoirs in Ashenden (1927) also belong to this category. The problem with this form of the spy story is its strong martial overtones, where the scene is always shifting to a battlefield and too much reference is made to "the war." Iron­ ically, the best spy tales belong to peacetime eras. A secret agent is at his best when he is on a mission to prevent a war. 2. The spy/detective story--This kind of spy story is in reality a permutation of the detective story. It is a tale of detection in which the characters only happen to be secret agents, or the antagonists turn out to be foreign agents. u

Eric Ambler’s A Coffin for Dimitrios (1937) is an example of

the detective process which tracks a picarro who turns out

to be an international spy. Mickey Spillane’s novels have

recently made this transition. Spillane retired Mike Hammer

and gave birth to Tiger Mann, a secret agent. Tiger Mann, however, is Mike Hammer reborn into the world of espionage—

still the detective. The chief problem with the spy/detective story is that

it utilizes espionage only for plot purpose, and fails to

truly develop the spy genre. It belongs more properly to the genus of detective stories. 3. The "cold war" spy story—This is the classic spy

story and represents the apex of the genre’s development.

The "cold 'war" spy story grew out the isolationism and inter­ national Cold War of the 1950’s and early 60’s. This formula depicts the peacetime secret agent in his function to prevent the final disaster--total global destruction through nuclear proliferation. The pessimism of the age of angst seeps into this tale, and tinges of existentialism are evident. John LeGarre', Leon Uris, and Len Deighton portrayed their charac­ ters within the framework of realistic novels drawn from act­ ual historical events. The final revelation of this classic spy novel form is also the cause of the decline of the genre, and that is, that espionage organizations exist to cancel each other out--no victory for anyone. A residual nihilism is all that remains--the absurdity of it all. Prom this ab­ surd reaction is born the spoof, and the spy spoof brings the 15

death of an art form. The absurdity of the matter induces

the absurdity of form—and the whole serious art form col­

lapses of its own laughable weight. The television series, _I Spy, underwent this same transformation, and also collapsed

because the nihilism was unpalatable to the popcorn-munching

aud ience. Ip. The science-fiction fantasy—Ian Fleming solely com­ mands this category. James Bond embodies the multivalent

links of , fantasy, and mythology in the de­

velopment of the spy genre. sees parallel de­ velopment in both genres of the spy tale and science fiction, and the whole fascination with gimmickry represents an in­ trusion by science fiction into the spy genre.And there is

also the potent undercurrent of folk and classic mythology--

all to be dealt with in the chapter on Ian Fleming. He is

sui generis in the development of the genre.

5. The spoof--the death of the spy genre. The absurdity of form deals a death blow to the popular art form.

The Enthusiasts and The Disclaimers Despite its existence from the beginning of the twentieth century, the literature of espionage did not attract serious attention until the 1960’s. This somewhat belated recognition is probably due to several notable factors: (1) the Cold War of the fifties gave social significance and global importance

^Kingsley Amis, The James Bond Dossier (New York: NAL, 1965), pp. 133-37. 16

to the fact of espionage--spying became important in order to preserve a balance of power between nuclear-capable na­ tions; and (2) President John Kennedy’s public endorsement of Ian Fleming provided an impetus to the American reading audience. This sudden popularity is particularly interest­ ing because Ian Fleming had been writing the James Bond series since 1953» but his sudden surge of success came after his American popularization. In a sense, the American read­ ing audience is responsible for the rise of the spy genre, even though the spy thriller has unaccountably been a British institution. The American film industry has contributed im­ measurably to the widespread enjoyment of the spy thriller.

In I960, Ian Fleming and James Bond were virtually incognito; and yet by the spring of 1966, one hundred million movie tickets had been purchased for Bond films, and forty-five million copies of the books were sold.3 it has been the Amer can popular art audience which made Ian Fleming, and in turn proliferated the enormous acceptance and recognition of a lit erary genre waiting in the wings for over fifty years. The literature of espionage belongs almost exclusively to the twentieth century. At least, it remained until after 1900 for the genre to achieve both a wide reading audience and a popular art form. The pedigreed line of spy stories had its true genesis in 1903, with the publication of Erskine Childers’ The Riddle

^Ann Boyd, The Devil with James Bond (Richmond, Va. : John Knox Press, 1967), p. 26. 17 of the Sands. At almost the same time, Joseph Conrad was also writing novels of international intrigue and espionage.

Conrad published in 190U, The Secret Agent in 1907, and Under Western Eyes in 1911. Conrad’s typically percep­ tive and deeply psychological treatment of espionage has per­ sisted in various strains through today.

In 1915, John Buchan published The Thirty-Nine Steps, the now classic espionage story of the First World War.

Buchan continued his serial treatment of the adventures of Richard Hannay with some thirty-odd novels and short stories, but unfortunately Hannay now comes across as a glorified Boy

Scout and the plots carry little more ingenuity than the Hardy ’ fare of and circumstance. Buchan and Han­ nay have, however, seen many reprintings for The Thirty-Nine

Steps (1915), Greenmantle (1916), and Mr. Standfast (1919). All three novels (along with the agent-protagonist) were con­ siderably more successful than the contemporary sortie by

Arthur Conan Doyle and Sherlock Holmes into the world of international intrigue. The great detective was too old and tired for the strenuous games of espionage, and he mercifully retired to his bees and opiate dreams. In the late 1930’s, Eric Ambler developed a new tale of espionage, and impregnated it with all the seriousness of its present form. So contemporary, in fact, is Ambler’s formula that he has had a best-seller as recent as June, 1972. Graham

Greene followed shortly thereafter, and he will be analyzed in more detail later in this chapter. 18

The latter half of the 19ip0's precipitated the Cold War generation, and the eventual art form was the classic, formu­ laic spy genre: John LeCarre', Ian Fleming, Kingsley Amis,

Anthony Burgess and a varied panoply of capable writers who produced one or two pieces of fiction. The Cold War fiction culminated in this particular form of literature, and a study of these writers provides the main substance of this essay.

Before assigning all of the modernity of thought and sophistication of technique to the twentieth century, however, a few comments should be directed to two classic American writers who made significant forays into the spy genre in the nineteenth century. published The Spy in 1821; and Henry James brought out the tale of internation­ al assassination in 1886 in The Princess Casamassima. The publication of The Spy in 1821, his second effort, brought James Fenimore Cooper the recognition he had initially sought with . The Spy has the American Revolution for its setting, and the ambiguities that pervade the novel accurately prefigure the same central conflict between Judge Temple and in , his next novel of two years’ interval.^- Just as the forest and open land in

The Pioneers suggest a complex moral issue of property versus principle, the "neutral ground" in The Spy poses similar choices. The British family, the Whartons, must choose be­ tween American principles of freedom and their vested wealth

^Donald A. Ringe, James Fenimore Cooper (New Haven, Conn.: College and University Press, 19&2), p. 28. 19

In British property. The elder Wharton opts for property,

and later nearly loses all, Harvey Birch, the , is "the best example of positive value in the book."^ He

covets no personal gain from the war, and wins not even rec­

ognition and prestige because of his concealed identity. The

disparity between appearance and reality is an ingredient of the modern spy tale which Cooper mastered early in this nine­

teenth-century tale. Whereover the reader turns, the appear­ ance of things is deceptive, and further layers of reality are unearthed. The Whartons conceal a corrupt reality be­

neath the appearance of virtue; while the spy must conceal

his virtue beneath an apparent corruption, and lives reviled

and distrusted by all. Behold all the thematic elements of

a Le Carre novel--in 1821. The concept of the immoral "neu­

tral" zone will also reappear in Anthony Burgess’ Tremor of Intent (1966). The other nineteenth-century prototype is Henry James’ The Princess Casamassima, published in 1886. James himself blamed this novel as partly responsible for his failing pop­ ularity in the late 1880’s.^ In 1888, James wrote to his friend, William Dean Howells, that he had feared that his own reputation had suffered because of his last two novels--The Bostonians and The Princess Casamassima.7 The perspicacity

^Ibid., p. 31.

^Lionel Trilling, "The Princess Casamassima," The Liberal Imagination (New York: Doubleday, 19U°)» P< ¿5.

7lbid. 20

of time and distance may now indicate that James’ assertion was correct; but only because The Princess Casamassima was too advanced for its own day. The Princess Casamassima is a novel of international intrigue, political assassination, and foreign espionage. The central character, Hyacinth

Robinson, is the agent provocateur who is analyzed in the usual Jamesian technique of psychological motives. The sub­ motifs of a theory of art and the workings of guilt in the human psyche, once again, manifest integral elements of the modern tale of espionage. The Princess Casamassima may well be awaiting a literary resurrection when considered as the most significant precursor of the modern spy novel. James’ technique and thematic considerations were paralleled quite closely by the efforts of Joseph Conrad in the following generation, and a direct line of descendence seems to flow from James, to Conrad, to Le Carre'. Henry James Includes the theme of universal betrayal in The Princess Casamassima— a theme of contemporary import--but his central conflict is, mor significantly, the mutual exclusion of two life-styles: the life devotion to art and the pragmatic life devoted to civic action. Hyacinth Robinson is torn between the two.

He possesses all the sensitivity of the artist, with that special world-view of a life devoted to the arts; yet Robinson is voluntarily commissioned to commit the crime of political assassination. It is a suicidal mission, and Hyacinth Robin­ son in full awareness pledges himself to death. Lionel Tril­ ling has most aptly characterized this forerunner of the 21

modern spy:

Hyacinth’s death, then, is not his way of escaping from irresolution. It is truly a sacri­ fice, an act of heroism. He is a hero of civil­ ization because he dares do more than civilization does: embodying two ideals at once, he takes upon himself, in full consciousness, the guilt of each. He acknowledges both his parents. By his death he Instructs us in the nature of civilized life and by his consciousness he transcends it.°

The two ideals are the beauty of art and the equality of a good, concerned government. But the respective guilts are

there, also. The impracticality of the life of art cannot be reckoned with; and the setting right of social ills and government must somehow always lead to anarchy, violence, and murder. It is the classic dilemma once faced by Prome­ theus, Antigone, Hamlet, and Faust, each in his own special set of circumstances. It is also the dilemma of the Cold

War spy who retains a certain reservoir of humanity, and who seeks to "come in from the cold." But there is no entrance, just as for Sartre there was "no exit." The dilemma demands a moral choice, and neither alternative offers a respite, or anentrance back into that normal life of hearth, , wife, and attainable felicities. Trilling’s description of Hyacinth Robinson is a remarkable character study of Le Carre'’s Alec Leamas, and a multitude of other modern spies disillusioned with the world. Henry James quite unwittingly had struck upon a successful formula; but in 1888, it was much too pre­ mature to ever know.

8Ibid., p. 90. 22

Joseph Conrad The second effort at writing a modern spy novel (i.e., after 1900) was made by an established British writer fifty years of age and in his thirteenth year as a published author. Therefore, in the year 1907, Joseph Conrad knew well that his reading of the political pulse of Europe was accurate when he produced a novel of international intrigue and espionage in

The Secret Agent. In an essay on the evolution of the modern spy story, Eric Ambler has stated that: "The Secret Agent is one of Conrad’s acknowledged masterpieces, and it is difficult to discuss other spy stories of that period in the same breath."9

Conrad also published Nostromo in 190i|., and completed Under

Western Eyes by 1911; but the subject of these two novels con­ cerns a broader range of political Intrigue and social anarch­ ism. The Secret Agent also contains a study of these latter socially relevant topics, but the main protagonist, . Verloc, also happens to be a British subject who is an agent provoca­ teur in the employ of the Russian Embassy. This trilogy of

Conrad’s closely parallels his writing of this period to the later fiction of Henry James and the Dostoevskian tradition in Russian fiction. In his now famous Introduction to Under Western Eyes, first written in 1951, Morton Dauwen Zabe.l not only produced a classic essay on Conrad but also emerged as one of the first spokesman of the spy genre. Zabel commented on Conrad’s links

Q Eric Ambler, "Introduction," To Catch A Spy (New York: Bantam Books, 1961^), p. 9. 23 with James and Dostoevsky: "The Secret Agent of 1907 is now readily recognizable as a pioneer in its genre--the tale of political intrigue, espionage, and moral in modern

Europe which has become a typical mode of fiction in our age of Machtpolitik, scientific violence, and ’international evil.’

The Secret Agent tells of a plot by a group of anarchists to blow up the Observatory. The plan is hatched in a foreign embassy (which is presumably Russian) and one, Adolph Verloc, a shopkeeper and consorter with an­ archists, is charged with the mission of executing the demo­ lition by inciting the socialistic hopes and proletarian dreams of his anarchist proteges. Conrad derived this drama of London espionage in large part from an actual attempt to explode the Greenwich Observatory in l89U* "That novel of intrigue, anarchism, and treachery in the London of the 1890’s with its plot of terrorists, bomb-makers, and agents provoca­ teurs manipulated by an unnamed foreign power in the interests of inciting the western European nations" was Conrad's full portrayal of two evils he feared most--radical socialism and anarchism.H In Conrad’s tale, the plot fails and Verloc is murdered by his wife, before she willfully slips beneath the waters of the English Channel. As in all spy stories, be­ trayal emerges from all sides and little remains but the asser

^Morton Dauwen Zabel, "Introduction," Under Western Eyes by Joseph Conrad (New York: Doubleday and CoTT 1951), pTTVII. 11Zabel, pp. XXIV-V 2l±

tion of life’s unpredictability.

Before commenting on the themes of The Secret Agent, a few words must be spent on Conrad’s technique, Conrad’s medium reflects his message in his cryptographic techniques of "reverse expectation": Conrad constantly moves from the

particular to the general ambience, from the conscious cen­

ter to the physical periphery; from the abstract to the con­ crete realities. This is, of course, Conradian technique at

its best; however, it is even more appropriate in the world

of espionage where appearances are not what they seem, and the unexpected is always expected. In this respect, Conrad offers a direct link between James and Le Carre' in the de­

velopment of the psychological spy tale. This technique is splendidly exemplified in Chapter IV in which a conversation between Professor X and Comrade Ossipon reveals the achro- nological and circular pattern of the novel. By movements in expanding concentric circles, Conrad transports the reader in a series of epiphanies to the realization of specific time and place. R. W. Stallman concurs in this pattern of inter­ pretation by seeing the entire novel connected by concentric circles and triangles.It is the perfect medium--that of ciphers and cryptographs--for a novel of espionage. Charac­

ters are anonymities (Professor X, the Russian Vladimir,

Verloc is Agent A) trapped in individual bubbles of time and space. And the only interaction between these voids occurs

l^R. W. Stallman, "Time and The Secret Agent," Texas Studies in Literature and Language, I (Spring, 1959), 101-122 25 when betrayal is contracted. For Verloc, betrayal is bar­ tered in all forms: his wife, his country, and finally him­ self. One of Conrad’s most famous lines appears in Under

Western Eyes when Razumov states: "All a man can betray is his conscience."13 one betrays his conscience by adhering to, and promulgating, a system or code of behavior in which one can no longer believe.

In the whole novel, Professor X is the sole character who is incapable of betrayal, precisely because he comes to reject all ideologies and systems, all slogans and political cliches. In Chapter IV, Professor X enunciates his neutral­ ity: ’You revolutionists... are the slaves of the social convention, which is afraid of you; slaves of it as much as the very police that stands up in the defence of that convention. Clearly you are, since you want to revolutionize it. It governs your thought,,-of course, and your action, too, and thus neither your thought nor your action can ever be conclusive.’

’You are not a bit better than the forces arrayed against you.... ’U

But the Professor is not a préfiguration of a Le Carre' char­ acter trying to "come in from the cold" war of conflicting ideologies. The Professor lacks the warmth of the humanity to thaw the cold ideologies, and instead places his confid­ ence in dynamite. "Give me that for a lever, and I’ll move the world," says the Professor (Chapt. XIII).

T^Zabel, p. XLII. T-Ujoseph Conrad, The Secret Agent (New York: Double­ day and Co., 1926), p. 69. 26

R. W. Stallman reads this thematic nihilism as a subtle affirmation of life itself:

Theories—scientific, political, sociological, economic, psychological-all are reduced to zero by Conrad’s diabolic irony. What protection against life that we devise consists of superstitions, , theories, conventional conceptions of reality, sys­ tems of creeds, codes of behavior by which society is manipulated and controlled; in sum, all that the muddling intellect contrives. The nihilism of The Secret Agent ends in a covert affirmation of the supremacy of life. Could we but manipulate reality so that what happens happens as predicted but noi Time-Now is the Unpredictable, life in all its ir­ rational particulars; including X the unknown event.15

The manipulators are the Russian Mr. Vladimir and Chief In­ spector Heat of the police. They attempt to twist people and events through cant and betrayal. Conrad, however, depicts

"sudden holes in space and time" (Chapt. V), and ideologies and cliche's cannot stand up to the human conscience and guilt- life itself. The Secret Agent is not a genuine spy novel. Like Henry James, Conrad did not write a legitimate spy novel. The

Secret Agent is a masterpiece as a novel, and it is important in the unfolding canon of the spy genre: but it is not a spy novel. The Secret Agent is a psychological novel where the main protagonist is a character who also happens to be a spy,

Verloc’s being a secret agent, however, has nothing to do with the raison d ’ etre of the novel. John Le Carre7’s novels exist precisely because the central character is a spy; it is the.-veryjvpurpose of the work. The real "spy novel" is not written until Le Carre' because his spy/protagonist’s character

■^Stallman, p. 122. 27

is his fate because of his existence as a spy. Conrad and Le Carre' wrote of similar themes of guilt and betrayal; but with the former the psychology is for , and with the

latter the guilt and betrayal belong exclusively in the world of espionage. Before reaching fruition in Le Carre', however, the "spy novel" endures fifty years of plot gyrations, mechanical gim­ micks, verbal pyrotechnics, covert detective stories, and chauvinistic tirades.

John Buchan

Whereas many of the earliest tales of interna tionalijin- trigue and espionage were written in the social context of an expected war, and the prevention of that imminent out­ break of hostilities, John Buchan plunges his tales of es­ pionage directly into a "hot" war which has already acquired the full embroilment of open warfare. World War I provided the backdrop to Buchan’s "hot" war spy novels, Buchan’s ingenu-agent, Richard Hannay, is initially drawn into the enemy Blackstone espionage-ring quite inad­ vertently in the earliest of his series, The Thirty-Nine Steps Hannay is successful in apprehending the Blackstone German agents, but nevertheless World War I is ignited three weeks afterwards. The great movements of history are somehow al­ ways out of reach of the individual agent, despite his suc­ cess or failure. With the war started, Hannay accepts the military uniform and a captain’s commission, and briskly 28

starts upon the business of wartime espionage. Buchan's

industry was equally brisk, as he produced some thirty-odd "hot" war spy tales with Richard Hannay as the Allies’ rep­ resentative of not only British patriotism but also a Prot­

estant work-ethic of duty, Godliness, and success.

Buchan’s own success lay in two elements: the formula,

which he pretty much devised for his "hot" war spy story, al­

though his hero’s repeated capture and escape adventures are

reminiscent of Fenimore Cooper’s formula; and the suspense, which he seems to have successfully borrowed from the Victor­

ian detective tale. Buchan combined these two elements of plot-formula and suspense in The Thirty-Nine Steps in a man­

ner of excellence which was never again quite equalled in

his multitude of following works. The Thirty-Nine Steps begins with Richard Hannay’s ennui in a humdrum existence. For no apparent reason, Hannay is suddenly drawn Into a nightmarish experience when he is be friended by a stranger, and that stranger is soon afterward skewered to the apartment floor with a dagger. What follows

is a quasi-detective tale with the standard devices of clues, disguises, and bullies larger-than-life, and a plot mixed with preconceived design but a larger measure of chance and coincidence. Hannay’s world is a miniaturized terrain of luck: and providential timing where the "good" principle al­ ways triumphs. The very unreality of Hannay’s world is rein­ forced by the dream atmosphere of the this-is-not-really- happening-to-me quality of the movement of events. 29

The Thirty-Nine Steps Is more important because of the

non-standard ingredients of plot and formula. By transfer­

ring the quality of suspense to the spy novel, Buchan point­

ed out the next vehicle of popular thriller fiction. The de­ tective did not possess the accountrements of success in deal­ ing with the international implications of a network of spies.

The detective met head-on the threats and dangers of urban­ ization, but the spy’s job exceeded the limits of the city.

Even the great Sherlock Holmes failed to halt the outbreak of

World War I. Therefore, the spy--the secret agent as product of twentieth-century—was to be the of the future

whose task would be to slay the twentieth-century

technology. If the detective was the nineteenth-century’s

St. George who calmed all fears about the dragon of urbaniz­

ation, John Buchan must be credited for recognizing early in

the century the potential apparatus of the international spy.

In a later chapter, discussion will center upon the phenomenon that it is technology which is the foe of the spy. Buchan’s social context is World War I, the first of the twentieth- century’s terrible wars of technological impact. It is the Frankenstein theme refurbished, but it is more. The real business of espionage, revealed as the genre matures, is to maintain the balance of terror. The real function of the spy is to insure that no one ideology corners the market on tech­ nological advances. The spy must effect the multiple owner­ ship of Frenkenstein , and the following detente will prevent one owner from ever unleashing his own unique wave of 30

global destruction. Richard Hannay must fight "aeroplanes"

and submarines. In a memorable scene in The Thirty-Nine

Steps, Hannay is stalked by an airplane on the open moor,

Buchan was directly recognizing the spy’s function in the coming generations of popular literature. Buchan’s de­ piction of Hannay’s vis-a-vis confrontation with the deadly

significance of a technology turned to destruction is the prototypical portrait of later spies in lethal contest with

computers and satellite spaceships. One of the basic premis­

es of the study of the spy literature should consider this

genre as the progeny of a technology which threatens to

eclipse man himself. A separate chapter will be devoted to technology and the spy thriller.

Buchan also transfers another characteristic from the

tala of detection to the spy thriller—the extra-legal status of the hero-protagonist. Just as the detective was usually

a private agent dissociated from the police organization,

Buchan also scores the efficacy of the police in the spy game. The secret agent must work independently of any or­ ganized group activity. In a sense, the spy hero is a mani­ festation of the individual hero in the age of the organiza­ tion man. But this observation does not universally hold true. Even James Bond is a professional organization man. In Buchan, however, the spy-hero is an individualist whose extra-legal role aids and abets the organized authorities in

apprehending the enemy agents who are themselves an organiza­ tion. 31

Buchan was also far-sighted in his overt treatment of

sexual themes in his novels. In Buchan’s second novel, Green

mantle (1916), the is a gross German bully whose homo

sexuality is openly presented. The sexual deviate among the enemy agents is yet a staple of the spy thriller. Buchan’s

nice little touch of irony has persisted in the genre to present day. Graham Greene, in a memorial essay, has best summed John

Buchan’s contribution: More than a quarter of a century has passed since Richard Hannay found the dead man in his flat and started that long flight and pursuit—across the Yorkshire and the Scottish moors, down Mayfair streets, along the passages of Government buildings, in and out of Cabinet rooms and country houses, towards the cold Essex jetty with the thirty-nine steps, that were to be a pattern for adventure-writers ever since. John Buchan was the first to realize the enormous dramatic value of adventure in surroundings happening to unadventurous men, members of Parliament and mem­ bers of the Athenaeum, lawyers and barristers, busi­ ness men and minor peers: murder in 'the atmosphere of breeding and simplicity and stability’. Richard Hannay, Sir Edward Leithen, Mr. Blenkiron, Archie Roylance and Lord Lamancha; these were his adventur­ ers, not Dr. Nikola or the Master of Ballantrae, and who will forget that first thrill in 1916 as the hunt­ ed Leithen—the future Solicitor-General--ran ’like a thief in a London, thoroughfare on a June afternoon’. 'Now I saw how thin is the protection of civil­ ization. An accident and a bogus ambulance--a false charge and a bogus arrest--there were a dozen ways of spiriting one out of this gay and bustling world!.1° Because of Buchan’s Influence, it is both the horror of civilization's thinness and the comfort of society's security which the spy tale perpetuates.


W. Somerset Maugham

After World War I, John Buchan continued to produce his tales of adventure, which in time evolved themselves and drift­ ed away from his earlier espionage thrillers.

In 1927, the spy genre reached an important milestone when W. Somerset Maugham decided to put into print his war memoirs of his days as an agent of the British Intelligence

Department. In the publication of Ashenden, or : The British

Agent, Maugham unwittingly shaped the main formulaic pattern of the genuine tale of espionage and thus thereafter directed the course the genre was to take for the following fifty years,

Maugham’s profound influence lies precisely in the formula which he created in Ashenden, and which was followed closely by Eric Ambler and Graham Green through the 19^0's« Even Ian Fleming, John Le Carré and Len Deighton have found cer­ tain elements in Maugham's successful formula, and these Cold

War writers have given perpetuity to the original Ashenden pattern. In its simplest form, the Maugham spy story formula runs like this: 1. A master-spy, usually a retired military man, recruits an innocent, non-professional spy for a "job" and introduces him into the dirty business of spying, 2. The unsuspecting recruit is a writer, or a professor-- an observer of human nature—who is reluctant; but he over­ rides his misgivings and accepts the proposition.

3. The reluctant recruit does well, succeeds through his 33

cleverness and wit; but all the while he remains an aloof

observer who despises the bloody, bumbling work of espionage.

l|_, The mission is often jeopardized; capture either

occurs or is several times imminent; however the neophyte spy

ultimately succeeds in both accomplishing the mission and

learning new wisdom in the ways of the world and human nature

5. Upon return, the newly baptized-by-fire agent re­ jects any possible re-enlistment in the service of the master

spy and resolves to return to normal life. His lesson is al­

ways something of this nature: the real world-life itself —

is much more complicated than the easy ethical affirmations

of a monk in his cell or a scholar in his library. Neverthe­

less, this man of newly-found experience opts to return to his quiet retreat.

This model of the formula does undergo some variations and permutations: eg., Fleming uses this basic formula, ex­ cept the repeated recruitment of James Bond involves all pro­

fessional spies; and Le Carre'’s ingenu never gets the chance

to return to the world of normalcy. In Ashenden, Maugham begins immediately, through the eyes of an omniscient narrator, with the chance recruitment of Ashenden at a party by the super-professional Colonel R. Ashenden is a "writer by profession" and is introduced to a middle-aged Colonel at a party. The Colonel invites him to

lunch for the next day, and there, in the Headquarters of the

Intelligence Department, Ashenden is enlisted. "Ashenden was 3lj.

acquainted with several European languages and his profession

was excellent cover; on the pretext that he was writing a

book he could without attracting attention visit any neutral country."'*’^ The Colonel tries to give Ashenden some source

material for a book, but Ashenden rejects the proposed plot

as hackneyed. The Colonel implies that Ashenden will soon himself collect plenty of raw material for a novel. The

Colonel's final words betray his real self as a professional

spy: 'There's just one thing I think you ought to know before you take on this job. And don't forget it. If you do well you'll get no thanks and if you get into trouble you'll get no help. Does that suit you?'18

In Colonel R., Maugham has created the precursor of Am­ bler’s Colonel Haki, Fleming’s M., and Le Carre's Control,

All are mastermind spies who coldly manipulate their agents with no regard for human emotion and qualities of mercy, Ashenden's adventures are then related piecemeal in the whole of the novel, but the episodic structure disqualifies this effort by Maugham from being actually termed a "spy novel." What follows is a series of variegated episodes with Ashenden himself as the only common denominator. The tales are lively--funny and tragic—and the vivid narration explains the volume's tremendous popularity. Maugham has a penchant for the surprise ending and the tour de force of what Thomas

^W. Somerset Maugham, Ashenden or: The British Agent (New York: Doubleday and CoTT 19h-i), p. 2. l^Ashenden. p. I+. 35

Hardy called "life’s little ironies." Actually, Maugham cites the example of Guy de Maupassant in his preface, and the Frenchman’s influence is visible throughout Ashenden in

Maugham’s characterizations and situational ironies.

Of all the episodes in Ashenden, "The Hairless Mexican" and "Giulia Lazzari" most often see reprint.

"The Hairless Mexican" tells of such a man who is a soldier of fortune in the world of espionage, and Ashenden must supervise him in the liquidation of a traitorous Greek. The Hairless Mexican is an eccentric and sinister person who is not so much a real villain as he seems to be a predecessor of/the Fleming villain. Fleming had much to draw from the

Mexican's portrait:

The Hairless Mexican was a tall man, and though thinnish gave you the impression of being very power­ ful; he was smartly dressed in a blue serge suit, with a silk hankerchief neatly tucked in the breast pocket of his coat, and he wore a gold bracelet on his wrist. His features were good, but a little larger than life- size, and his eyes were brown and lustrous. He was quite hairless. His yellow skin had the smoothness of a woman's and he had no eyebrows nor eyelashes; he wore a pale brown wig.... He was repulsive and re- diculous, but you could not take your eyes from him. There was a sinister fascination in his strangeness.19

The Mexican considers himself a ladies’ man, and his flam­ boyance camouflages a fragile ego which kills upon any slight­ ing of his honor.

Nevertheless, kill he does. But it is the wrong man, and the Hairless Mexican leaves the employ of Ashenden without pay

19Ashenden, p. 56 36

"Giulia Lazzari" is an aging Italian countess who is used by British Intelligence to draw her lover, a German spy, into a trap at Lucerne. She continuously refuses to traduce her loved one and bring him to his death. Nevertheless she

is forced to commit the act of betrayal, and the enemy agent

is killed. The final scene between Ashenden and Giulia Laz­ zari is most memorable:

Ashenden gave her a little bow and turned to the door. But she stopped him. ’One little moment,’ she said. ’There is one thing I should like to ask. I think you have some heart.' ’Whatever I can do for you, you may be sure I will.’ ’What are they going to do with his things?’ ’I don’t know, Why?’ Then she said something that confounded Ashenden. It was the last thing he expected. ’He had a wrist-watch that I gave him last Christmas. It cost twelve pounds. Can I have it back?’2O

Ashenden remains alienated from the dirty-work of spying, and resolves to return to his true profession as a writer. He is at odds with his boss, Colonel R., and they cross swords over the principle of the value of human life. R. makes the statement that:

’...a lot of nonsense is talked about the value of human life. You might just as well say that the counters you use at poker have an intrinsic value, their value is what you like to make it; for a gener­ al giving battle men are merely counters and he’s a if he allows himself for sentimental reasons to look upon them as human beings.’21

R. speaks as a true forerunner of Le Carreas Control, and

^^Ashenden. p. llf.8. 21 Ashenden. p. 53-5U. 37 he reveals the real immorality of spying. The evil is not gaining secrets surreptitiously, but in using human beings as mere pawns. The individual must sacrifice his own soul for the good of the organization. Ashenden—as later does Alec Leamas—revolts from the whole process and later states somewhat cynically: "man has always found it easier to sac- pp rifice his life than to learn the multiplication table.

This cynicism seems to be the inevitable product of the spy story formula as first depicted by Maugham in Ashenden,

The formula is to be used quite frequently in the genre by subsequent writers, and axiomatically the cynicism and re­ vulsion also recur.

Graham Greene

The breadth of Graham Greene's influence in the genre of spy literature not only spans the chronological growth of a forty-year period (his first spy novel, Orient Express appear­ ed in 1932), but the spiritual evolution of the genre, through the phases of existential negation and religious affirmation, is also reflected in his works, such as The Confidential Agent

(1939) and (19U0)« So contemporary, in fact, are these latter two novels of espionage, they should be considered in conjunction with the more recent novels which are analyzed later in this study.

22Ashenden. p. 250. 38

His. early Orient Express (published under the original title, ) made significant contributions to the spy genre. The most pervasive of influences stemming from

Orient Express is its setting--a speeding train which be­ comes a substitute for the older "ship-of-fools" theme. The railway train in motion has become a recurrent setting in the reading fare of spy literature, and has figured prominently in the later Eric Ambler’s A Coffin For Dimitrios and Ian Fleming’s From Russia With Love. In Orient Express, Greene uses the train speeding from Ostend to Istambul as the locale for a melodrama of international intrigue that involves a number of characters, including a Communist revolutionary, a

Jewish merchant, a chorus girl, and a lesbian .journalist. Buchan’s influence on Greene is everywhere evidenced in the exotic settings of the Middle East and Asia Minor. The dreamy, anti-quarian mood of romanticism, which Buchan so effectively exuded, is reflected in the names and magic aura of these places far away' and so delightfully alien. And the metaphor of the train well serves the thinness of Buchan’s civilization; for, in Orient Express the security of society’s protection is as thin as the walls and windows of the train. In the train, however fast it travelled, the passengers were compulsorily at rest; useless be­ tween the walls of glass to feel emotion, useless to try to follow any¿activity except of the mind; and that activity could be followed without fear of interruption. But in the rushing reverberating express noise was so regular that it was the equiv­ alent of silence, movement was so continuous that after a while the mind accepted it as stillness. Only outside the train was violence of action pos- 39

sible, and the train would contain him safely with his plans for three days....23

The speeding train is also a metaphor of the transient community, thrown together by chance and fate, on a long journey. A tender light flooded the compartment. It would have been possible for a moment to believe that the sun was the expression of something that loved and suffered for men. Human beings floated like in golden water, free from the urge of gravity, flying without wings, transparent, In a glass aquarium, Ugly faces and misshapen bodies were transmuted, if not into beauty, at least into grotesque forms fashioned by a mocking affection. On that golden tide they rose and fell, murmured and dreamed. They were not imprisoned, for they were not during the hour of dawn aware of their imprisonment. Ip. 37)

The fishbowl analogy is quite appropriate: for the people in the train are subject to an objective analysis by a very special sort of spy--the author himself. The theme of es­ pionage is consonant with Greene’s expressed theory of liter­ ary aesthetics: ’I’m not a poet. A poet’s an individualist. He can dress as he likes; he depends only on him­ self. A novelist depends on other men; he’s an average man with the power of expression. 'E’s a spy. ’E’s 'as to see everything and pass unnoticed. If people recognized 'im they wouldn’t talk, they’d pose before 'im; ’e wouldn’t find things out.' (p. 52)

This theory of literary artist as spy has been rendered in Jacque Barzun's denigration of the spy genre.^4- It seems that Graham Greene advanced the notion quite a bit earlier.

23prlent Express (New York: Bantam, 1970), p. 12. 2Uja cques Barzun, "Meditations on the Literature of Spying," American Scholar, 35- (Spring, 1965), 167-78. Uo

Greene also reverses the point of view, and converts the inside of the moving train into an early rendition of the film metaphor as literary style:

One thing the films had taught the eye, Savory thought, the beauty of landscape in mo­ tion, how a church tower moved behind and above the trees, how it dipped and soared with the un­ even human stride, the loveliness of a chimney rising towards a cloud and sinking behind the further cowls. That sense of movement must be conveyed in prose.... (p. 93) As a novel, however, Orient Express fails. The episodic plot structure cannot support the suspense necessary for a tightly-wound spy novel. Greene seems preoccupied with lyric­ al description at this early stage:

The sunset lit up tall dripping walls, alleys with stagnant water radiant for a moment with liquid light. Somewhere within the dingy casing lay the ancient city, like a notorious jewel, too stared at, talked at, trafficked over. Then a wilderness of al­ lotments opened through the steam, sometimes the mo- notomy was broken by tall ugly villas, facing every way, decorated with coloured tiles, which now ab­ sorbed the evening. The sparks from the express be­ came visible, like hordes of scarlet beetles tempted into the air by night; they fell and smouldered by the track, touched leaves and twigs and cabbage stalks and turned to soot. A girl riding a carthorse lifted her face and laughed; on the bank beside the line a man and woman lay embraced. Then darkness fell out­ side, and passengers through the glass could see only the transparent reflection of their own features, (p. 10) Atmosphere and exotic setting are constructed memorably by such a style, but the potential maturation of the spy novel falters. Greene developed the needed apparatus for a fully orchestrated spy novel by 1939 in the writing of The Confiden­ tial Agent--a novel which anticipates the existential negation of Le Carre". CHAPTER III


The omission of Eric Ambler In any attempt to trace a unilinear progression in the evolution of the spy novel would be comparable to the exclusion of Australopithecus in a Dar­ winian scheme of homo sapiens’ emergence. Such grievous de­ letions would create "missing links" in both cases. But the evolutionary simile is more appropriate, because Eric Ambler wrote novels which in se were not spy novels, yet he singular­ ly influenced the emergence of the spy novel in the twentieth century.

Ambler’s novels, which began to appear in the late 1930’s, represent the transition stage from the tale of detective to the tale of espionage and international intrigue. For reasons produced in the following discussion, it must initially be stated that Eric Ambler's novels may be the loci classici of the traits which are considered traditionalist in the spy genre; yet his novels are not spy novels. The chief reasons for this important distinction are that, first of all, Ambler approaches the theme and matter of espionage through the form of the de­ tective novel; and secondly, his formula has undoubtedly in­ fluenced the genre for thirty-five years, but the formula had to await the social context of the Cold War before it achieved a widespread acceptance (both in terms of reading audience and socio-economic relevance). Quite simply, the theme of the Cold 5-2

War was not available to the writer of the thriller in the

1930’s. This distinction has also been indirectly admitted

by Ambler himself in a 1965 essay. Even as recent as the July 10, 1972 issue of Newsweek, in "Search for a Summer

Thriller," the book review editor differentiated between the "foreign Intrigue story" and the "spy story." The former review discussed the most recent publication of Eric Ambler

(The Levanter), and the latter category specifically stated

the Cold War-ingredient as a necessity for the traditional

spy story: "Now that we’re chums with the Russians and

Chinese, the spy story may be in for heavy weather" (p. 91).

The rough sailing ahead for the spy novel is not unexpected, but to see that his novels of "foreign intrigue" have still

not been wholly accepted within the purview of the literature of espionage must have been a bit disheartening to Mr. Ambler.

But it is a matter of form--Ambler’s approach is that of the

detective/spy—and the Newsweek reviewer’s "thematic" categor­

izations are not completely justified. The crucial distinction lies in form, not matter.

Eric Ambler's significant accomplishment in the spy genre revolves about his transitional sub-genre. Ambler’s literary predecessors belong more properly to the mode of detective fiction than the burgeoning tales of espionage as prefigured in Buchan and Maugham. To be sure, the exotic geography of

Buchan and the variegated characterizations of Maugham are to be found in the early Ambler novels, but Ambler's peculiar type of novel is still a hybrid born of the cross-species U3

blending. Ambler’s spy/detective story is actually a permu­ tation of the detective story which happens to have a spy

as the central character and/or foreign intelligence agents

as the antagonists. The quintessence of the Ambler spy/de-

tective tale is the Ingenu*s inadvertent involvement in a

plot of international intrigue, and his subsequent loss of

innocence as he seeks the answers,to the "accidental" clues

provided. The method of detection is logical and deductive, thus Ambler’s typical novel bears imprinting of the older

tale of ratiocination.

The fact that Ambler’s central character is almost al­ ways the innocent amateur is his main connection to the de­

tective story and also severs his future connection to the spy story where professional Cold War secret agents must al­ ways know what they are doing. In contrast to the latter- day professionals, part of Ambler's formula demands a dilet­ tante who fumbles his way through the novel to an uneasy survival. The Ambler protagonist does not understand what is happening; he cannot go to the police; he probably will not survive the embroilment; and he must comply to the game-plan of the foe. Somehow he survives (usually, by chance) and emerges a chastened but wiser man. Ambler's formula bears a certain resemblance to the undercurrent ethos of Greek tragedy the gods will not tolerate a man who is too happy or inordin­ ately comfortable in his position in life. Ambler's protagon­ ists are such men, and they are grimly reminded through tragic circimstances that human is too easily subject to uu

chance and fate. In this sense, the Ambler ingenu is chasten­

ed and recovers from the harrowing experience as a wiser man. As a device of realism, the amateur as protagonist suc­ ceeds for Ambler by reducing all of the angst of internation­

al intrigue to a very personal level. The reader’s distance

is maintained when the dangerous situation is ably managed by

the -professional James Bond. But Ambler gets the edge

on suspense by making his spy/detective an average person— the reader identifies easily. In this sense, the Ambler novel

is more of a "thriller" than the later professional-spy novels

It is quite easy to envision oneself in the predicament of an Ambler thriller.

Before further analysis of the Ambler novel is attempted, perhaps brief synopses of three of his typical (and most pop­ ular) novels will enlighten further discussion.

A Coffin For Dimitrios (1939) precipitates a powerful crescendo of suspense when Charles Latimer, an English pro­ fessor of political economy and well-known author of detective stories, becomes engrossed in the search of the true identity of one "Dimitrios." Latimer learns of the existence of Dimi­ trios by chance. At a party in Istambul, Latimer is intro­ duced to Colonel Haki. Unbeknownst to Latimer is the fact that Colonel Haki is the chief of Turkish secret police--a soldier of fortune turned intelligence chief. Haki’s inten­ tions are benign, for he has admired Latimer’s detective stories, and proposes to give gratis a plot for a novel to U5

Latimer. So far the shadow of Somerset Maugham’s Colonel R

and the reluctant enlistment of Ashenden hangs heavy in the air. But the world of Eric Ambler is replete with chance

and the dispassionate timing of the blind gods. Colonel Haki’s intentions really are innocent, but while he and Lati­ mer are discussing academic murder in the mystery novels,

Haki is informed of the discovery of the corpse of Dimitrios

the Greek. It is this chance discovery, revealed at a time when Latimer happened to be in Colonel Haki’s office, that sends Latimer on an odyssey across Europe toward a confronta­

tion with death. Haki and Latimer had been discussing the nature of mur­ der, when the report of the death of an actual murderer ar­ rives. Colonel Haki indirectly inaugurates Latimer’s involved

when he pauses, and asks: "I wonder if you are interest ed in real murderers, Mr. Latimer."'*' Haki’s undisguised sent­

iment states, in oblique terms, that art is never a substitute for real life encounters with death, espionage, and experience

itself. Colonel Haki enjoys his romans policiers, but he definitely believes in the bipolar opposites of art and real­ ity. His question is a subtle tossing down of the gauntlet to the novelist, and he clarifies his challenge to the veri­ similitude of the artist’s position: ’Well, yes,’ he said slowly. ’I suppose I am.’ Colonel Haki pursed his lips. 'You know, Mr. Latimer,’ he said, 'I find the murderer in a roman

•'■Eric Ambler, A Coffin For Dimitrios (New York: Bantam Paperbacks, 1972), p. 10. All subsequent reference to this ed ition. 1+6

policier much more sympathetic than a real murderer. In a roman policier there is a corpse, a number of suspects, a detective and a gallows. That is artis­ tic. The real murderer is not artistic. I, who am a sort of policeman, tell you that squarely.' He tapped the folder on his desk. 'Here is a real mur­ derer. We have known of his existence for nearly twenty years. This is his dossier. We know of one murder he may have committed. There are doubtless others of which we, at any rate, know nothing. This man is typical. A dirty type, common, cowardly, scum. Murder, espionage, drugs--that is the history. There were also two affairs of assassination.' (p. 11)

The antithesis of art and reality is sustained through­ out the novel, and Latimer's close brush with death is born from his momentary movement from the aseptic and tidy ideol­ ogy of academic murder in fiction to the unruly, chaotic real world of smokey bistros where actual murder and assas­ sination are plotted. In short, Latimer progresses from ob­ server to participant, and finds that the neat groundrules in the detective's process of deduction are non-existent in the face of brutal reality.

A philosophy of history is always as important in an Ambler novel as the social context in which the novel is written--one complements the other. A Coffin For Dimitrios was written in 1939, on the eve of the Second World War. Ambler's particular philosophy of history reflects his reading of S'pengler and concurrent opinion that Europe (and Western civilization) had reached a stage of decadence which was bent on self-destruction. One of the minor ironies of the novel consists in the fact that Latimer, aside from writing detective fiction, is a lecturer in political economy in a minor English university; yet when he moves from his secure sphere of obser­ U7 vation out to the role of participant in actual melodrama, he learns a lesson In both politics and economics. Or, more precisely, he learns that it is in the realms of politics and economics where Good and Evil really meet:

In his room, Latimer sat down by the window and gazed out across the black river to the lights which it reflected and the faint glow in the sky beyond the Louvre. His mind was haunted by the past.... Three human -beings had died horribly and countless others had lived horribly that Dimitrios might take his ease. If there were such a thing as Evil, then this man.... But it was useless to try to explain him in terms of Good and Evil. They were no more than baroque ab­ stractions. Good Business and Bad Business were the elements of the new theology. Dimitrios was not evil. He was logical and consistent; as logical and consist­ in the European jungle as the poison gas called Lewisite and the shattered bodies of killed in the bombardment of an open town. The logic of Angelo’s David, Beethoven’s quartets and Ein­ stein’s physics had been replaced by that of the Stock Exchange Year Book and Hitler’s Mein Kampf, Tp7TT7/+-175) Latimer’s reflection ponders the, grotesque revelation of history that Dimitrios is the embodiment of a decadent twen­ tieth century, just as Michael Angelo, Beethoven, and Einstein had captivated the spirit of each respective ethos. Michael

Angelo’s David had encapsulated all the cosmic harmony of the spheres which bespoke a deep faith in Providence. Beethoven's quartets were composed amid the waning of belief in the provi­ dential theory of history and at a time when other systematic explanations were already competing for favor. Napoleon could declare by the beginning of the nineteenth century that fate had been replaced by politics. In the course of the nineteenth century, new scientific and positivistic systems offered more 1^8

appealing and more practical explanations for the haphazard facts of the universe. Meanwhile, in popular polemic, theo­ ries of evolution and psychotherapy routed the belief that God's intervention and order were the mainsprings of history. In this atmosphere of the belief in the visible and the phys­

ical, Einstein formulated a system of "relativity"—the non-

immutable. Einstein, in fact, passed beyond the physics of

Newton into a realm of meta-physics. The beauty of Einstein’s theory was that it retained enough of the old mysticism to

still consider the source of a "providence" in history. But,

that civilization should reach such final period of corrup­

tion and that a man such as Dimitrios should embody the very spirit of the age, is equally as "logical and consistent" in

its grotesquery. The Napoleon's, the Hitler's, and the Dimi­

trios' had won out over the Beethoven's and the Einstein's. Europe was finally to be reduced to its primordial jungle- state by poison gas and bombardment. Ambler's judgement on Europe in 1939 is quite unmistakable. In one other passage does Ambler give strongest enunciation to the tones of the jeremiad:

In a dying civilisation, political prestige is the reward not of the shrewdest diagnostician but of the man with the best bedside manner. It is the dec­ oration conferred on mediocrity by ignorance. Yet there remains one sort of political prestige that may still be worn with a certain pathetic dignity; it is that given to the liberal-minded leader of a party of conflicting doctrinaire extremists. His dignity is that of all doomed men: for, whether the two extremes proceed to mutual destruction or whether one of them prevails, doomed he is, either to suffer the hatred of the people or to die a martyr, (p. 52) U9

It comes as no surprise, then, when Latimer returns to

the art of detective fiction after his nightmarish venture

to the underworld. His quest had begun when he first viewed the corpse of Dimitrios: Latimer stared at the corpse. So this was Dimitrios. This was the man who had, perhaps, slit the throat of Sholem, the Jew turned Moslem. This was the man who had connived at assassinations, who had spied for . This was the man who had traf­ ficked in drugs, who had given a gun to a Croat ter­ rorist and who, in the end, had himself died by vio­ lence. This putty-coloured bulk was the end of an Odyssey. Dimitrios had returned at last to the coun- = try whence he had set out so many years before, (p. 19) Just as the odyssey of Dimitrios comes full circle in its pursuit of violence, Latimer’s own quest was to bear a lesson in the philosophy of history with a renewed knowledge of good and evil. And Latimer also returns to his original point of departure: the art of detective fiction. The con­ clusion of the novel neatly implies that the antinomy between art and reality might never be resolved. In the outside world of experience, Latimer had seen brutality and selfishness pro­ duce assassination, poison gas, and bombardment--all done un­ der the sacrosanct aegis of nationalism and patriotism. Pol­ itics and economics—the new theologies--reign supreme; and

Dimitrios the Greek had in his own logical way been the in­ carnate paradigm of the age. Latimer therefore returns to the inner world of art--in particular the detective fiction.

The detective story is but an extension of Michael Angelo’s David and Beethoven’s quartets--it is the construct emanating from a new harmony of the sphere. It is a world of limited 5o systems, made up of deductively ordered arrays of facts.

The novel of detection is an enclosed world which is cogenial to the refugee from the outer environment of armed hostility and imminent cosmic .

Therefore, when Latimer’s philosophical friend, Marukakis, writes a letter in an attempt to explain a man like Dimitrios

(one wonders if this is Ambler’s own thinly disguised voice),

Latimer’s reaction is justified. Marukakis/Ambler state in the explanation: As for your Dimitrios: what can one say? A writer of plays once said that there are some situations that one cannot use on the stage; situ­ ations in which the audience can feel neither ap­ proval nor disapproval, sympathy or antipathy; situ­ ations out of which there is no possible way that is not humiliating or distressing and from which there is no truth, however bitter, to be extracted. He was, you may say, one of those unhappy men who are confounded by the difference between the stupid vul­ garities of real life and the ideal existence of the imagination. That may be. Yet, I have been wonder­ ing if, for once, I do not find myself in sympathy with him. Can one explain Dimitrios or must one turn away disgusted and defeated? I am tempted to find reason and justice in the fact that he died as vio­ lently and indecently as he lived. But that is too ingenuous a way out. It does not explain Dimitrios; it only apologises for him. Special sorts of con­ ditions must exist for the creation of the special sort of criminal that he typified. I have tried to define those conditions--but unsuccessfully. All I do know is that while might is right, while chaos and anarchy masquerade as order and enlightenment, those conditions will obtain, (p. 213-lU) The writer’s reaction: "Latimer folded the letter and put it in his pocket. A good fellow, Marukakis. He must write to him when he had the time" (p. 211j_). But, at the moment, Latimer has more important things to think about--he has that novel that must be finished: 51

Ha needed, and badly, a motive, a neat method of committing a murder and an entertaining crew of suspects. Yes, the suspects must certainly be en­ tertaining. His last book had been a trifle heavy. He must inject a little more humour into this one. As for the motive, money was always, of course, the soundest basis. A pity that Wills and life insurance were so outmoded. Supposing a man murdered an old lady so that his wife should have a private income. It might be worth thinking about. The scene? Well, there was always plenty of fun to be got out of an English country village, wasn’t there? The time? Summer; with cricket matches on the village green, garden parties at the vicarage, the clink of tea­ cups and the sweet smell of grass on a July evening. That was the sort of thing people liked to hear a- bout. It was the sort of thing that he himself would like to hear about, (p. 2ll+) Latimer retreats completely to the inner cosmos of order,

sweetness, and light. But as he peers from the train window,

"The train ran into the tunnel" (p. 211+). Ambler’s final sym­ bolic stroke relinquishes the writer’s retreat as an escape of ambiguous efficacy. Which is the twentieth-century man,

the child of history: Dimitrios or Latimer?

If Eric Ambler’s solution to the dilemma of whether the man of thought or the man of action shapes the progression of history is too obliquely stated in A Coffin For Dimitrios, the next novel, Journey Into Fear (191+0), makes that answer more explicit. A Journey Into Fear develops when a British ballistics engineer is dispatched to Turkey to provide the technical data to convert the British armaments for Turkish naval vessels.

On the night before he is to return to , a lone gun­ man attempts to murder him in his Istanbul hotel. It Is late

191+0, and Allied forces must arm the Turkish vessels before 52

the imminent German Spring offensive. Colonel Haki enters

the scene, and convinces Mr. Graham, the engineer, that the

safest route back to England is an Italian streamer--and not

the Orient Express (shades of Graham Greene). What follows

is the "journey into fear." The Englishman Graham is a devotee of detective stories and one of the top ballistics engineers in the world, but the lessons he learns from his journey into fear come from the pages of Darwin, Freud, Frazer, and S'pengler. Like his pre­ decessor Latimer, Graham comes to find that the deductive processes of the detective and the mathematician are based on systems of harmony and order, nowhere to be found in the grim, grimy game of survival.

The Italian streamer, Sestri Levante, is a "ship of fools" whereby modern man is displayed in the clinical showcase de­ signed by Darwin and Freud. Eric Ambler is extremely effective in bringing the age-old device of the shipboard community of diverse personalities to the espionage genre. Ambler does in fact outmaneuver the "Orient Express" in the element of sus­ pense (and Anthony Burgess uses the ship community in his 1966

Tremor of Intent), From Colonel Haki, Graham receives a smattering of Freud in Haki’s private theory of the psychology of the murderer.

Colonel Haki exhorts to Graham a word of caution about the

Roumanian, Banat, whose mission is to kill Graham: "’I have ray own theory about men such as Banat. I believe that they are perverts with an idèe fixe about the father whom they 53

identify not with a virile good...but with their own impo­

tence. When they kill, they are thus killing their own weak­ ness. There is no doubt of it, I think.’"2 But Graham is in

no frame of mind for abnormal psychology, he is in a state of

shock: "Confronted by the proposition that someone was, in fact, not merely hoping for his death but deliberately try­ ing to murder him, he was as profoundly shocked as if he had been presented with incontrovertible proofs that a2 no longer equalled b^ + c2..,." (p. ij.5). The term "proposition" is de­ liberate, for Graham's world of logical propositions and math­ ematical equations is about to disintegrate.

Once aboard the ship, the thin protection of civilization recedes for Graham, and he is confronted with the "incontro­ vertible proofs" of Darwin, Frazer, and Spengler.

As he begins his passage by ship, Graham suddenly real­ izes just how "thin is the protection of civilization," to re­ peat the phrase from the Buchan formula:

He had seen the same sort of thing dozens of times before but now he read it carefully. The paper it was printed on was yellow with age. The lifebelt on top of the washing cabinet looked as if it had not been moved for years. It was all ludicrously reassuring. "In case of danger. . . ." In easel But you couldn’t get away from danger! It was all about you, all the time. You could live in ignorance of it for years: you might go to the end of your days believing that some things couldn’t possibly happen to you, that death could only come to you with the sweet reason of disease or an "act of God": but it was there just the same, waiting to make nonsense of all your comfortable ideas about your relations with time and chance, ready to remind you-- in case you had forgotten--that civilisation was a word and that you still lived in the jungle. ( p. 60)

2Eric Ambler, Journey Into Fear (New York: Bantam, 1972), p. 52. All subsequent references are to this edition. 5U

The reality of the Darwinian jungle is ubiquitous, just

beneath the surface of appearances. The law of the jungle is

also just beneath the surface of man’s skin. Graham is forced

to realize the existence of his- own survival instincts when

he is pressed to obtain a gun and is willing to kill in self-

defense. He is also willing to entertain thoughts of a liais-

son with a Spanish dancer, and she forces him to recognize

His sexual drives. Ambler indirectly resurrects the Ashen­ den formula of sex and violence: these two elements are never far removed from spy genre. The Spanish dancer’s hus­

band is closeby, but is willing to barter for his wife’s flesh.

His favorite axiom is: "Man is an ape in velvet." On board

the Sestri Levante, the velvet is as thin as the protection

of civilization. As in the previous Ambler novel, the thematic core of the work resides in the philosophy of history. In Journey Into

Fear, the philosophy of history is a hybrid form of combined

Frazer and Spengler doctrines, ironically expounded by the chief German agent who is disguised as a German archaeologist.

Ambler, writing in 195-0, seems to indicate that it is the German nation which has learned the principal lesson of his­ tory: might makes right. The background for Ambler’s novel is a Europe which is headed for self-destruction, and history is: the cosmic working out of the death and resurrection rit­ ual. Because of her power and will to exercise that power, Ambler warns, through the pronunciations of the German agent, that may be the new phoenix to rise from the ashes of 55

Europe’s destruction. The German "archaeologist" preaches

to the Englishman on the subject of historical destiny. His

first little lecture apparently comes from Frazer’s The Gold­ en Bough and its comparative religion warns of the twilight

of the European gods: ’I was investigating the early pre-Islamic cul­ tures. The little I have been able to discover seems to suggest that some of the tribes who moved westward to the plains of Iran about four thousand years ago assimilated the Sumerian culture and preserved it al­ most intact until long after the fall of Babylon. The form of perpetuation of the Adonis myth alone was in­ structive. The weeping for Tammuz was always a focal point of the pre-historic religions--the cult of the dying and risen god. Tammuz, Osiris and Adonis are the same Sumerian deity personified by three differ­ ent races. But the Sumerians called this god Dumuzida. So did some of the pre-Islamic tribes of Irani ’The scholar in his study can ignore the noise in the market place. Perhaps--if he is a theologian or a biologist or an antiquarian. I am none of those things. I helped in the search for a logic of history. We should have made of the past a mirror from the future. Unfortunately, it no longer matters what we could have seen. We are returning the way we came. Human under­ standing is re-entering the monastery.’ (pp. 71+-75) The logic of history presented here is the fatalistic and ritualistic theory of a cyclical history as posited by Frazer and Spengler: power is the ruling, fixed principle in an otherwise unstable universe where nations rise and fall. The anthropology of Frazer asserts the waning of Christianity; and the cyclical historicity of Spengler avers the imminent downfall of Western European civilization. Haller, the German, later continues: 'When you reach my age you sometimes think of the approach of death. I thought this afternoon how much I would have liked to have seen the Parthenon 56

just once more. I doubt if I shall have another opportunity of doing so. I used to spend hours standing in the shade by the Propylaea looking at it and trying to understand the men who built it. I was young then and did not know how difficult it Is for Western man to understand the dream-heavy classical soul. They are so far apart. The god of superlative shape has been replaced by the god of superlative force and between the two conceptions there is all space. The destiny idea symbolised by the Doric collums is incomprehensible to the child­ ren of Faust. For us...’ He broke off. (p. 125) At this point, the ventriloquism, of Ambler breaks through

the German agent, and he momentarily loses his nationality.

For the children of Faust are toying with the ultimate Damo- clean sword which perpetually hangs above civilization itself.

With the coming technological warfare on a global scale, the offspring of Faust are verging on total annihilation: 'Sven that which we- commonly regard as immortal dies sooner or later. One day the last Titian and the last Beethoven quartet will cease to exist. The can­ vas and the printed notes may remain if they are care­ fully preserved but the works themselves will have died with the last eye and ear accessible to their messages. As for the immortal soul, that is an eternal truth and the eternal truths die with the men to whom they were necessary. The eternal truths of the Ptolemaic system were as necessary to the mediaeval theologians as were the eternal truths of Kepler to the theologians of the Reformation and the eternal truths of Darwin to the nineteenth century materialists. The statement of an eternal truth is a prayer to lay a ghost—the ghost of primitive man defending himself against what Spengler calls the 'dark almightiness.' ' (p. 155--55) And when the "dark almightiness" closes in, It is men like Dimitrios and Banat--the traffickers in poison gas and bombs--who eclipse the Titian's and the Kepler's. The reign of politics and economics vitiates and precludes an eternal verity for the twentieth century.

But the arrayed forces of darkness are held back and, 57

temporarily at least, defeated in the novels of Eric Ambler.

His fumbling, non-professional "heroes" survive through some chance occurrence or providential event. Latimer lives be­

cause of "a criminal’s odd taste in interior decoration" (p.l) and Graham survives because of his final reliance on instinct and violence. The quiet cognitive processes of deduction and

reason singularly fail. All this adds up to the raison d' etre of the spy novel--

the literature of espionage. The major premise of Ambler’s

argument resides in the dangerously thin veneer of protection

that civilization offers to modern man. The ages of Medieval faith and Renaissance decorum are past: Darwin, Freud, Frazer and Spengler have triumphed. The world of the detective--the

interlocking, visible puzzle pieces of Newton, Dupin, and Holmes--is totally inadequate in the face of technological war

fare. The day of the spy had dawned. The detective writer

and the ballistics engineer had to doff the velvet of the man, and temporarily assume the characteristics of Dimitrios and Banat in order to survive. There is a little bit of Dimitrios in everyman--every modern man, that is. Violence and betrayal in the global village—this is the legacy of Dimitrios and the beginning for the spy to pick up the peices of the shattered

Victorian closed-world of rationalism. After the lapse of exactly thirty years, Charles Latimer reappeared in the 1969 publication of The Intercom Conspiracy. In Latimer’s absence, Eric Ambler had written ten; spy novels,

the mammoth glacier of the Cold War had frozen solid and then 58

partially thawed, the had been engaged and lost,

and America lost a President and Senator named .Kennedy with

the further assassinations of two charismatic black leaders. In 1969, if ever the time were more ripe for a recrudescent

philosophy of historical doom and despair, Eric Ambler seem­ ingly Ignored the opportune moment. The Intercom Conspiracy attains style of suspence, characterization, and penchant for plot; and even exceeds the former novels in his experi­ mentation with a Conradian point of view. But gone is the undercurrent philosophy of history. In lieu of a search for a logic in history, Ambler renders history at its face vAlue.

And history in this case is the Cold War reality of two super­ powers who must both seek a rapprochement in maintaining a balance of power. The Intercom Conspiracy is, however, not straight Cold War plot. The spark of Ambler’s old ingenuity becomes evident when Latimer stumbles on the successful ex­ tortion of both the and Russia by a pair of NATO intelligence chiefs. Both super-powers are eager to stop the leakage of information by paying a handsome ransom, and there­ by preserve the equilibrium of power and intelligence-access. Ambler’s revelation of this plan again comes through the eyes of the innocent victim (not Latimer this time, though) and the whole method of discovery is still presented in terms of de­ ductive detection. The novel is typical Cold War, but Ambler's sui generis formula persists along with his basic detective- novel approach. But The Intercom Conspiracy depicts the final, utter 59

failure of the detective hero in the modern era of Cold War

espionage. Latimer is no match for the two traitorous NATO

confederates; he is liquidated and silenced forever. The

modern, corporate "organization" is both hero and villain in the Cold War setting of "bloc" versus "bloc." There is real­

ly nothing heroic in Brand's and Jost's plot to blackmail the

superpowers, they are merely successful bureaucrats who pos­

sess intimate knowledge of the innermost workings of big or­ ganizations:

Jost and Brand came to power in the early nine- teen-fifties and established themselves in the NATO intelligence community during the bitter cold-war years of that decade. They could accept the necessity for the alliance to which their countries were committed. They could accept with resignation the knowledge that their coun­ tries meant no more to NATO than or Bulgaria meant to the Warsaw Pact and that they were pygmies involved in a struggle between . What they could not do was change their ways of thinking about giants. They had known the German , so omnipotent in his day, and had helped to bring him down. Now, they were able to observe and appraise from peculiar vantage points the American and Russian giants. The appraisals they made were not flattering. What impressed them most about these giants, they ul­ timately decided, was not their strength, still less the loud and threatening-noises they made, but their inherent clumsiness.3

The bureacratic spies are successful because of their cog nizance of organizational weaknesses. Their guarded daring is always protected by transactions through Swiss banks and telegrams--the personal confrontation of heroic encounter is totally absent.

^Eric Ambler, The Intercom Conspiracy (New York: Bantam, 1970) pp. 22-23. 60

In final analysis, Eric Ambler seems out of his medium with the Cold War/organization spy novel. Ambler gave more to the genre in his early efforts than what he has extracted

in his later work. He apparently picked up some of Ian Flem­

ing’s flare for technical accuracy--the result of the genre going to the professional spy; and his Russian "villain" in The Intercom Conspiracy bears a Flemingesque touch in his physical grotesquery. But Eric Ambler should be primarily remembered for what he contributed to the literature’s over­ all generic formula. Ambler's contribution specifically lies in his initial linking of the spy genre to the legacy of pop­ ular literature--the tale of detection. The precise elements which were carried over to the spy tale from the larger genus of popular formulaic fiction include the invocation of sal- vific violence which preserves the equilibrium of society (and the global village), the extra-legal necessity to en­ force that preservation, and finally the ethical dilemma of of history--what option of active participation may be chosen. For Ambler, the choice is quite basic, yet is as old as the Platonic dialogues and as awe-inspiring as Hamlet's soliloquy: is history the product of an ineluctable process of events, or is there a morality of action which de­ mands a participation of the individual in the flux of so­ ciety. Perhaps the solution lies in the very birth of the spy novel: it shows a complex world where the putative logi­ cian can no longer solve the riddle of the Sphinx. But there is the eternal rub--was Oedipus the logical detective or the 61

man of action? Either way, the result was self-destruction.

This is the crucial dilemma of Eric Ambler’s novels. CHAPTER IV TECHNOLOGY AND THE SPY GENRE

In August, 191+5, the atomic bomb ended the very "hot" Second World War. Ironically, it was this same technologi­ cal advance that immediately thereafter thrust the world

powers into a generation of Cold War hostilities. World

destruction by thermonuclear war was truly the Damoclean Sword of the mid-twentieth century. Both Western and Com­ munist "blocs" strove lustily In the pursuit of new "push­

button" weapons which could deal death to nations at super­

sonic speeds. Not only was nuclear fission deliverable half-way around the globe, but the developed methods of mo­

bility, miniaturization, speed, rocket propulsion, and the instantaneous electronic network further brought the fic- tive prospect of biological and chemical warfare to a limit­

less lethalness in the global village of man. At the base

of man’s golden idol of destruction lay the new kiln of technology. What passed as a balance of power, which re­ portedly forged a detente in hostilities, was in effect the reign of a balance of terror during the Cold War. The to maintaining this political equilibrium was an even-gaited technology on both sides. For every technological advance on one side, the other side developed a counter-measure. And into this complex arena of transistors and rocket fuels strode the secret agent.

62 63

Certainly, the spy was no new figure when he made his dramatic entrance into the fiction of the Cold War; and, as

Eric Ambler has been fond of saying, espionage is probably the second oldest profession. But the Cold War spy is in­ deed a new breed of secret agent. In his 1963 essay in The

Ability To Kill, Mr. Ambler has emphasized that the latter- day spy requires "special academic qualifications" above and beyond the traditional skills of disguises and intestinal fortitude: "If you want the secret of the new atomic warhead detonator, it is no use employing a man who may steal the plans of the kitchen equipment for the new canteen by mis­ take. As a result, the old-fashioned international spy has been put in danger of extinction. Technology is at the very heart of the game, and this partially explains the renaissance of the spy genre in the mid-twentieth century. Just as the detective could rationally calculate the design of a clock-work universe; the spy, armed with the modern gadgetry of espionage, could cope with a world of threatening technology.

Marshal McLuhan has pointed out the ambivalence of a burgeoning technology. In his essay on "The Gadget-Lover," McLuhan discusses the narcotic effect of a technological ex­ tension of the senses.While automation has freed man from

l"Cloak Without Dagger," Times Literary Supplement (Peb. 8, 1963), p. 92. 2understanding Media (New York: NAL, 1961p), pp, 51-56. 65-

unpleasant chores, it has also numbed the vital sense organs. Like Narcissus, technological man can no longer perceive the

"I" from the "non-I"—thus the individual seeks the gadgets which will become an extension of himself. Thus, the gadget- lover is the threatened individual who responds to the tech­ nological menace by using that technology to defeat itself.

In short, according to McLuhan, technology is the mythos of

post-atomic man. And the hero of such an era must be the in­

dividual who is able to control that new threat through the

use of gadgetry.

Such is the mythos of James Bond. Drawing on the equal­ ly potent sources of the Cold War technology and the modern

preoccupation with gadgetry, Ian Fleming produced a formula

of fiction on the level of mythopoesis„which successfully

satisfied the sociological and psychological needs of his

contemporary reading audience. This is a functional approach to the Cold War spy tale, and merely establishes a socio­ logical charter for the Fleming formula. But Ian Fleming primarily employed the modality of mythopoesis for his form- ula--and this significant point has implications for serious literary study, with ramifications also in the larger con­

text of (in cultural anthropology). In the larger context of anthropological discourse, the development of science and primitive technology has always been rendered in terms of narrative on the level of mythopoe­

sis. The British anthropologists rooted their study of an­

cient myths in the concept of "myth as functional explanation" 65 for a crescive science. Sir James George Frazer and Bronislaw

Malinowski have written crucial studies in these areas of functional anthropology.

In The Golden Bough, Frazer predicates his concept of cultural evolution on the theory that civilization (and its accompanying attempt to control Nature) advanced through the 3 consecutive phases of magic, religion, and science. Primi­ tive man believed that he could magically control all extern­ al events. Then, after some astute observation, man became aware of his impotence; and early civilized man prostrated himself before the arbitrary powers of a divine will. This was religion. Finally, man arrived at science, which in a way represented the realization of the dreams of the initial stage of magic. With his newfound and awesome power of tech­ nology, man again attempted to control his environment.

The common denominator to these successive stages of cult­ ural evolution is the role of mythology. In each period, man constructs myth; and myth, in its anthropological context, denotes a "sacred narrative." Quite simply, myth is a function al explanation for natural, external, uncontrollable events. The story of Prometheus, for example, rather conveniently pro­ vides a needed explanation for the domestication of fire, Bronislaw Malinowski, a devoted student of Frazer, went one step further in his essay on "Magic, Science, and Religion.

He asserted that myth not only explains the unexplainable, but validates the pre-existing belief or ritual:

^Chapters i+, 5, and 6 (New York: Macmillan, 1963), pp. 56-96. 66

...myth is the natural result of human faith, because every power must give signs of its efficiency, must act and be known to act, if people are to be­ lieve in its virtue. Every belief engenders its myth­ ology, for there is no faith without miracles, and the main myth recounts simply the primeval miracle of the magic, Myth, it may be added at once, can attach itself not only to magic but to any form of social power or social claim. It is used always to account for extra­ ordinary privileges or duties, for great social in­ equalities, for severe burdens of rank, whether this be very high or very low. Also the beliefs and pow­ ers of religion are traced to their sources by myth­ ological accounts. Religious myth, however, is rath­ er an explicit dogma, the belief in the nether world, in creation, in the nature of divinities, spun out into a story. Sociological myth, on the other hand, especially in primitive cultures, is usually blended with legends about the sources of magical power. It can be said without exaggeration that the most typical, most highly developed, mythology in primitive societies is that of magic, and the function of myth is not to explain but to vouch for, not to satisfy curiosity but to give confidence in power, not to spin out yarns but to establish the . flowing freely from present-day- occurrences, frequently similar validity of belief.h- Post-Hiroshima technology has accurately borne out the theories of Frazer and Malinowski. Electronic and atomic technology is the modern "miracle" which demands a faith, and in turn engenders its own mythology. Perhaps primitive myth­ ology has come full circle; for the magic of television and the power of medical drugs have certainly been preceded by the unspeakable of , sorcery, and the medicine-man/. The relation of all this to the spy genre is simple: the mythopoeisis of the Ian Fleming formula is the mythology of

^Br onislaw Malinowski, "Magic, Science and Religion" and Other Essays (New York: Doubleday, 19^8), P. 8/4.. 67 modern man’s faith and belief in an almighty technology. Myth is seemingly the natural expression of an allegiance to a form of magic or science. Thus, it is no accident that Ian Flem­ ing initiated the rebirth of the spy genre. But it is more than a faddish reappearance of a certain popular genre—the timing created the perfect setting for the full flowering of the genre. The Cold War provided the necessary social sig­ nificance and a stampeding technology readily became the ob­ ject of a new faith--thus the popular reading audience was prepared for a new mythology and its hero. As secret agent, James Bond possessed the anonymity and the mobility of a de­ personalized and technological world which was running amok.

In terms of cultural anthropology, It is not too far-fetched to postulate that history will afford a vantage point to fu­ ture ethnologists in their study of the Fleming spy novels as an index of twentieth-century myths, much in the same way that current anthropologists study the origin myths of the Tobriand Islanders to determine patterns of behavior. To deny that mythopoeic literature is a repository of social values is to negate the validity of the functional approach in the study of myth--and the evidence broached by Frazer and

Malinowski is far too weighty for such an upheaval. The emergence of the genre of science fiction has close­ ly paralleled the advent of the spy novel. Again, it must be stated that science fiction is also the progeny of a myth­ opoeic technology. The ties between the science fiction tale and the literature of espionage are many, and Kingsley Amis 68

has charted the traditional links: both the secret agent and the futuristic hero are always "bumping up against glo­ bal conspiracies;" the interest in gadgets; and the "technol- ogizing the tale."^ This last phrase is the key to understanding the huge success of Ian Fleming, Even modern, urban man needs his myths, and Fleming refurbished the ver­ ities and values of the ancient myths and fairy tales in the trappings of the technological revolution. Northrop Frye recognized this trend in popular fiction at the same time that Fleming began to write the technological spy story: What we have said about the return of irony to myth in tragic modes thus holds equally well for comic ones. Even popular literature appears to be slowly shifting its center of gravity from murder stories to science fiction--or at any rate a rapid growth of science fiction is certainly a fact about contemporary popular literature. Science fiction frequently tries to imagine what life would be like on a plane as far above us as we are above savagery; its setting is of­ ten of a kind that appears to us as technologically miraculous. It is thus a'mode of romance with a strong inherent tendency to myth.6

The mode of the Ian Fleming spy novel cum science fiction is indeed the "mode of romance with a strong inherent tend­ ency to myth." The James Bond saga is not pure myth; rather it operates in the modality of romance. Northrop Frye has also distinctly described the parameters of the medium of romance in his essay on the "Theory of Modes:"

^Kingsley Amis, The James Bond Dossier (New York: NAL 1965), pp. 133-36. ^Northrop Frye, Anatomy of Criticism (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton Univ. Press, 1957), pp. 1+8-1+9. 69

If superior in degree to other men and to his environment, the hero is the typical hero of romance, whose actions are marvelous but who is himself identi­ fied as a human being. The hero of romance moves in a world in which the ordinary laws of nature are slightly suspended: prodigies of courage and endurance, un­ natural to us, are natural to him, and enchanted weap­ ons, talking animals, terrifying and witches, and talismans of miraculous power violate no rule of probability once the postulates of romance have been established. Here we have moved from myth, properly so called, into legend, folk tale, marchen, and their literary affiliates and derivatives"??

This is precisely the world in which James Bond moves.

His gadgetry and technology temporarily suspend the ordinary laws of nature. Bond himself is a latter-day knight of the

red. cross who constantly saves the distressed damsels and princesses. He fights , and the villains are larger- than-life ogres marked by physical grotesquery. Again, the

miracle of science fictive weapons are available to both Bond

and his rivals--the Fleming tale parallels the enchanted wastelands of medieval legend, broadly based on Christian al­

legory and Classical mythology. The "rescue myth" is as cen­ tral to the Fleming corpus as it is basic to Browning’s The Ring and The Book; or as the myth of fertility is to Eliot’s

The Wasteland.

Fleming's recurrent enunciation of the "rescue myth" does indeed draw freely from the twin traditions of Classical mythology and Christian . The following excerpts represent only a portion of the multiple allusions to the

7ibid., p. 33. 70

earlier legend of St. George and the myth of Perseus.®

In From Russia With Love, the undercurrent Russian reinforces the nature of Bond’s mission to help effect the of a female MGB agent. Bond is attracted into the Russian gambit by the female agent’s specific request

for his aid. Her name is: "Tatiana Romanova. A Romanov.

Well, she certainly looked like a Russian princess, or the

traditional idea of one" (p. 112). Bond is the Prince Charm­

ing who is summoned to her aid, as M. (Bond's Chief) explains

the mission of mercy: ’She said you particularly appealed to her be­ cause you reminded her of the hero of a book by some Russian fellow called Lermontov. Apparently it was her favourite book. This hero chap liked gambling and spent his whole time getting in and out of scraps. Anyway, you reminded her of him. She says she came to think of nothing else, and one day the idea came to her that if only she could transfer to one of their foreign centres she could get in touch with you and you would come and rescue her.’ (p. 80) On the guanera island in Doctor No, Bond meets a beauti­ ful maiden who tells him of an evil dragon on the island who once threatened her: 'In the middle of the night I woke up. The drag­ on was coming by only a few chains away from me. It had two great glaring eyes and a long snout. It had sort of short wings and a pointed tail. It was all black and gold.’ She frowned at the expression on Bond's face. ’There was a full moon. I could see it quite clearly. It went by me. It was making a sort of roaring noise. It went over the marsh and came to

^Quotations from the James Bond series used in this essay are from the Signet paperback editions published by the New American Library of World Literature, Inc., New York, except those quotes from You Only Live Twice which are from the hard cover edition of the same publisher. 71

some thick mangrove and it simply climbed over the bushes and went on. A whole flock of birds got up in front of it and suddenly a lot of fire came out of its mouth and it burned a lot of them up and all the trees they'd been roosting in. It was horrible. The most horrible thing I've ever seen.' 9P. 7U) Doctor No is perhaps the paradigm of Fleming’s "technologizing the fairy tale," and a detailed structural analysis of its Classical and Christian elements of myth will be examined later in this discussion.

At one point in , as the final movement toward heroic confrontation with the villain begins, Bond himself thinks of his role in super-human terms:

Bond sighed wearily. Once more into the breach, dear friendsl This time it really was St. George and the dragon. And St. George had better get a move on and do something before the dragon hatched the little dragon's egg he was now nesting so confidently. Bond smiled tautly. Do what? What in God’s name was there he could do? (p. 155) Also in On Her Majesty's Secret Service, when Bond re­ deems the girl from a coup du dishonneur in the gambling cas­ ino, he again views his role in heroic terms: "...he had taken a dislike to the from Lille (Blofeld, the vil­ lain). It would be amusing to reverse the old --first rescue the girl, then to slay the monster" (p. 27). In , Sir Hugo Drax is the name of the villain, and it is an alias for Graf Hugo von der Drache (Drache being the German word for dragon); and in You Only Live Twice the dragon-slayer motif is again consciously utilized when Tiger

Tanaka persuades Bond "to enter this Castle of Death and slay the dragon within" (p. 90). The combination of technology, 72

science fiction, and gothic legend is further enhanced when

its owner later describes it as "A sort of Disneyland of

Death" (p. 191). This foreboding castle in southern Japan Is the headquarters for the sinister Black Dragon Society,

and Tiger Tanaka reiterates the purpose of Bond’s mission: "...Bondo-san, does it not amuse you to think of that fool­ ish dragon dozing all unsuspecting in his castle while St. George comes silently riding towards his lair across the

waves?" (p. l5i+). As Bond departs on his journey, he "had a ridiculous urge to kneel and ask for their (his hostsj].

blessing as the Crusaders had once done before their God"

(p. 171). And finally, when Bond discovers that the dragon within is his old arch-foe, Blofeld, the description of the villain blends into the mythic configuration:

Looking up at him from across the room, Bond had to admit that there was something larger than life in the looming imperious figure, in the hypnotically di­ rect stare of the eyes, in the tall white brow, in the cruel downward twist of the thin lips. The square-cut heavily draped kimono, designed to give the illusion of bulk to a race of smallish men, made something huge out of the towering figure, and the golden dragon embroidery, so easily to be derided as a childish fantasy, crawled menacingly across the black silk and seemed to spit real fire from over the left breast, (p. 215) Bond slays Blofeld in the final confrontation of mortal com­ bat: "The golden dragon’s head on the black silk kimono spat flame at him. He unclapsed his aching hands from round the neck and, not looking again at the purple face, got to his feet" (p. 219). The description of Blofeld’s death might equally be the beast-slaying of an epic hand-to-hand combat.

When Kingsley Amis wrote the fourteenth James Bond 73

novel, Colonel Sun, he was quite conscious of Fleming's use of the "rescue myth." When the Chief of the British Secret

Service is kidnapped by the Chinese Colonel Sun, James Bond

must travel to the Greek island of Vrakonisi (Greek, for

"dragon island") and rescue him from the twentieth-century

Chinese dragon. A funny thing happens on the way to "dragon island" (the Cold War has thawed somewhat by 1968) and Bond

must join forces with a beautiful female Greek nationalist-

cum-Russian spy. Her name incidentally is Ariadne. By re­ freshing his memory with the Greek myth, Bond learns the whereabouts of Colonel Sun’s hideout, Ariadne begins to tell

Bond of her mythical namesake:

'The original Ariadne was supposed to have been the girlfriend of King Theseus of Athens. She helped him to kill the Minotaur--you know, that guy with the bull’s head who lived in the maze. But then Theseus went and dumped her on the island of Naxos so that he could go and . , . ’ 9

But she stops short, for reasons of security to the Russian

Intelligence apparat. Later, Bond pieces the puzzle together by recognizing the island of Greek myth: 'Bond picked up the map and found the sickle­ shaped island. A memory clicked in his mind. 'Vrakonisi. So that was where Theseus went after he’d dumped your namesake on Naxos.’ 'None of the scholars know why Theseus took off from Naxos in so much hurry. The Vrakonisiots do. Their king had heard about Theseus slaying the Mino­ taur and so he sent some men to him and they begged him to come over and fight a dragon who was burning up their island with the flames of its breath. So Theseus left Ariadne sleeping and went over to Vrakonisi with the messengers. He thought he’d be back very soon.

9Kingsley Amis, Colonel Sun (New York, Bantam, 1968), p. 53. 7U

’But the dragon was dangerous because he could hurt you when you couldn’t see him. He’d hide him­ self behind the mountain and breathe fire at you over it. Theseus waited for him to get started and then swam around the island and took the dragon from the rear and pulled him into the sea. And the water boiled and the steam rose so high in the air that the gods on Mount Olympus saw it and wondered what it was. At last the dragon was drowned and sank to the bottom of the sea.’ (p. 85) Bond is the new Theseus, and with the aid of Ariadne he sets out to slay and to rescue: "And now there’s a dragon round the place again," said Bond flatly. "Only this time it’s a " (p. 86). Along with the rescue motif, the novel contains a of archetypal imagery with the movement from the green isle of Britain to the blasted land­ scape of Vrakonisi, not to mention the solar mythology and folklore which surround the villain. The "rescue myth" acquires most significance in the James

Bond saga, not because it is a modern rendition of fairy tale in se, but because the salvific powers of the hero are derived from the new talismans of a miraculous technology. The am­ biguity of the "rescue myth" In the Fleming formula is that technology Is at once both the villain and very means of sal­ vation. Within the plots of the novels, resides the linkage between the "rescue myth" and the "technologizing of fairy tale." This is the technological cul de sac of the Cold War dilemma and the balance of terror--a counter-technology is always needed to act as a safeguard against earlier scientific achievements. This vicious circle of an infinitely expanding technology is the dragon that threatens modern civilization 75

Of the thirteen Bond novels, eight depict a villain who threatens the world with technological warfare and five have Bond defeat the Russians. The "rescue myth" has its obvious needs: it assuages the twin anxieties of the scien­ tific Sword of Damocles and the Cold War confrontation. The secret agent with all his gadgetry is the St. George. But like the -monster, the beast perpetually rears new, ugly heads--and this partially explains the bitter-sweet victories always allotted to James Bond. Unlike his prede­ cessors the cowboy and the detective, James Bond can never eliminate the opposing evil with a lasting sense of permanence.

This also explains why many of the Bond novels were concluded by Fleming with the ambiguity of Bond’s death (or survival).

Bond’s multiple symbolic deaths and resurrection place him more properly in the company of Osiris and Adonis, and he blends into the mechanical landscape of a technological ro­ mance. The Industrial Revolution generated a which regressed to a prehistorical, green idyll of Nature in order to maintain the equilibrium of the sensibilities; Ian

Fleming’s mythopoeia in the spy genre Is the progeny of a Technology Explosion, and his technological romance pushes forward in time toward a science fictive apocalypse. In his construction of the technological romance in the spy genre, Ian Fleming has drawn upon traditional Classical and Christian metaphor; couched his formula in the trappings of modern technology; and, by temporarily suspending belief, pushed the spy genre toward an apocalyptic meaning with archetypal 76 imagery, Fleming’g technological romance does truly emerge as the "rescue myth" of modern man; however, a structural analysis of Doctor No will provide an even more complete comprehension of the potency of the formula.

Doctor No is paradigmatic of the Ian Fleming formula, and the movement begins from, the standard standstill of act­ ual .job-assignment in M.’s London office, M. is the godlike

Chief of British Secret Service, and is Fleming’s variant of the omniscient Intelligence Boss found earlier in Maugham’s

R. (in Ashenden) and Ambler's Colonel Haki (A Coffin For

Dimitrios and Journey into Fear). As Secret Agent 007, Com­ mander James Bond, is summoned to M.’s office, M. is reflect­ ing on the state of 007’s health. Bond has been convalescing from a near-fatal dose of a rare Japanese poison (this was unceremoniously administered by the Russian Colonel Rosa

Klebb, when she kicked Bond with a hidden syring-spike in her shoe[on the last page of From Russ ia With Love]). M. con­ sidered this poisoning a mistake on Bond’s part, and is now about to give Bond another chance by sending him on a routine- report mission to Jamaica. The male and female agent in Jamaica have disappeared, and M. believes the only foul play is the non-treasonous sin of concupiscence. Therefore, he is sending Bond partly for a follow-up report and partly for a Caribbean holiday away from the windy sleet of London. Of course, the journey turns out to be anything but a holiday in the sun. Within the first twenty-four hours of Bond’s arrival 77

in Jamaica, three attempts are unsuccessfully made on his

life: poisoned fruit is sent to his hotel room; a deadly

tropical centipede is put in his bed; and his car is run off

the road. Bond finally locates the source of the mysterious danger on the guano island of Crab Key, some thirty miles

from Jamaica. The island is taboo to the neighboring natives because of its fearsome inhabitant--a fire-breathing dragon.

Bond and his native helper silently sail at night to the is­ land, and there encounter a beautiful nature girl. She is

an eyewitness to the fire-spouting dragon of Crab Key. Bond’s first joust with the dragon is catastrophic: his native friend

is roasted, and he and Honeychile are captured. Bond and

Honeychile are then introduced to the terrible secret of Crab Key: inside the mountain of guano, Doctor No has constructed a fortress which protects the elaborate complex of Russian electronics systems, the purpose of which is to track

The Fleming villain is a study in the Adlerian inferiority complex; he is usually a physically grotesque but brilliantly cerebral scientist who is fulfilling a personal vendetta a- gainst a world which never appreciated him. Doctor No is such a fallen . He stands six feet six inches, and has two pairs of steel pincers in place of the hands that were looped off. He is Chinese and his polished skull reinforces 78 the Satanic portrait (perhaps a descendent of the villains of Sax Rohmer and the foes of John Marquand's Mr. Moto). Fleming usually etches the diabolic portraits with a skill­ ed detail:

It was impossible to tell Doctor No’s age: as far as Bond could see, there were no lines on the face. It was odd to see a forehead as smooth as the top of the polished skull. Even the cavernous In­ drawn cheeks below the prominent cheekbones looked as smooth as fine ivory. There was something Dali-esque about the eyebrows, which were fine and black and sharply upswept as If they had been painted on as make-up for a conjurer. Below them, slanting jet black eyes stared out of the skull. They were with­ out eyelashes. They looked like the mouths of two small revolvers, direct and unblinking and totally devoid of expression. The thin fine nose ended very close above a wide compressed wound of a mouth which, despite its almost permanent sketch of a smile, show­ ed only cruelty and authority. The two pairs of steel pincers came out on their gleaming stalks and were held up for inspection like the hands of a praying mantis. (p. 130) Doctor No is an evil insect magnified to stunning pro­ portions. He is the incarnation of the demonic imagery of Crab Key (his pincers match the island's nomenclature). The archetypal imagery in the novel is cleft by the pot larity of the demonic versus the apocalyptic world views (to use Northrop Frye’s anatomical structures). The demonic cluster of images derives basically from the tradition of Clas sical mythology; the apocalyptic image-cluster is subsumed within the tradition of Christian-Biblical allegory. The fol­ lowing structural analysis of Doctor No will follow the prin­ ciples of anatomical analysis, as formulated by Northrop Frye, and will indicate how Ian Fleming technologized the fairy tale 79

of the archetypal "rescue" story, which is the underpinning structural motif of both the Classical and Christian ele­

ments. By developing the spy genre thusly, Fleming created

the technological romance--the "rescue myth" of modern man. The fairy tale approach to Doctor No could be summarily

expressed in the following narrative: Once upon a time on

a small cold island there was a man carrying a huge burden of awesome responsibility who became deeply concerned be­

cause two of his subjects (a man and a woman) had disappear­ ed without warning on a small, warm garden-island far away. Therefore he summoned a very brave man, who had recently re­

covered from a miraculous brush with death, and sent him out on a mission to .find out what had happened. The brave man

soon found out that the other two were destroyed, and he en­

countered a lovely maiden who told him about an evil dragon which she had even seen quite clearly one night when the moon was full. The brave man then confronts the dragon in his

lair; the maiden is captured; there is a three-day struggle, and a series of terrible tests for the brave man. The man finally slays the dragon, destroys his lair, and rescues the beautiful maiden. On the level of fairy tale, Fleming’s mode of romance draws upon Classical mythology for its demonic imagery. Crab Key is the center of the demonic imagery in the tale:

Bond stood and gazed at the distant glittering mountain of bird dung. So this was of Doctor Noi Bond thought he had never seen a more godforsaken landscape in his life. He examined the ground between the river and so

the mountain. It seemed to be the usual grey dead coral broken, where there was a pocket of earth, by low scrub and screwpalm. No doubt a road or a track led down the mountainside to the central lake and the marshes. It looked bad stuff to cross un­ less there was. Bond noticed that all the vegeta­ tion was bent to the westwards. He imagined living the year round with that hot wind constantly scour­ ing the island, the smell of the marsh gas and the guano. No penal colony could have a worse site than this. (p. 83)

Crab Key is a corner of demonic hell as pictured in

Dante’s Inferno. In demonic literature, according to Frye:

"The animal world is portrayed in terms of monsters or beasts of prey. The dragon is especially appropriate be­ cause it is not only monstrous and sinister but fabulous, and so represents the paradoxical nature of evil as a moral fact and an eternal negation" (p. li+9). Doctor No recognizes the superstition of the natives and thereby constructs the drag­ on from a marsh-buggy with a mounted flame-thrower. Doctor

No knows how to magnify the natural demonic landscape of Crab Key and plays upon indigenous fears: "The demonic divine world largely personifies the vast, menacing, stupid powers of nature as they appear to a technologically undeveloped society" (Frye, p. ll+7). And, of course, Doctor No’s physi­ cal appearance makes him the demonic divinity in this gro­ tesque kingdom of nightmare, catacombs, and torture. Doctor No is also a mode of romance in the secular tra­ dition of "an idealized world" in which "heroes are brave, heroines beautiful, villains villainous, and the frustrations, ambiguities, and embarrassments of ordinary life are made little of" (Frye, p. 151). This form of romance is secular 81

(the villain is demonic, not yet Satanic) in Frye’s terminol­ ogy, and might be viewed as an enactment of the "mythos of summer." Romance is the mode of the summer mythos and is marked by the following formula: The complete form of the romance is clearly the successful quest, and such a completed form has three main stages: the stage of the perilous journey and the preliminary minor adventures; the crucial struggle, usually some kind of battle in which either the hero or his foe, or both, must die; and the exaltation of the hero. (Frye, p. 187) This Is the essential structure of not only Doctor No, but the

Fleming formula in general. The romance is secular/Classical in origin, and the archetypal imagery of the demonic permeates the opposition to the quester. By following Frye’s detailed examination of the structure of romance, the complete relation­ ship between Fleming’s formula (and the specific tale of Doc­ tor No) and the mythos of summer should become manifest. The

"rescue myth" is basic to the romance: The central form of quest-romance is the dragon­ killing theme exemplified in the stories of St. George and Perseus, already referred to. A land ruled by a helpless old king is laid waste by a sea-monster, to whom one young person after another is offered to be devoured, until the lot falls on the king’s daughter: at that point the hero arrives, kills the dragon, marries the daughter, and succeeds to the kingdom, (p. 189) Several of the "rescue myths" cited previously from the Flem­ ing canon match closely to this central form (or "formula").

In Doc tor No, Bond saves Honeychile Rider, who is the orphan of deceased Jamaican aristocracy. Her "kingdom" is the natur­ al world of plants and animals--"her" island is being destroy­ ed by the dragon. Bond restores the natural order of her "wild 82

kingdom" when he slays the beasts and Doctor No.

Frye also indicates the homogeneity of the romance- hero’ s quest:

The image of the dark winding labyrinth for the monster’s belly is a natural one, and one that frequently appears in heroic , notably that of Theseus. A less displaced version of the story of Theseus would have shown him emerging from the labyrinth at the head of a procession of the Athen­ ian youths and maidens previously sacrificed to the Minotaur. In many solar myths, too, the hero trav­ els periously through a dark labyrinthine underworld full of monsters between sunset and sunrise. This theme may become a structural principle of fiction on any level of sophistication, (p. 190)

The test which Doctor No fatalistically gives to James

Bond is a dark, winding labyrinth which is an obstacle course

of superhuman proportions. Bond negotiates the labyrinth be­

tween sunset and sunrise, and at dawn is thrown from a chute from the mountain side down to the sea where the giant squid awaits. It is the beast at the centre of the maze. Bond slays the sea monster, proceeds to bury the unsuspecting Doc­ tor No under a few tons of guano, and rescue Honeychile Rider

Bond is a solar hero in his own right. The archetypal imagery of evil in Doctor No (and the Fleming formula) seems, then, to have been drawn from the sec ular tradition of Classical mythology. As a hero of romance, James Bond seems indebted to the quest-motif of the mythos of summer--a solar mythology of dying and reborn gods. It is quite appropriate to have a solar hero as the rescuer in the technological romance, for the archetypal enemy is Vulcan-- both a night-god and the classical figure of a growing tech- 83

oology. Technological, from the earliest, was associated

with darkness and the black arts. The apocalyptic imagery of the "rescue myth" emerged

with the Christian "baptism" of romance. Bond and Fleming are dependent not only on Christian allegory, but on the British version of the Christian "rescue myth"--or the story

of salvation. The pecularly British variation of the pri­ mordial rescue is the St. George legend. Again, as Frye gives an account of the Christian "rescue myth," the parallel

to the Fleming formula is unmistakeable:

In Spenser's account of the quest of St. George, the patron saint of England, the protagonist repre­ sents the Christian Church in England, and hence his quest is an imitation of that of Christ. Spenser's Redcross Knight is led by the lady Una (who is veiled in black) to the kingdom of her parents, which is be­ ing laid waste by a dragon. The dragon is of some­ what unusual size, at least allegorically. We are told that Una's parents held 'all the world' in their control until the dragon 'Forwasted all their land, and them expelled.' Una's parents are Adam and Eve; their kingdom is Eden or the unfallen world, and the dragon, who is the entire fallen world, is identified with the , the of Eden, Satan, and the beast of Revelation. Thus St. George's mission, a repetition of that of Christ, is by killing the dragon to raise Eden in the wilderness and restore England to the status of Eden. The association of an ideal England with Eden, assisted by legends of a happy island in the western ocean and by the similar­ ity of the Hesperides story to that of Eden, runs through English literature at least from the end of Greene's Friar Bacon to Blake's 'Jerusalem' hymn, • • • » • • The battle with the dragon lasts, of course, three days: at the end of each of the first two days St. George is beaten back and is strengthened, first by the water of life, then by the tree of life. (p. 19i+) The apocalyptic vision is included in the Christian rescue, because order is restored both in the natural and supernatural 82+

worlds. The demonic imagery was associated with Lucifer,

and his defeat entailed restoration of the moral order. On

the plane of society, the "rescue" involves the re-establish-

ment of the natural order of the Great Chain of Being. The

apocalyptic vision of Christian salvation also brought promise

of immortal life--the happy island of the Hesperides becomes the Heaven for the everlasting Soul.-'-^

The apocalyptic imagery of Doctor No involves the Jamai­

can world of "order" and "greenness" of the King and British

civilization, as opposed to the demonism of Doctor No's blast­

ed, chaotic Crab Key. The demonic Is juxtaposed to the apoc­

alyptic, in Bond's thoughts, after he has realigned the moral and physical orders:

Bond listened to the first few words. He stopped listening. His mind drifted into a world of tennis courts and lily ponds and kings and queens, of London, of people being photographed with pigeons on their heads in Trafalgar Square, of the forsythia that would soon be blazing on the bypass roundabouts, of May, the treasured housekeeper in his flat off the King’s Road, getting up to brew herself a cup of tea (here it was eleven o’clock. It would be six o'clock in London), of the first tube trains beginning to run, shaking the ground beneath his cool, dark bedroom. Of the douce weather of England: the soft airs, the 'heat' waves, the Cold spells--’The only country where you can take a walk every day of the year’--Chesterfield's Letters? And then Bond thought of Crab Key, of the hot ugly wind beginning to blow, of the stink of the marsh gas from the mangrove swamps, the jagged grey, dead coral in whose holes the black crabs were now squatting, the black and red eyes moving swiftly on their stalks as a shadow--a cloud, a bird--broke their small horizons. Down in the bird colony the brown and white and pink

■'■^Interestingly enough, Tennyson also has his Ulysses "baptize" the Hesperides myth some 1,000 years before Christ. It is a very "Christian" version of the Elysian Fields. 85

birds would be stalking in the shallows, or fight­ ing or nesting, while up on the guanera the cormor­ ants would be streaming back from their breakfast to deposit their milligramme of rent. . . . (p. 185)

In terms of Classical myth, the hero of romance Is the

Promethean figure who brings a godlike order to the untamed

chaos of the primeval--it is the triumph of civilization over the brutish nature of a demonic wilderness. In terms of Christian allegory, the "rescue myth" is the promise of

salvation and the restoration of a social order which re­ sembles the moral order of the universe and Natural Law.

Also inherent to Christian "rescue" Is the apocalyptic vi­

sion of the millenium--the coming (or restoration) of a

Golden Age. St. George is more than a "baptized Theseus"--

he is a type of Christ himself. The dichotomy of the demonic versus the apocalyptic is

basic to both Classical and Christian variants of the mode of romance. Doctor No closely adheres to the five structural

levels of the apocalyptic and demonic world of classical and

Christian tradition: divine world = society of gods = One God human world = society of men = One Man animal world = sheepfold = One Lamb vegetable world = garden or park = One Tree (of Life) mineral world = city = One Building, Temple, Stone

(Frye, p. ll+l)

In the demonic world of Doctor No, the first level of the divine is occupied by technology. Technological miracles and 86

talismans personify the vast, menacing divinities to the undeveloped ignorance of the native society. Technology is the One God of Doctor No's island. The second level is held on Crab Key by Doctor No himself. "The demonic human world is a society held together by a kind of molecular tension of egos, a loyalty to the group or the leader which diminish­ es the individual...." (Frye, p. ll+7) • Doctor No is himself the One Man who is the human incarnation of the demonic micro­ cosm of CrabyKey. The third level--the animal world--of Crab Key is occupied by the dragon: "In the Apocalypse the dragon is called 'the beast that was, and is not, and yet is'" (Frye, p. ll+9). The vegetable world of Doctor No's island is the sinister, rank fallen-garden of mangrove swamps and forbidden jungle. The demonic imagery attains perfection of form in the mineral world in its expression of the island's function-- the mountain of guano which is the depositing ground for mil­ lions of birds. The demonic imagery of Crab Key is juxtaposed to the apocalyptic imagery of Jamaica--an extension of the Royal Mon­ archy of Great Britain. In Doctor No, the first level of the divine world is represented by M.--the godly Chief of Secret Service. He is the source of Bond's mission of rescue—the dispenser of divine mercy and justice. M. is the source of cosmic equilibrium. On the second level, James Bond--the Secret Agent--is the One Man. Bond is the One God's repre- sentive in the society of men—an agent, or operative, in the 87

human world who carries out the Divine Will for equilibrium. The animal and vegetable worlds of apocalyptic imagery are Identified with each other in Doctor No in the fertile, warm,

green island of Jamaica. This beautiful isle is a metonymic portrait of the idealistic qualities of England--a world of

tennis courts and lily ponds, kings and queens, tea cups and

clubs. The mineral world of apocalyptic Jamaica is typified

in the King’s House--the Colonial Office, home of the Gover­ nor, who is representative of the King. Bond's rescue mis­

sion begins and ends in the King’s House--it is whence he

comes and whither he returns. This fundamental pattern of structural forms

the basis of the "rescue myth," even when the mode progressed

from Classical to Christian romance. Ian Fleming has taken this basic pattern and has transformed the "rescue story"

into modern relevance. In terms of Classical mythology, James Bond is both a Prometheus and a Theseus. He, in his most fundamental role, is the giver and restorer of apocalyp­ tic tranquillity and order in the triumph over a demonic chaos. In terms of Christian allegory, James Bond's role in

Doctor No is specifically even more interesting. Bond is the savior sent by the godlike M. to a fallen garden where a man and woman have been destroyed. The apocalyptic message of the secret agent is mytho- poeically depicted by Fleming's repeated victories for Bond. The persistent dragon is a technologically-inspired global conspiracy which matches the primordial rebellion of Lucifer 88

(oddly, Fleming’s first villain, in , is named

Le Chiffre, certainly a play on the demonic fallen angel). Bond falters at times, he undergoes many symbolic deaths and resurrections; but he normally prevails against the Imminent threat of cosmic disorder. Ian Fleming’s specific contri­ bution to the spy genre is his development of the technologic al romance. By technologizing the fairy tale, Fleming has given atomic man his modern "rescue myth," CHAPTER V


The cycle of Western literature Is trenchantly deline­

ated in Northrop Frye’s continuum of fictional modes.Ac­

cording to Frye’s theory of modes, mythography is both the

Alpha and Omega of European fiction. At the heart of the literary cycle is the force of verisimilitude. And as its

center of gravity shifts with the various determinants of cul­ ture and history, the cycle of literature progresses through

the sequential modes of myth, romance, high mimesis, low mimes is, irony--and finally the return to myth. Then the process begins again. But the cycle is not a perfect circle; it is more of an ellipse with distinct bi-polar points of attraction and repulsion. The antipodal polarities are myth and irony, and perpetual motion of verisimilitude constantly revolves through the cycle of sequential modes with the positive point of magnetism and attraction perpetually reversing itself be­ tween the poles of myth and irony. This seemingly mystical reversal of polarity is dictated by equally intangible, im­ manent and transcendant attitudes of the reading audience. Thus it should be clarified that popular fiction (and all fic­ tion) is not born of a sociological matrix, but rather is a functionalist ancillary form of culture and society in

‘'-Northrop Frye, Anatomy of Criticism (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1957), pp. 33-67.

89 90

2 general.

On a microcosmic scale, the spy genre faithfully re­ flects the macrocosmic pattern of Frye’s sequential modes.

The initial momentum of verisimilitude was generated by

Eric Ambler's realism in the transition from the detective to spy as the heroic cynosure of popular fiction. The after- math of World War II introduced the cultural determinants of technology and Cold War hysteria, and thus the functionalist­ ic sociological factors came into play. The spy genre thus blossomed forth in the initial modes of myth and romance in the mythography of Ian Fleming's technological romance. The mode of romance presents a celebration--and Fleming's tech­ nological romance celebrated the triumph of the apocalyptic technology over the demonic forces of an unleashed, dark scientism. It was the initial optimism which follows progress.

Romance, however, shifted to high-mimesis—a form of tragedy. The mood of despair and the tension of technological- man's alienation soon found expression in the high-mimesis of

John Le Carre'’s existential negation. In Aristotle's under­ standing of high tragedy, the hero is superior in degree to other men; but his flaw lies in the fact that, the noble being that he is, he is still subject to the divine authority, human passions, social criticism and order of nature found elsewhere in the human condition. John Le Carre7's spy-hero is such a

Frye, Anatomy of Criticism; Bronislaw Malinowski, "The Public and Tribal Character of Primitive Cults," Magic, Science and Religion (New York: Doubleday & Co., 191+8), the source for a functionalist approach to popular literature. 91

of high-mimesis. As the spy genre is stepped down in voltage from the highly incandescent mythpoesis of

Fleming’s romance to the high-mimesis of Le Carre'* s version

of Aristotelian tragedy, the distinct lines of good versus

evil (the hallmark of the fairy-tale) become blurred at the

edges. Thus, there is also a marked movement toward ethical

considerations in the spy genre. This shift is precisely the

contribution of John Le Carre' to the literature of espionage. For the decade that Ian Fleming’s technological romance

unswervingly rose in the ascendancy, the center of fictional gravity hovered In the vicinity of the polarity of mythopoesis By the year 1963, however, the force of verisimilitude was

gravitating toward irony and tragedy. The Cuban missile cri­ sis probably re-inforced this ineluctable reversal of polar­

ity. Suddenly, with the terrifying reality of super-powers’

locked in the death-grip of atomic warfare, the romantic con­ cept of espionage somehow lost its hypnotic grip. High-mimes­

is is basically a process of demythologizing. John Le Carre' set out to reveal the "dirty game" that espionage really was in actual life. By stripping the spy-hero of his gadgetry and miraculous talismans, and infecting him with the contagion of modern despair and alienation, John Le Carre' effectively demythologized the technological romance and thrust the lit­ erature of espionage into the modality of high-mimesis and tragedy.

In the work of John Le Carre', the literature of espionage attained consummate fictional form in the spy novel. Except 92 perhaps for Joseph Conrad's The Secret Agent, the true spy novel begins in the writings of John Le Carre'. Until the advent of Le Carre'* s mimetic form, the spy story was prin­ cipally expressed either as an incrustation on the detective novel or as a romance. The novel is considered the most ap­ propriate form of the spy story because the novel itself had its origins in the emergence of individualism and national­ ism in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, as noted by Ian Watt's The Rise of the Novel; and also because Jacques

Barzun associates the "prying" process of the spy story with the form and function of the novel (his derogatory testimony was given in Chapter II)’.3 And Le Carre' sustained the novel in its traditional usages: it is the verbal battleground of nationalist ideology and individualist sanctity; and the "spy novel" is the final extension, in both form and content, of the business of "prying" into others' consciousness. The "spy novel," then, is perhaps the final, logical stage in the evo­ lution of the novel. The novel was born of sociological rel­ evance (accepting Ian Watt’s premises) and has traditionally been the literary vehicle which has reflected the socio-polit­ ical ideologies since the Enlightenment. Thus, it is fitting that John Le Carre'’s Cold War spy novel has emerged as the supreme expression of the literature of espionage.

^Ian Watt, The Rise of the Novel (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1957), see Chapters I, II and III; Jacques Barzun, "Meditations on the Literature of Spying," American Scholar, 3k (Spring, 1965), 167-78. 93

In the Cold War spy novel, John Le Carre' has captured the Zeitgeist of indifference and despair. The euphoria of the gadget-lover and the technological romance has been viti­ ated by the philosophy of existentialism and the anti-theology

of secularization. It Is the ethos of Atomic Man re-humanized with a conscience; and Le Carre' rehumanizes the spy with the

transvaluation of a modern set of humanistic values. Le

Carre'* s novel depicts a Cold War which has been precipitated by a teeming technology, perpetuated by an inefficient organ­ ization-society, and finally feared by the alienated individ­

ual. Le Carre'* s success has been founded on his astute por­

trait on that era of fear, suspicion and betrayal, known as the Cold War.

After the immediate exhilaration of giving birth to a "progressive" technology, technopolitan man soon suffered a severe decline into post-partum depression. While techno­ politan man enjoyed the mass benefits of the scientific gains in the social sphere on a collective plane (eg. the anonymity of the city and mobility of transportation^-); nevertheless, on the individual plane, a type of autoamputation occurred — man was removed even further from his primary interaction with the flux of immediate experience. Again, Marshal Me Luhan’s comments on "Narcissus as Narcosis" probe deftly into the very crux of the alienation which characterized the exis-

^Harvey Cox, The Secular City (New York: The MacMillan Co., 1965). 94

tentialist philosophy. McLuhan avers that the Greek myth of Narcissus is directly concerned with the process of human experience.The name "Narcissus" is based upon the Greek word for numbness, narcosis. The youth Narcissus misjudged

his own reflection in the water for another person. McLuhan

states: "This extension of himself by mirror numbed his per­

ceptions until he became the servomechanism of his own ex­ tended or repeated image" (p. 5b). He was numbed by his ex­

tension of himself and had become a closed system.

A great deal is to be said for this technological narco­ sis as the source of ellipses in human experience. Having several sensory extensions, man is constantly placed at fur­ ther removes from direct intercourse with nature, fellow-man,

and the cosmos. These technological lacunae are the source

of the existential plaints of isolation and alienation. This philosophy of despair is the post-partum depression which fol­ lowed the multiple births of a technological progeny. John Le Carre7’s tragic high-mimesis records this Cold War milieu which is replete with the rhetoric of a simultaneous optimism

and despair. While optimism oozed from vague language of bureaucratic officialdom, the despair seethes In the ironic dialogue of the individual man who must confront technology on its most awesome terms--the humanist spy. The secret agent of the Le Carre7 fiction belongs more to the medieval age of the "virgin" and not the "dynamo." Le Carre7 most effectively

^Marshall McLuhan, Understand ing Med ia (New York: NAL 196i+), pp. 51-56. 95 reveals the effect of technology and the organization-society on man by transplanting the values of an antiquated, yet per­ ennial, humanism into the stark landscape of the Cold War.

The Cold War technology is not the only source of a phil­ osophy of despair, for the expectations of the organization- society also present a bleak prospect for authenticity of ex­ istence and individualist expression. John Le Carre" is one of many contemporary writers who has described the horrors of working for the soul-less mass of a corporate entity of the organization man. Bureacratic procedure is a chief target in a Le Carre' novel. In fact, the organization--whether Democrat­ ic or Communist--emerges as the real source of evil In Le Carry’s closed world of interlocking organizations. In an essay, "Mass

Society and Post-Modern Fiction," Irving Howe has described the organizational asphyxiation which throttles the individ­ ualist-hero in contemporary fiction: The possibilities that appear are those which struck at T. E. Lawrence when he returned from Arabia and discovered that he did not know how or why to live. One such possibility is that we are moving to­ ward a quiet desert of moderation where men will for­ get the passion of moral and spiritual restlessness that has characterized Western society. That the hu­ man creature, no longer a Quizote or a Faust, will be­ come a docile attendant to an automated civilization. That the "aura of the human" will be replaced by the nihilism of satiety. That the main question will no longer be the conditions of existence but existence itself. That high culture as we understand it will be­ come increasingly problematical and perhaps reach some point of obsolescence.

^Irving Howe, "Mass Society and Post-Modern Fiction," in The Dilemma of Organizational Society, ed. by H endrik M. Ruitenbeek (New York: Dutton & Co., 1963), p. 206. 96

Not only the spy novels of John Le Carre', but also the

other forms of contemporary fiction which deal with the or­

ganization man as hero (or anti-hero), do indeed bear a dark foreboding for man’s future when inextricably linked with "the


This background of a threatening, narcotic technology,

a philosophy of alienated despair, and an authentic existence

groping in the midst of an encroaching organization-society

is the Cold War world of John Le Carre'. The heroic secret

agent in this menacing context is a reactionary to each of these particular evils: he employs none of the appurtenances

of super-spy gadgetry; he is a reborn renaissance humanist--

the whole raan--who is capable of superimposing a holistic

philosophy of life upon the fragmentation of his twentieth- century specialization; and finally he is the Socratic-godfly who knows himself and cannot fully accept the obliterating matrix of the "organization." The special quality of Le Carre's secret agent is his universali.ty--he has filled a gap in modern art. This hiatus is explained by William Barrett in study of existential phil­ osophy : The one thing that is not clear in modern art is its image of man. We can select a figure from Greek art, from the Renaissance, or the Middle Ages and say with some certainty, 'That is the image of man as the Greek, the medieval, or Renaissance man conceived him.’ I do not think we can find any com­ parably clear-cut image of man amid the bewildering thicket of modern art. And this is not because we are too close to the period, as yet, to stand back 97

and make such a selection. Rather, the variety of images is too great and too contradictory to coalesce into any single shape or form.7

One of Le Carre7's primary achievements is his provision of an

archetypal image of twentieth-century man. By profession, he

happens to be a secret agent. In this figure, Le Carre7 ar­

tistically found the cynosure of contemporary society’s ma­ ladies and also the source of physical and spiritual deliv­ erance .

John Le Carre7, then, brings the spy genre to supreme

fulfillment in his development of the spy novel and the human­ istic spy as hero. In his hands, the novel becomes the cruc­

ible brought to full boil: the whole concept of nationalism

must undergo the acid test of humankind's survival. Can man's survival pass through the limited historical stage of national

ism? Has the global village not outgrown the earlier phase of nationalistic enterprise--this is a basic premise to Le

Carre's international humanism. And this central theme of man's necessity to transcend a self-sustaining nationalism poses two questions which form the substantive corerdf Le

Carre7's literature of espionage: can the individual man or country thrive apart from an ideology; and can a decent man be a spy (or, in other terms, to what extent can an ideology ask a man to betray his very lack of ideology--his conscience)

Le Carre7's remarkable spy-heroes answer these questions in an obliquity of action: in their evasion of ethical issues, they

^William Barrett, Irrational Man (New York: Doubleday & Co., 1958), p. 61. 98

are forced into an ethical existence.

John Le Carre' constructs a closed-world fictional struc­

ture which resembles the previous world-views of John Buchan

and Eric Ambler. It is an hermetically-sealed world of den­ sity and intimacy. This "whole-world" construct is also an

oblique metaphorical extension of the view of the world-as- trap. This viscous society of interlinking acquaintances and relationships is probably a vestigial survival of the detect­ ive story--itself a metonymic extension of a closed-world of

interlocking pieces and puzzles.

Le Carre'’s espionage fiction bears this ethos of the earlier Buchan and Ambler fiction coupled with other mechan­ ical devices. The omniscient Intelligence Boss, prefigured in Buchan, Maugham, and Ambler, attains a fulfillment of real­ istic growth in Le Carre'1 s Mason and, even more so, in Control

Le Carre' also follows the precedent of Buchan and Ambler by introducing the same characters, both fully and obliquely, through his sequence of novels. It is a world peopled by characters who know each other intimately, and who also in­ timately know their enemy. And it is a closed arena ruled by Control, who knows all. This atmosphere of universality in Le Carre'’s fiction warrants extrapolation, for Le Carre'’s world-as-trap is a microscopic segment of the Cold War world.

The interlocking relationships of Le Carre'’s microcosm more importantly provide a continuity in the novels, for there exists the growth of theme and symbol. The first two novels 99 portray --the incongruous spy. Smiley is an in­ tensely decent man who also happens to be a professional se­ cret agent for Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Smiley is, fur­ thermore, a seventeenth-century German literary scholar and linguist who finds himself in the technological twentieth- century, and deeply involved in the dirty game of Cold War espionage. The first two novels depict Smiley grappling with these gross incongruities. Le Carre'’s fiction, then, begins with a simple question--can a decent man also be a profession­ al spy, e.g., the technopolitan organization man? The answer, it seems, lies not only in the themes and symbols of the first two novels, but also In Le Carre"’s momentary, somewhat hesi­ tant, shift in genre in the second novel.

In tandem, Call For the Dead (1961) and A. Murder of Qual­ ity (1962) present George Smiley and his situation of incon- o gruities. The former novel is pedigreed espionage litera­ ture, while the latter is pure detective fiction. This gen­ eric shift partially explains the insoluble incongruities of Smiley the decent spy, and will be deferred for later discus­ sion. Call For the Dead begins with a brief sketch of George Smiley's history. Physically, Smiley is a short, plump, "frog-like" man--this "frog" appearance is significant because

8Both of these novels are reprinted in a single volume titled The Incongruous Spy (New York: Walker and Co., 19&3). Reference to both novels are from this edition. 100

it becomes a signal of his alluded presence in later novels, His unattractive physical appearance is incongruous with his

keen intellectual quality of mind. His marriage to a beauti­ ful Lady of quality is also paradoxical, and her choice is

described as: "’...mated to a bull frog in a sou'wester.’

And Smiley, unaware of this description, had waddled down

the aisle In search of the kiss that would turn him into a

Prince" (p. 7). The kiss, the symbol of the equalizing agent to rectify and compensate for present incongruities, never does come for George Smiley. The fairy-tale quality of the romantic mode is never allowed to intrude into Le Carre7's rigid realism. The physical and moral orders merge and in­

terpenetrate, but are never quite set right. Smiley's exis­ tence is one completely out of joint.

And it is precisely the incongruities of an alleged sui­ cide case which precipitate Smiley's efforts to set right the contradicting pointers of evidence. While questioning the wife of Samuel Fennan, a Foreign Office member who suddenly took his own life, Smiley inadvertently uncovers a few clues which signal that Fennan had every intention of being alive on the morning after the death. Fennan's wife deliberately misleads Smiley about a phone call from an answering-service exchange which Fennan had commissioned. The inscrutable pur­ pose of the phone call leads Smiley to further evidence of foul-play and murder. The Foreign Office member was also leaking high-grade intelligence to the East German espionage apparat. The head of the East German unit, Smiley comes to 101 learn, is Dieter Frey--Smiley's former pupil and friend from a German university. For Smiley, the moral incongruities widen and the choices become limited. As Smiley pursues his theory of homicide connected with espionage, he finds that the stiffest opposition comes from within his own organization. The efficient, professional In- telligence Chief--in the tradition of Ashenden1s R, Ambler’s

Colonel Haki, and James Bond's Chief, M—has been preempted by the technocratic "organization-man." Smiley's Adviser (the predecessor of Control) is Maston; and, in a single, sweeping vituperative portrait, Le Carre' has unveiled the soft, musky pith at the center of the bureaucratic process:

Gone for ever were the days of Steed-Asprey, when as like as not you took your orders over a glass of port in his rooms at Magdalen; the inspired amateurism of a handful of highly qualified, under-paid men had given way to the efficiency, bureaucracy and intrigue of a large Government department--effectively at the mercy of Maston, with his expensive clothes and his knighthood, his distinguished grey hair and silver coloured ties; Maston, who even remembered his secre­ tary’s birthday, whose manners were a by-word among the ladies of the registry; Maston, apologetically extend­ ing his empire and regretfully moving to even larger offices; Maston, holding smart houseparties at Henley and feeding on the successes of his subordinates. They had brought him in during the war, the pro­ fessional civil servant from an orthodox department, a man to handle paper and integrate the brilliance of his staff with the cumbersome machine of bureaucracy. It comforted the Great to deal with a man they knew, a man who could reduce any colour to grey, who knew his mas­ ters and could walk among them. And he did it so well. They liked his diffidence when he apologised for the company he kept, his insecerity when he defended the vagaries of his subordinates, his flexibility when form­ ulating new commitments. Nor did he let go the advan­ tages of a cloak and dagger man malgre lui, wearing the cloak for his masters and preserving the dagger for his servants. Ostensibly, his position was an odd one. He 102

was not the nominal Head of Service, but the Minis­ ters' Adviser on Intelligence, and Steed-Asprey had described him for all time as the Head Eunuch. (pp. 14-15) Le Carre7's lament reflects Eric Ambler's plaint that the

good, old-fashioned international spy may be in danger of

extinction. One may also see why David Cornwell, the British civil-servant, chose a pseudonym in the form of John Le Carre".

The portrait of Maston is much less caricature than actual invective directed at the evils of the "organization." Maston's character is juxtaposed to the enemy German a-

gent, Dieter Prey, whom Smiley also knows well. Prey is ef­

ficient and ruthless--an utterly professional and effective secret agent. Frey is the antithesis of the organization

bureaucrat. When Smiley discovers his opponent's identity,

he reflects on the Germanic essence of Dieter Frey:

'Dieter had a theory that was pure Faust. Thought alone was valueless. You must act for thought to become effective. He used to say that the greatest mistake man ever made was to distin­ guish between the mind and the body: an order does not exist if it is not obeyed. He used to quote Kleist a great deal: "if all eyes were made of green glass, and if all that seems white was really green, who would be the wiser?" Something like that.' (p. 118) Frey propounds the ethic of action-heroic action. Frey is further described in explicitly heroic terms: "He was a man apart, a man you remember, a man who strikes a chord deep in your experience, a man with the gift of universal familiar­ ity: ...he stood at the mast with Conrad, sought the lost

Greece with Byron and with Goethe visited the shades of clas­ sical and mediaeval hells" (p. 158), The heroic identification 103

Is special--these are tragic heroes who have succumbed to a

flaw or hamartla: each in his own way has somehow "missed

the mark," in literal Greek translation. Dieter Frey has missed the mark by subscribing to an ideology which toler­

ates no other cohabiting ideology. It is really an ideology which must logically and relentlessly pursue its own destruc­

tion. The Faustian ideology of pure action allows for no ideology in se, and must eventually turn upon itself.

Thus the dilemma is succinctly presented: the either- or, both of which are inherently evil. On one hand exists

the bureaucratic organization of Maston which thrives on the processes of thought and paper-work; and the alternative is the ideology of the deed. Smiley sees the ideological con­ flict of the Cold War reduced to the organizational level. And Smiley must pose the pressing question: which ideology

is really the source of evil? Both ideologies claim to pro­

vide world salvation; and by setting out to save the world,

each, only incidently, might need to destroy the other-half of the world. The saviors of mankind--Prometheus, Christ, , and Marx--expound a nostrum for the world’s illness; yet, ideology is a remedy which cures the disease but kills the patient. Smiley is himself above ideologies, and he comes to view the nostrum itself as the source of evil in

the world. What emerges is the central motif of Le Carre*’s fiction-

the theme of the "innocent middle." Smiley considers him­ self a representative of the mass of humanity which is caught 102+

in a cross-fire of ideologies perpetuated by the political oligarchy of the "lunatic fringe." Therefore, Smiley at­

tempts to justify the existence of the secret agent. The

spy is the heroic organization man who is in, but not of,

the organization. He is above all ideology, and his self-

sacrificing actions provide stop-gap measures which prevent

the conflicting operatives from closing in combat and crush­ ing the innocent majority caught in the middle. Smiley de­

scribes the plight of the decent man who is also a spy: ’No one can stand it for ever. It takes cour­ age, too, and it's so hard to be brave alone. They never understand that, do they? They never know what it costs--the sordid tricks of lying and de­ ceiving, the isolation from ordinary people. They think you can run on their kind of fuel--the flag waving and the music. But you need a different kind of fuel, don’t you, when you're alone? You've got to hate, and it needs strength to hate all the time. And what you must love is so remote, so vague when you're not part of it.' (p. 123) The source of modern evil, then, is the organization—any organization. Elsa Pennan, the murdered man's wife, also sees

through the game of ideologies. She sharply rebukes Smiley when he attempts investigation: ’It was a game,' she said suddenly, 'a silly balancing trick of ideas; it had nothing to do with him or any real person. Why do you bother yourself with us? Go back to Whitehall and look for more spies on your drawing boards.' She paused, showing no sign of emotion beyond the burning of her dark eyes. 'It's an old illness you suffer from, Mr. Smiley,' she con­ tinued, taking a cigarette from the box; 'and I have seen many victims of it. The mind becomes separated from the body; it thinks without reality, rules a paper kingdom and devises without emotion the ruin of its paper victims. But sometimes the division between your world and ours is incomplete; the files grow heads and arms and legs, and that's a terrible moment, io5

isn’t it? The names have families as well as records, and human motives to explain the sad little dossiers and their make-believe sins. When that happens I am sorry for you.’ She paused for a moment, then continued: ’It’s like the State and the People. The State is a dream too, a symbol of nothing at all, an emptiness, a mind without a body, a game played with clouds in the sky. But States make war, don’t they, and imprison people? To dream in doc- trines--how tidyl...' (pp. 30-31) The emergence of Mrs. Fennan’s accent is important: it is her

certified receipt of having paid the price of once being part of an obliterated "innocent middle." Elsa Fennan is a Jewish refugee from --she comes from an ethnic neutral­ ity which has been the scapegoat of several antagonist ideol­

ogies: "...I’m the wandering Jewess, the no-man's land, the battlefield for your toy soldiers. Go away and kill" (p. 133)

Of course, as in any Le Carre' novel, appearances are not what they seem. The various convolutions of plot make Le Carre the most unpredictable novelist alive. Nothing is what

it seems: neither Elsa Fennan nor the suicide of Samuel Fen­

nan. Reading a Le Carre' novel is much like looking at a photb graph, but one suddenly realizes that he is really looking at the photo-negative. The black-and-white are reversed. Upon

third and fourth scrutinies, however, the viewer is not sure whether it is a negative or not--not certain if the black is really white, and vice-versa. The only fixed point In the first two novels is the conscience of George Smiley. After

solving the case of the Call For The Dead, Smiley repudiates all organizations and resigns from the Secret Service. This is Le Carre*'s first spy who tries to "come in from the cold." 106

Smiley's retirement, however, is interrupted by a mur­

der case. It is A Murder of Quality, and the decent spy, George Smiley, also turns out to be a detective of quality.

Le Carre's second novel is an excellent tale of detection which incorporates many of the genre's classic characteris­ tics,

Smiley resolves the case and, as is learned in subse­

quent novels, returns to the Service. Le Carre" needed to bear his burgeoning themes of the "innocent middle" and the

"decent spy" to full maturation. This motif-complex did not belong within the isolated world of the detective. Just as Le Carre"'s next spy attempts to return to the fold of the in­

nocent nehtral, Le Carre" himself returned from the cold genre

of the superannuated hero. The detective, as George Smiley's decision obliquely indicates, has no place in the Cold War world,

The Spy Who Came In From The Cold attempts to deal more minutely with the spy's place in the shifting moral sands of the Cold War landscape. The basic premise of the third Le Carre" novel represents a slight variation of an earlier theme what happens when a professional spy decides to become a de­ cent man; or, is it possible for a man with a conscience for social activism to re-enter that non-descript majority of the apolitical center of neutrality? The spy is British agent Alec Leamas, and the "cold" from which he seeks refuge is the Cold War of ideologies. 107

Leamas is an "old hand" of the Service, but he has met with a series of devastating defeats in his job as Berlin chief of intelligence. It seems that the Eastern Zone counter­ intelligence forces have been led by a man named Mundt, who has uncanny ability of destroying all the British operatives. It is the same Mundt of Call For The Dead who nearly killed

George Smiley and did escape from London. Mundt is more suc­ cessful in dealing with Leamas; and after Leamas watches his last agent cut down mercilessly by gunfire at the Wall, he is recalled to London. Mundt had won, and Leamas prepares to bring himself in from the cold rather than accept the paltry humiliation of a desk job in Whitehall. Soon after his arrival at the Circus (the ironic, yet informative, metaphor which is the literal name of the section of the London location for Secret Service Headquarters), Lea­ mas is summoned to the office of Control--the Intelligence

Boss. Control is another incarnation of the organization-man, but his portrait is not as bitterly drawn as Maston's. Con­ trol wears the same affected detachment of his predecessor, and has a horror of hot and cold drafts. He always prefers the lukewarm via med ia. Control reminds Leamas of his recent fatal failures and begins a subtle for an ideo­ logical flaw; 'I wondered whether you were tired. Burned out.' There was a long silence. 'That's up to you,' Leamas said at last. 'We have to live without sympathy, don't we? That's impossible of course. We act it to one another, 108

all this hardness; but we aren’t like that really. I mean. . . one can’t be out in the cold all the time; one has to come in from the cold. . . do you see what I mean ? ’ Leamas saw. He saw the long road outside Rotterdam, the long straight road beside the dunes, and the stream of refugees moving along it; saw the little airplane miles away, the procession stop and look toward it; and the plane coming in, neatly over the dunes; saw the chaos, the meaningless hell, as the bombs hit the road. ’I can’t talk like this, Control,’ Leamas said at last. 'What do you want me to do?' 'I want you to stay out in the cold a little longer.' Leamas said nothing, so Control went on: 'The ethic of our work, as I understand it, is based on a single assumption. That is, we are never going to be aggressors. Do you think that's fair?' Leamas nodded. Anything to avoid talking. 'Thus we do disagreeable things so that ordinary people here and elsewhere can sleep safely in their beds at night. Is that too romantic? Of course, we occasionally do very wicked things.'?

Control's thin veneer of saccharine romanticism in actuality cloaks a deadly anti-romantic dialectic. Control wants to send Leamas out into the cold for one last mission: to des­ troy Mundt. Control proposes a revanchist plan for Leamas to pose as a defector who will undermine Mundt's credibility with his own people, and hope that Mundt will be liquidated as a traitor. Both Control and Leamas know that the Cold War has been reduced to single combat. Leamas has lost the dispas­ sionate, objective professionalism of the successful agent, and Control is able to maneuver him as a pawn-piece in a lar­ ger game. In his attempt to seek decency, Leamas has opened himself to both love and hate. And Control knows how to capitalize off of this new capability for hatred for one

John Le Carre", The Spy Who Came In From The Cold (New York: Coward-McCann, Inc., 19^3), p. 23. 109 final job before he lets Leamas in from the cold, dispas­ sionate ideological warfare of State-organizations. But it is the even more cold-hearted manipulation of Leamas’ newfound capacity for love which finally emerges as the novel's most powerful tour de force. The predominant tours and involutions emanate from an

Intricate plot riddled with a reversable appearance-versus- reality core. Leamas sets out to prove that Mundt is real­ ly a British operative--and he is totally unaware that it is true. Leamas believes that he must protect Mundt's deputy,

Fiedler. Leamas tries to support Fiedler's allegation that

Mundt is a British spy. The truth of the situation is that Mundt did defect when he was caught in England for the de­ nouement of the Fennan murder in Call For The Dead. Fiedler is on to him and warily suspects his Chief of betrayal. Thus Control sends Leamas with weighted evidence which gives

Fiedler the proverbial "too much rope" whereby he hangs him­ self. Leamas' eyes are opened when Fiedler is innocently victimized by the two-edged planted evidence, and Mundt is cleared of treasonous charges. The terrible upshot of this reversable portrait of blacks-and-whites in Le Carreas photo­ negative world is that the truth is rejected even when it is so painfully evident. Recognition of the truth is beyond the pole of the professional practitioners of ideology. This fatal blind-spot is the unguarded jugular, and the London practitioners win this particular battle of the blind. In a world of distrust, suspicion, and betrayal, the viewer can 110

never trust his empirical, sensory data. Therefore, the spy of intellectual quality of mind is forced into the realm of the metaphysical. The metaphysical

is also beyond the inferior level of the ideological. It is

more the meta-ethical. In this sense, this moral growth of

Le Carre'* s incongruous spy resembles the dialectical matur­ ations of many nineteenth-century thinkers and writers:

Hegel, Kierkegaard and Lord Tennyson come to mind. Each of

these figures posited an evolutionary system of intellectual

growth which attempted to bridge the old Cartesian hiatus

between mind and matter, thought and action. Hegel’s dialec­

tical materialism veered toward the realm of matter and ex­ istence; while Kierkegaard’s three stages of the aesthetic,

moral, and religious initially flirted with materialism, then abruptly turned about and sought sanctuary in the realm of mind and essence. Tennyson’s epistemology closely paralleled Kierkegaard’s transitions, but he too closes with a mystical

futurism in the Idylls of the King which echoes the earlier apocalyptic projections of Locksley Hall. The nineteenth

century, as this century, was unable to close the cleavage of

Cartisian dualism which emanated from Plato’s Absolute com- partmentalism—the very source of twenty-five hundred years

of ideological warfare. Thus it is easy to see why Alfred

North Whitehead once remarked that all philosophy is a foot­

note to Plato, This ideological hiatus is the philosophical core of Le Carre"’s fiction. And rightly so, for it is the raison d1 etre Ill

of the spy. But Le Carre'1 s spies are the first to make the

crucial discovery: there is no difference when the ideology

is converted into action. Hegel, Marx and Engels constructed a dialectic philosophy based on material existence--the ul­

timate effect was to build a good society based on material equality. Plato, John Locke, Thomas Paine and Thomas Jeffer­ son postulated a good society predicated on the mental con­

structs of ideas and essences--the theoretical bases of hu­

man equality and parity in the social sphere. These contra­ puntal ideologies are the nuclei of opposing forces in the

Cold War, but Le Carry's perceptive spies are the first to proclaim the lack of the emperor's clothes: there is little

or no differentiation in the execution of the practical im­ plementation of the two ideologies. It is the principal tour de force of Le Carre's "appearance versus reality" world

Thus, espionage systems exist in order to cancel each other out. Dieter Frey acknowledges this irony of existence in Call For The Dead, and the fact that Le Carre'1 s combatants always have intimate knowledge of each other reinforces this subtle acquiescence between the juxtaposed principals. Even Control openly admits this ironic fact of life in his Initial "re­ procurement" of Leamas: 'And in weighing up the moralities, we rather go in for dishonest comparisons; after all, you can't compare the ideals of one side with the methods of the other, can you now?' Leamas was lost, He'd heard the man talked a lot of drivel before getting the knife in, but he’d never heard anything like this before. 112

’I mean, you've got to compare method with method, and ideal with ideal. I would say that since the war, our methods--ours and those of the opposition--have become much the same. I mean you can't be less ruthless than the opposi­ tion simply because your government's policy is benevolent, can you now?' He laughed quietly to himself. 'That would never do,' he said. For God's sake, thought Leamas, it's like working for a bloody clergyman. What is he up to? (p. 2U) Control is a clever man. He practices here the same principle of epistemology which will make his upcoming operation success

ful: by stating the truth, he throws the opposition offguard.

Leamas' lesson will be learned when he discovers the truth of

Mundt, the betrayal of Fiedler, and his own manipulation.

Leamas will come to see no difference between Control's oper­ ation and Mundt's methods. The ultimate truth of Alec Leamas' existence, as he is forced in from the cold war ideology, is that the Wall is a delusion which separates nothing. The Wall is the fixed point of reference for the several streams of imagery in the novel. The Berlin Wall is the sym­ bol of the isolationism of the Cold War phenomenon. Quite significantly the action of The Spy Who Came In From The Cold begins and ends at the Wall. In the opening scene, Leamas waits on the Western side of the Wall for his returning agent. Upon witnessing the agent's subsequent murder, Leamas walks the street of Berlin throughout the night in the shadows of the Wall. It is at this point that Leamas wants to come in from the cold. But Leamas is persuaded to sit astride the

Wall by feigning defection. As the scales drop from his eyes during the defection operation, Leamas is symbolically atop 113

the Wall and commands a whole view of both sides. Here is

where he truly comes in from the cold as he perceives no dif­

ference on either side. The reality of collusion between the two figureheads of opposite ideologies, Control and Mundt,

belies the total appearance of similarity. Leamas is afford­

ed this view as he sits atop the Wall, rising above the ideo­ logical differences. Appearance and reality are convertible

truths and lies--it is all the same. This symbolic rising, above ideology Is literally acted out by Leamas in the final scene. As Leamas literally sits astride the Wall in his at­ tempt to escape with Liz Gold, the spotlight prematurely lights

the landscape. In this final illumination, literal and sym­

bolic, Leamas learns of the final betrayal. Control gave him

only enough time to save himself, and the girl was to be left at the base of the Wall for the East German gunners. Leamas

is outraged at Control’s complete manipulation--for Control had earlier planned Leamas’ and Liz Gold’s affaire. Control had even manipulated their hearts and their souls. In a mo­ ment of utter free will, between two bursts of gunfire, Lea­ mas nullifies Control’s control. As Leamas jumps back into the Eastern Zone in order to die with Liz Gold, he is cut down and completes his coming in from the cold. Leamas final­ ly leaves the Wall of neutrality and leaps into the most to­ tal act of commitment-self-sacr if ice. The existence of the

Cold War Wall is negated by the warmth of humanity and the capacity for love. In this background of existential negation where all iU human motive is dialectically analyzed and predicted, Leamas is given a dark victory. It is only by death that he escapes the cold. And the final image in his brain, as the bullets pierce, Is equally foreboding. Earlier in the novel, Leamas narrowly avoids an auto accident. He must pull of the high­ way lest a small car is crushed between two huge trucks. As the small car passes, Leamas sees a group of children un­ knowingly waving and laughirg through the window. When Leamas falls under the hail of gunfire, "Leamas saw a small car smashed between great lorries, and the children waving cheer­ fully through the window" (p. 256). It is the "innocent middle," When Leamas forsakes ideology and drops from the

Wall to a certain death, his action must comment on the neces sity of ultimately making a choice and relinquishing the safe ty of the neutral zone. The power of Le Carre"'s novel re­ sides in the unanswered questions which must follow Leamas' final choice. Is it possible to exist in the "innocent mid­ dle," and to exist there decently or ethically? Is it pos­ sible to remain both a spectator and a moralist? Does an ethical existence--tha.t basic "coming in from the cold"--ne- cessitate a leap from the Wall: does one eventually have to choose sides? And, finally, what difference does it make, if both sides are the same. The final, grim incongruity of Le Carre'» s universe is that an evil Mundt must exist and an innocent Fiedler must die in order to preserve that balance of power between the 115 mutually destructive ideologies of the word and the deed- mind and matter. By making a choice, Leamas momentarily removed the Wall, and death and destruction ensued. In his attempt to negate and nullify an evil act, Leamas momentarily disturbed that delicate balance and suffered the deadly re­ sults. The innocent middle was destroyed through a positive act of moral choice. The theological and ethical horror of

Le Carre"’s universe is the necessity of the existence of evil

An act of goodness brings chaos. The theological archetypes are present. Le Carre" em­ phatically portrays Fiedler as the scapegoat--the Jew who is killed so that the balance is preserved. As Leamas hurriedly tells Liz: "We are witnessing the lousy end to a filthy, lousy operation to save Mundt’s skin. To save him from a clever little Jew in his own Department who had begun to sus­ pect the truth. They made us kill him, do you see, kill the Jew. Now you know, and God help us both" (p. 21J1). Control is the omniscient Father who needs a Judas to fulfill the great plan--and perhaps like Judas, Leamas’ final act is of utter despair in a world without hope. The deepest source of despair in Le Carre"’s cosmic state ment of existential negation is not in probing a source of evil but rather in presenting a closed list of alternatives which all need the existence of evil,

Le Carre"’s novels are peopled by an assortment of char- acters--traitors, pimps, spies, and lonely souls--in search 116

of a faith. The single motive of these driven souls is the

need to believe in something. The religious imagery of his

novels, especially in The Spy Who Came In From The Cold and its sequel, The Looking Glass War, informs the nature and the

degree of intensity of this search. Religion Itself is not

the object of the quest; ideology Is. Slogans and banners are the modern surrogates of religious creed.

The quest for a secular faith is what brings Alec Leamas

and Liz Gold together. Control foresees this commonality of

a relationship, and the actualization of their affaire bears

out his reckoning and secures the success of the operation against Fiedler. Liz is immersed in Communist ideology, and

Leamas is quickly moving beyond all ideologies; and Control knows how the opposite poles do indeed attract. Control too

is cooly above belief, and sufficiciently knows how faith

and despair are in external need of each other.

Liz and Alec’s relationship is permeated with religious imagery. On the night they become lovers, Liz asks Leamas what he believes in. He merely shrugs and mouths a few In­ nocuous banalities. "You must believe in something," she persisted: "something like God--I know you do, Alec; you’ve got that look sometimes, as if you’s got something special

to do, like a priest. Alec, don’t smile, it’s true" (p. 1+2). Leamas resists any assertion of beliefs, and Liz finally charges him with a belief of a different kind: "You’re a fanatic who doesn’t want to convert people, and that’s a dangerous thing" (p. 1+2). Liz herself believes not in God 117

but in history. To Leamas, they are one and the same—a religious creed. In their union exists the nucleus of the

modern symbiotic relationship of faith and despair.

Leamas understands this religious nature of ideology, and this knowledge of faith, even in his despair, is planned

by Control and is what makes Leamas’ feigned defection so believable. When Leamas is subjected to a thorough inter­ rogation, he is aware that even despair must be impregnated

to an ideology of doubt. As a professional spy, Leamas knows that defection is bred by neither love nor money, but

by a doubt in need of a new fhath. Peters, his interrogator,

knows it also, and he appraises Leamas "like a professional

gambler across the table": He was a man at odds with himself, a man who knew one life, one confession, and had betrayed them. Peters had seen it before. He had seen it, even in men who had undergone a complete ideological reversal, who in the secret hours of the night had found a new creed, and alone, compelled by the internal power of their convictions, had betrayed their calling, their families, their countries. Even they, filled as they were with new zeal and new hope, had had to struggle against the stigma of treachery; even they wrestled with the almost physical anguish of saying that which they had been trained never, never to reveal. Like apostates who feared to burn the Cross, they hesitated between the instinctive and the material; and Peters, caught in the same polarity, must give them comfort and destroy their pride. It was a situation of which they were both aware; thus Leamas had fiercely re­ jected a human relationship with Peters, for his pride precluded it. (pp. 86-87) Leamas’ new faith, however, breaks down in a human re­ lationship with his next interrogator, Fiedler. Fiedler is

a Jew like Liz Gold, and he also believes in the Communist

God of History, And Leamas and Fiedler are drawn together 118

in the same way. In his relationships with Liz Gold and Fied­

ler, Leamas discovers the name of the faith which in inherent­

ly anti-ideology--the power of love. Love is generated by the

same forces which breed despair and faith. Control reckons

these human factors in his cold calculus of planning Mundt’s

rescue. It is precisely Control’s counting upon Leamas’ de­ fection to the anti-ideology of love which makes the operation airtight and seals the fate of Fiedler,

Again in their final discussion, Leamas Ironically re­ sorts to religious imagery as he explains the whole operation

to Liz. The terrible truth of Control and Mundt is that they

too, in their peculiar rites of betrayal, are above ideology. They are technicians--practitioners of the Cold War. The world is reduced to form. Like "The Grand Inquisitor," Con­

trol and Mundt both know that the loyalty is more important than the creed; the faith is more urgent than the brand of religion. The professional spy, then, must not subscribe to

a dogma; but must rise above the matter to preserve the form. What Dostoevski's "Grand Inquisitor" said for the death of God, so do Le Carre"'s Control and Mundt say for the death of nationalism. And Leamas reveals this new heresy in religious terms: 'What do you think spies are: priests, saints and martyrs? They're a squalid procession of vain fools, traitors too, yes; pansies, sadists and drunk­ ards, people who play cowboys and Indians to brighten their rotten lives. Do you think they sit like monks in London, balancing the rights and wrongs? I'd have killed Mundt if I could, I hate his guts; but nob now. It so happens that they need him. They need him so that the great moronic mass you admire can sleep sound- 119

ly in their beds at night. They need him for the safety of ordinary, crummy people like you and me.’ 'Oh God,’ said Liz softly. ’You don't under­ stand. You don't want to. You're trying to per­ suade yourself. It's far more terrible, what they are doing; to find the humanity in people, in me and whoever else they use, to turn it like a weapon in their hands, and use it to hurt and kill—' 'Christ Almighty!' Leamas cried. 'What else have men done since the world began? I don't be­ lieve in anything, don't you see--not even destruc­ tion or anarchy. I'm sick, sick of killing but I don’t see what else they can do. They don't pro­ selytize; they don't stand in pulpits or on party platforms and tell us to fight for Peace or for God or whatever it is. They're the poor sods who try to keep the preachers from blowing each other sky high.' (pp. 21+6-47) Leamas reaffirms his declaration of faith in the anti­ ideology of love, when, a few minutes later, he makes a lit­ erally Kierkegaardian "leap of faith" from atop the Wall un­ der a sudden flood of light.• In his own way, Alec Leamas did progress, in the growth of human relationships, from spy to priest, to saint, and finally to a martyr of the humanistic religion of love.

The religious imagery spills over into the next novel, The Looking Glass War. The use of the title predictably re­ flects some of the truths revealed in The Spy Who Came In: that Is, the Cold War is a contrast of identical opposites.

And, of course, the appearance-reality game can be played from that initial Image of reflections and distortions.

The central character, John Avery, of The Looking Glass War lacks the cerebral depth and the range of sensitivity of his predecessors Smiley and Leamas. Avery is impressed by the importance of espionage and eagerly submits to the directives 120

of his massive organization. In short, John Avery is another

character in search of a faith, and he thinks he has found it in the guise of his Ministry. The Looking Glass War charts the falling action of Avery's inevitable loss of that faith as he discovers the dark organizational secrets known by Smiley and Leamas.

John Avery becomes involved in the training of an agent when the military intelligence reveals a Soviet missile-build- up in the region of . The missiles pose a direct threat to the welfare of Britain. During the intensive training, Avery undergoes the transformation from normal organization- man to stalwart "believer." His neglected wife perceives the change and they argue: "He called almost in despair, 'Look, how far am I supposed to think? It isn't a question of pol­ itics, don't you see? It's a question of fact. Can't you believe? 'Poor John,' she observed, putting down the book and analyzing him. 'Loyalty without faith. It's very hard for you.' She said this with total dispassion as if she had identified a social evil. The kiss was like a betrayal of her standards."DO

Sarah Avery's kiss is the kiss of a Judas who had pre­ ferred to give the coins to the poor rather than preaching a creed incomprehensible to the multitudes. Avery's wife sees the danger of ideology (she is a university intellectual) and hands her husband-believer over to the Cold War practitioners for the fulfillment of his mission.

DOjohn Le Carre', The Looking Glass War (New York: Dell, 1965), p. 66. 121

The religious imagery of motive is supplemented by the imagery of love and money. Leclarc and Haldane are Avery's superiors, and they recognize that not even a professional

spy can believe very long in an ideology on a religious basis, The faith must be intermittently bolstered by either love or

money. Avery is maneuvered In a manner parallel to Leamas,

he develops a relationship of love with his agent, Leiser. Sarah Avery also perceives this change in her husband. She

endeavors to discover what has reinforced his mere faith in

ideas :

'John, I want to know, I've got to know, now, before you go. It's an awful, un-English question, but all the time you've been telling me something, ever since you took this job. You've been telling me people don't matter, that I don't, Anthony doesn't; that the agents don't. You've been telling me you've found a vocation. Well, who calls you, that's what I mean: what sort of vocation? That's the question you never answer: that's why you hide from me. Are you a martyr, John? Should I admire you for what you're doing? Are you making sacrifices?' Flatly, avoiding her, Avery replied, 'It's noth­ ing like that. I'm doing a job. I'm a technician; part of the machine. 'When you came back last night you looked as though you'd fallen in love. The kind of love that gives you comfort. You looked free and at peace. I thought for a moment you'd found a woman. That's why I asked, really it is, whether they're all men. . . . I thought you were in love. Now you tell me you're nothing, and you seem proud of that too.' (p. 179) Haldane quotes Jane Austen and explains the motive of heroism as rooted in either love or money (p. 211). Haldane deliberately used Avery to establish the bond of love which really managed to persuade Leiser to do the job. After Leiser Is successfully infiltrated into East Germany, Haldane bluntly unmasks his role as pimp and tells Avery of his actual 122

function. Haldane tells Avery that Leiser did not go for money:

’Ah.’ At last he turned and looked at Avery and the peace had not left his face. ’When we met him, he was a man without love. Do you know what love is? I’ll tell you: it is whatever you can still betray. We ourselves live without it in our profession. We don't force people to do things for us. We let them discover love. And of course, Leiser did, didn’t he? He married us for money, so to speak, and left us for love. He took his second vow. I wonder when.’ Avery said quickly, 'What do you mean, for money?' ’I mean whatever we gave to him. Love is what he gave to us. I see you have his watch, incident­ ally.’ (p. 212)

At this point, the' omniscient point of view in the novel takes three steps backward and. the real director of the op­ eration is revealed. Enter Control and George Smiley. The purpose of the operation is the result of a hoax perpetrated by Control and St. George's Circus (a neat perversion of the

"rescue myth"). The military intelligence was planted by

Control, who also marked the certain failure of the operation by releasing the whereabouts of Avery's agent to the Russians The purpose of Control's plot: to suppress the long-waged rivalry of their departments by engulfing Leclerc's branch after this doomed operation. The whole operation is part of

Control's "empire-building" in the organization. It is truly a "looking-glass war." Smiley is an innocent bystander who functions as a Greek chorus when the whole tragic dimension unfolds. Smiley pro­ vides a measure of moral relief to the conflict between Avery and Haldane: 123

'You’re leaving him there to die!' Avery was gathering courage. 'We're disowning him. It's never a pretty process. He's as good as caught already, don't you see ?' 'You can't do it,' he shouted. 'You can't just leave him there for some squalid diplomatic reason!' Now Haldane swung around on Avery, furious. 'You of all people should not complain! You wanted a faith, didn't you? You wanted an eleventh Commandment that would match your rare soul!' He indicated Smiley and Leclerc. 'Well, here you have it: here is the law you were looking for. Congratulate yourself; you found it. We sent him because we needed to; we abandon him because we must. That is the discipline you admired.' He turned to Smiley. 'You too: I find you contempt­ ible, You shoot us, then preach to the dying. Go away. We're technicians, not poets. Go away!' Smiley said, 'Yes. You're a very good technician, Adrian. There's no pain in you anymore. You've made technique a way of life . . . like a whore . . . tech­ nique replacing love.! He hesitated. 'Little flags. • . . the old war piping in the new. There was all that »

wasn't there? And then the man ... he must have bee c heady wine. Comfort yourself, Adrian, you weren't fit.'

'And he'll be transmitting,' Avery said, 'and no one will listen!’ 'To the contrary,' Smiley retorted bitterly. 'They'll be listening.' Haldane asked: 'Control too, no doubt. Isn’t that right?' 'Stop!' Avery shouted suddenly, 'Stop for God's sake! If anything matters, if anything is real, we've got to hear him now! For the sake of . . .' 'Well?' Haldane inquired with a sneer. 'Love. Yes, love! Not yours, Haldane, mine. Smiley's right! You made me do it for you, made me love him! It wasn't in you anymore! I brought him to you, I kept him in your house, made him dance to the music of your bloody war! I piped for him, but there's not breath in me now. He's 's last victim, Haldane, the last one, the last love; the last music gone.' Haldane was looking at Smiley: 'My congratulations to Control,' he said. 'Thank him, will you? Thank him for the help, the technical help, Smiley; for the encouragement, thank him for the rope. For the kind words too: for leading you to bring the flowers. So nicely done.'(pp. 21+8—1+9)

Once again Control has used blood to oil the gears of his organization. Avery and Leiser are crushed between the giant 12U lorries within Whitehall. Leiser is betrayed and Avery cut adrift. The "innocent middle" can no longer survive in Le

Carre''s fiction.

Perhaps the final judgement should be borrowed from an old man who refuses information to Leiser when he is on the run. "’Go away,’ the old man had said. 'You are either good or bad and both are dangerous'" (p. 236). It is the meta- ethlcal statement of the oblique viewpoint into the looking- glass of morality. It is the view afforded to Smiley, Leamas,

Avery, and Leiser. In a world dominated by expediency, the labels of "good" and "bad" are merely the reflections of tem­ porary alliances of the pilgrim believer. Smiley, Leamas and Leiser reach a destination which combines both loyalty and faith, form and substance-technique and love. In the end, Avery is the most pitiful of characters—he is still in search of a faith and a love. CHAPTER VI


If the spy genre achieves a fulfillment of form and function in the novels of John Le Carre", it also reveals the full tragic dimension of its own truth. Like the ca­ tharsis of Oedipus' revelation, Le Carre"'s spy is reduced in stature by the high mimetic mode. After the epiphanies of Le Carre'1 s high mimesis, the terrible truth of espionage and the spy is told; and the mimetic mode of the genre must devolve into low mimesis and irony. After Le Carre', the secret agent is no longer superior to other men and his en­ vironment. The spy is democratized in the mass of common, ordinary men, and the audience responds to a sense of his common humanity. This dimension produces the hero of low mimetic mode.

Len Deighton's Harry Palmer appears in a series of realistic spy novels which seem to continue from where John Le Carre' leaves off. Funeral In Berlin (1965) best repre­ sents the spy genre in Its low mimetic mode. Harry Palmer is the cynical, sarcastic secret agent who acts as a foil to the hypocrisy of both his own people and the enemy. Deigh ton and Palmer present the solution of an aloof cynicism which survives through a love of technique, and stays one

^Northrop Frye, Anatomy of Criticism (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton Univ. Press, 1957), P* 35-*

125 126

step ahead of the double- and triple-agents of the looking- glass, cold war of espionage. The saving grace of Harry Palmer’s way of life is his ironic point of view--he takes neither himself nor his profession too seriously.

The only problem with this form of Ironic realism de­ scending from low mimetic tragedy is that eventually the audience also will not take it all too seriously either. In low mimetic tragedy, as Frye had indicated, there finally ex­ ists neither the purging of pity nor the absorption of fear.2

Thus, in turn, there is no conversion of sensation into fav­ orable or adverse moral judgement. The final residue, then, of low mimetic tragedy is raw, unrefined sensation. In short, mimesis without moral judgement results in pathos. And when the mimetic hero loses the sympathy of his audience, the tragic mode in interpenetrated by the comic mode.

It would seem that the spy genre inevitably had to fol­ low this decline. The central epiphany of the spy genre was this: that secret agents and espionage systems exist in or­ der to cancel each other out. Thus enters the sudden intru­ sion of the void and the nada, and it is this unexpected ni­ hilism which leads to the satanic laughter of the absurd point of view. Because of this void at the center of the spy genre, it seems that the whole unsupportable weight of the form was doomed to eventually collapse into nihilistic laugh­ ter. Laughter has been defined by Herbert Spencer as "...the indication of an effort which suddenly encounters a void";

2Frye, p. 38. 127 and by Immanuel Kant: "Laughter is the result of an ex­ pectation which of a sudden ends in nothing."® Thus, laugh­ ter seems to have been the inherent upshot of the spy genre.

And, indeed, the genre did follow this parabola of de­ cline. By 1965, the revelations of Le Carre' and Deighton had achieved the impacts of negation and irony. And finally, in the emergence of the spoof, the residual pathos of amoral mimesis devolved even further into bathos and burlesque. As stated earlier in the review of the critical literature, many devotees of the genre predicted its death in the appear­ ance of the spy spoof formula. The tragic mimesis had lost its power of moral judgement, and the hero had lost his sym­ pathetic connection to his audience. The pundits of popular literature, therefore, had a firm ground for predicting the death of the spy genre." And perhaps they were right.

But, only perhaps; for the reappearance of an old trend began again in the spoof. The distinct lines between good and evil started to re-emerge in the satirical version of the formula. The polarity of verisimilitude in Frye's ellipse of sequential modes seemed to reverse itself, and the center of gravity precipitated a long shift back toward the locus of myth. On its most basic level, myth recounts the primordial struggle between the forces of good and the forces of evil-- the primeval light versus the dark. And it was in this di­ rection that the spoof brought the genre.

^Theodore W. Hatlen, Orienta tion to the Theater (New York Apple ton-Century-Craf ts, 1962), pp. TO3-Ol+7 128

In 1966, Anthony Burgess published his Tremor of Intent,

the subtitle of which is "an eschatological spy novel." In his depiction of the eternal contest of Good versus Evil, Burgess returns to the Manichean myth. In a beautiful stroke of masterful writing, Burgess at once reveals the source of

the perennial religious imagery of the spy novel, and also

fulfills Frye’s prediction of a generic return to myth.

The novel begins with a Joycean stream-of-consciousness

type of soliloquy in epistolary form. The letter contains a statement of resignation by Denis Hillier, Burgess’ spy who

is on last mission to Russia before coming in from the cold. In this lengthy letter of resignation, Hillier telescopes

time backward and forward in good Joycean fashion. This com­

pression of time is essential to the novel, for in the past

lies the background to Hillier’s mission and in the future lay the ultimate reality of the Cold War espionage game--the

escatoi, or four final Absolutes. Hillier is being sent to Russia in order to infiltrate a scientists’ conference at which an old friend is in attend­ ance. Roper was a schoolmate of Hillier’s and became a bril­

liant scientist in rocket fuels. Hillier was the linguist

who went to work for the British Secret Service; Roper was

the scientist who defected to the East and went to work for the Russians. Underneath the ideological warfare lies Bur­ gess’ portrayal of the older pitched-battle between science

and the arts. Thus Hillier is sent to repatriate Roper. 129

Denis Hillier is the portrait of the artist as an old

spy--one who has outgrown the make-believe claptrap of i- deology. Hillier's meditations on the nature of ideology

are permeated by religious imagery. Hillier's mental epistle (which never is sent) to his Intelligence Boss combines the negative realism of Le Carre" and the ironic insouciance of De ighton:

Let us get certain things straight about Roper. Approach Number One will never work. I don’t think for one moment that Roper can be persuaded to go back to anything. He has this scientist's thorough­ ness about disposing of the past. He never rummaged among old discarded answers. If he’s a heretic at all it's your heresy he subscribes to--the belief that life can be better and man nobler. It's not up to me, of course, to say what a load of bloody nonsense that is. It's not up to me to have a philosophy at all. since Iim nothing more than a superior technician.4 Hillier continues in the agony of revulsion which character­ ized George Smiley's earlier resignation:

You think he can be persuaded? Or rather, do you think I can find it in my heart to be all that persuasive? How far am I (I am able to speak bodly now, this being my last assignment) convinced enough to want to convince? It's all been a bloody big game-- the genocidal formulae, the rocketry, the foolproof early warning devices mere counters in it. But no­ body, sir, Is going to kill anybody. This concept of a megadeath is as remotely unreal as spéculât stone or any other mediaeval nonsense. Some day anthropologists will comment in gently concealed wonder on the ludic element in our serious flirting with collective suicide. For my part, I've always played the game of being a good technician, superb at languages, agile, light- fingered, cool. But otherwise I'm a void, a dark sack crammed with skills. I have a dream of life, but no one ideology will realise it for me better than any other, (pp. 3-2+)

Burgess has read his Le Carre", and Hillier has also

^Anthony Burgess, Tremor of Intent (New York: Norton & Co., 1966), pp. 2-3. 130 arrived at the same terrible truth of absurdity of ideology as have Smiley and Leamas previously.

The absurdity of ideologies is underscored by Hillier's tracing, in the letter, of Roper's series of beliefs and apos tasies. Both Hillier and Roper began in strict Catholicism in an English boarding school, but their respective training in different disciplines brought a rejection of Christianity. Roper replace the Trinity with the Trilogy of Sciences, and

Hillier's study of languages and mythologies carried him into agnosticism. Hillier's apostasy, however, actually becomes the first stage in a larger, Kierkegaardian pattern of con­ version. The initial phase of apostasy is the first stage of the aesthetic. The moral ensues his rejection of political ideology, and the religious phase comes later in Burgess' surprise ending. But Roper turns eventually from his belief in Science to a faith in History. Roper turns to Socialism and Communism when he marries a German earth-goddess after . the war. In religious terms, Hillier recalls in the letter the manner of conversion: 'Danke schon, gnadige Frau. Ich habe sehr gut gegessen.' And than, like a fool, I added: 'Alles, alias uber Deutschland.' Her eyes began to fill with angry tears. I got out without waiting to be shown out. Jolting on the bus into town, I kept seeing Brigitte's great Urmutter breasts wagging and jumping inside their white cotton blouse. Roper would undo a button, and then the catechism would start: 'Whose fault was it all? --'England's, England's' (most breathily). It would continue, intensifying, to the point where she would lose interest in catechising. I turned myself into Roper. Oh yes, cupping a fine firm huge Teutonic breast I too would breathily re­ vile England, would blame my own mother for the war, would say, preparing for the plunge, that not enough Jews had been plunged into gas-chambers. And after­ wards I would take it all back, though not in any 131

chill disgust of post coitum: rather I would call her an evil bitch, very hot, and strafe her. And then it would start again, (p. 31) In the form of catechistic initiation, Roper’s acceptance of

a new dogma is replete with religious imagery. Hillier’s indictment of ideology is not limited merely

to political and social doctrine, for he also brings alle­

gations of "heresy" to the broader doctrines of trans-national philosophies. Again, in religious terms, Hillier attacks scientific rationalism:

Here, in brief, is the peril of being a scien­ tist brought up on a fierce and brain-filling religion. He starts, in his late teens, by thinking that his new sceptical rationalism (bliss was it in that dawn to be alive) makes nonsense of Adam and Eve and transubstan- tiation and the Day of Judgement. And then, too late, he discovers that the doctrines don't really count; what counts is the willingness and ability to take evil seriously and to explain it. Supernature abhors a supervacuum, (pp. ¿4.6)

Hillier points out the very absurdity of rationalism, and its ineluctable confrontation with religious matters. Roper is the type of the scientific rationalist. He can scorn the doc­

trines of "transubstantiation" and make a mockery of the Adam

and Eve story. Yet, when Roper entered Germany in 19li5 with the occupation forces, he confronted evil face to face. His

fully rational mind could not explain away the visible evil of the concentration camps. Thus, in a frenzied attempt to fill the sudden vacuum, the rational mind accepted the new religion of Socialism and History. Hillier, the humanist, observes the scientist in a vis-a-vis return to religious is- sues--the moral sense struggling to cope with good and evil. 132

Hillier himself turns to religion in its pure form as a sacred myth which narrates the eternal struggle of good versus evil in the universe. And Hillier views his role as a spy as essential to this contest, even though the Cold War is but a pallid reflection of the cosmic war. When Hillier enlists the aid of a youthful brother-sister pair on board the ship, his views are expressed in terms of Catholicism- cum-Manichean myth: 'But what's it all for?' asked Clara. 'Agents and spies and counter-spies and secret weapons and dark cellars and being brainwashed. What are you all trying to do?' 'Have you ever wondered.' said Hillier, 'about the nature of ultimate reality? What lies beyond all this shifting mess of phenomena? What lies beyond even God?' 'Nothing's beyond God,' said Alan. 'That stands to reason.' 'Beyond God', said Hillier, 'lies the concept of God. In the concept of God lies the concept of anti- God. Ultimate reality is a dualism or a game for two players. We--people like me and my counterparts on the other side--we refledt that game. It's a pale reflection. There used to be a much brighter one, in the days when the two sides represented what are known as good and evil. That was a tougher and more interesting game, because one's opponent wasn't on the other side of a conventional net or line. He wasn't marked off by a special jersey or colour or race or language or alle­ giance to a particular historico-geographical abstrac­ tion. But we don't believe in good and evil any more. That's why we play this silly and hopeless little game.' 'You don't have to play it,' said Alan. 'If we donit play it, what arise are we going to play? We're too insignificant to be attacked by either the forces of light or the forces of darkness. And yet, playing this game, we occasionally let evil in. Evil tumbles in, unaware. But there's no good to fight evil with. That's when one grows sick of the game and wants to resign from it. That's why this is my last assign­ ment.' 'It’s doing good, I should have thought,' said Clara. 'You're getting a British scientist out of Russia.' 'I'm removing him from the game,' said Hillier, 'that's all. A chessman off the board. But the game re­ mains.' (pp. 119-20) 133

But Alan immediately sees the danger of this "pale reflec­

tion" concept of a Manichean struggle--whence is the source

of evil? If the players of the game are neither wholly good nor wholly evil--why distinguish sides at all? Thus Alan and Clara are reluctant to help Hillier:

’But one thing we don’t know,' said Alan, 'is who you're spying for. How do we know that you're not spying for the other side and that the danger comes from spies on our side who are disguised as spies on their side? Or police. Or something.' He accepted a Kunzle cake, 'That you're trying to get back to Russia with secret information and somebody working for our side is already waiting to come aboard and get rid of you?' 'Much too complicated. The whole thing could, theoretically, spiral to an apex where the two opposites embrace each other and become one, but it doesn't work like that in practice. There's a British scientist attending a conference at Yarylyuk--a man I used to be at school with, strangely enough--and my job is to get him on board and take him back to England. It's as simple as that. It's nothing to do with spying.' (p. 117) Hillier's response sounds like a religious sponsorship

of the Great Chain of Being, perhaps temporalized by Teilhard

de Chardin. But his point is this: espionage is a temporal

game for human beings who are completely Immersed, whether they know it or not, in ultimate reality--the escatoi. No matter what ideologies the player ultimately subscribes to, he must eventually come to terms with the realities of evil, death, and judgement. For Hillier, the source of evil lies In neu- trality--those who refuse to believe in an ideology or a faith.

In Hillier's Manichean universe, ideology is merely the mask­ ing of reality. A firm belief eventually unmasks the primal

struggle which is veiled in the trappings of the earthly game.

Time and again, Hillier reiterates his belief in the source 13U

of evil: "'Evil...resides in the neutrals, in the uncovenanted

powers'" (p. 219). Again the religious imagery seeps through.

By being neutral, one is "uncovenanted" and will never pierce the outer masking to penetrate the mysteries of the ultimate realities and meanings of life.

In the final scene, when Hillier emerges wearing his white Roman collar, he expounds on these vague generalities of "neutrality" and the ultimate coping with the final real­ ities:

'We have to be careful about that word "neutral",' said Hillier. 'You don't need bomb-ruins to remind you of wars. The big war can be planned here as well as anywhere--I mean the war of which the temporal wars are a mere copy.' 'Good and Evil you mean,' said Alan. 'Not quite. We need new terms. God and Notgod. Salvation,and damnation of equal dignity, and two sides of the coin of ultimate reality. As for the evil, they have to be liquidated.' 'The neutrals,' said Alan. 'If we could get down to the real struggle we wouldn't need spies and cold wars and spheres of influence and the rest of the hor­ rible nonsense. But the people who are engaged in these mock things are better than the filthy neutrals.' (p. 237)

For Hillier, the real war is waged in heaven, and a re­ ligious affirmation is the omega-point of all faith and ideol9 ogy. In his re-baptizing of the Manichean myth, Hillier finds a religious unity to the outward dualism which has cleaved all philosophy and human thought. All human action which pur­ sues some ideological goal or utopian dream--Socialist, Com­ munist, or Democratic--is basically a religious act. It is an act of love, committed in the name of a covenanted power which mirrors the cosmic struggle of a Teilhard de Chardin type of universe. The neutral is evil because he is never 135

committed--it is the ethic of participant versus observer. The central symbol of Hillier's final assertion of this

Manichee-Teilhard unified vision of the universe is portrayed

in the S-branding scar which Hillier carries as a result of torture. The scarlet letter S may stand for saint or sinner--

either one is an active agent in the pursuit of some dream.

At least the saint and the sinner do not reside in the neutral

zone of evil; both are participants in the cosmic struggle.

If it seems strange that the spy genre should end in

religious affirmation, perhaps it would do well to recall the

ubiquitous presence of a religious theme or symbol in all of the major writers of the form. Eric Ambler included compara­

tive mythology and religion in his "twilight of the gods" at­ mosphere for the birth of the spy. The spy responded to a Spenglerian decline in history which was hallmarked by the demise of organized religion. Ian Fleming based his techno­ logical romance on a rescue myth emanating from Classical and

Christian structures of religious elements and rituals. John Le Carre* and Anthony Burgess started with an ironic use of religious imagery as basis of ideology, then proceeded re­ spectively toward existential negation and religious affir­ mation. For each, however, espionage is a religious act; whether it be a hollow act of the technician, or a supremely meaningful act of love. The mid-twentieth century has been described as a par­ ticularly secular age. .- But perhaps the appearance of the spy 136

during the post-Atomic and Cold War crises has merely sig­

nified the reorganization of a "this-world" faith and religion

which still draws the individual man toward recognition and

acceptance of the escatoi. The religious nature of the spy

as cynosure of the mid-twentieth century Is closely akin to

that faith expressed in William Faulkner's celebrated Nobel

Prize acceptance statement. Even secular man has the deep- seated, inherent ability to confront the ultimate realities

of the "other-world," spiritual existence. The very fact

that the spy, along with his predecessors in the cowboy and the detective, have all been imbued with the substance of

myth, points in a religious direction. Myth, in its essence,

is composed of sacred narrative--the popular mythic heroes are derived from "super-natural" sources. They come from another plane of existence; they work a salvific action for the race or community; and the remnants of these deeds point

back to this "above nature" realm. This growth of religious

imagery and symbolism is appropriate in the willing-to-believe

atmosphere of popular fiction.

What is the future of the spy genre? This question is unanswerable because of the very unpredictability of histor­ ical events of the coming generation. A few criteria, how­ ever, can act as guidelines for the immediate future. First of all, the world political situation is now too fragmented and complex for a neo-Cold War situation. Russia and the

United States have signed nuclear arms limitation pacts and 137

ars planning joint space-flights. The cold has thawed. Also, since the 1950’s, mainland China has emerged as a

powerful nuclear nation. The "bloc" concept has been e- clipsed by a potently dynamic force of Asian neo-nationalism.

It was this dynamic that forced the American withdrawal from

Indo-China. Thus the dualistic backdrop of the political setting of the Cold War has vanished. With a less probable

chance of superpower confrontation, the need for espionage

in the social-political sphere is less urgent. And on the collective-psychological level, the phenomenon of Cold War

hysteria is greatly diminished. Secondly, in the realm of technology, the old-fashioned spy, in fulfillment of Eric Ambler’s jeremiad, had indeed

been replaced by the spy-in-the-sky satellite. The photo­

graphic detail and definition are so comprehensive that rare­ ly is a human operative any longer needed. The secret agent

is now an anarchronism much in the same way that the Western

cowboy was superannuated by barbed wire and the closing of the frontier. The arguments which would favor the return of the spy

are nostalgia for a good, traditional individualist hero and also the period of neo-isolationism toward which America (and

the Wèst) is headed. It seems that these popular heroes of salvific violence are usually generated in an era of sup­ pressed or surrogate violence. Historical precedent would predict the rise of a new popular avatar, if the spy does not return. 138

Even if the secret agent has indeed made his last bow, the achievement is considerable. As a realistic hero for a relatively dark period of history, the spy moved toward cen­ ter stage as a viable hero of popular culture and fiction.

And on the purely literary level, the spy genre represents an even more important accomplishment. The spy novel acute­ ly indicates the narrowing gap between popular and "elitist" fiction. The older, more distinct lines are fading. No longer can elitist fiction be majestically set on a pedestal, aloof from the "bovine" material of the popular audience.

The spy genre has combined the traditions of popular formula and classical mimesis and myth. On its microcosmic level, the spy genre has traversed the full circle of Northrop Frye's sequential modes of mimesis; and, at the same time, the genre has been an overwhelming crowd-pleaser. A Selected Bibliography Books

Ambler, Eric. A Coffin For Dimitrios. New York: Alfred Knopf, 1939.

. Journey Into Fear. New York: Alfred Knopf, 191+Ô ______. The Intercom Conspiracy♦ New York: Alfred Knopf, 1969. ______. To Catch A Spy. New York: Bantam Press, 19SI+. Amis, Kingsley. The Anti-Death League. New York: Ballantine Books, 1966.

______. The James Bond Doss 1er. New York: New American Library, 1965. Barrett, William. Irrational Man: A Study in Ex- istential Philosophy. New York: Doubleday and Co., 1950". Boyd, Ann. The Devil With James Bond. Richmond, Va.: John Knox Press? 1967.

Brombert, Victor. The Hero In Literature. New York: Fawcett Publications, 1969. Buchan, John. Adventures of Richard Hannay. Boston: Houghton-Mifflin Co., 1919. Burgess, Anthony, Tremor Of Intent. New York: Norton, 1966. Conrad, Joseph. The Secret Agent. New York: Doubleday, & Co., 1953. Cox, Harvey. The Secular City. New York: The Macmillan Co., 1965?“ Fiedler, Leslie A. Love and Death in the American Novel. New York: Dell Publications, 1966.

Fleming, Ian. Casino Royale. New York: The Macmillan Co., 1953 ______. Doctor No. New York: The Macmillan Co., 1958

139 ll+O

Fleming, Ian. From Russia With Love. New York: The Macmillan Co., 1957. . Goldfinger. New York: The Macmillan Coi, 1959. . Moonraker. New York: The Macmillan Co.,

______. On Her Maj e s ty ’s Secret Service. New York: New American Library, 1963.

______. You Only Live Twice. New York: NAL, 196)+, Frazer, Sir James George. The Golden Bough. One Volume, Abridged Edition. New York: The Macmillan Co., 1963.

Frye, Northrop. Anatomy of Criticism : Four Essays. Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, "1957• Greene, Graham. The Lost Childhood. New York: The Viking Press, 1951. . Orient Express. New York: Doubleday and Co., 1932. ______. Three : This Gun For Hire ; The Confidential Agent ; . New York: The Viking Press, 19k3• Harper, Ralph. The World of the Thriller. Cleveland: Case Western Reserve Press, 1969. Le Carre", John. A Small Town In Germany. New York: Dell, 1969. ______. The Incongruous Spy : Call For The Dead and A Murder of Quality. New York: Walker and Co., 1953. . The Looking Glass War. New York: Dell,

______. The Spy Who Came In From The Cold. New York: Coward-McCann, Inc., 1963. McLuhan, Marshall. Understand ing Med ia ♦ New York: NAL, 196)+

Malinowski, Bronislaw, Magic, Science and Religion. New York: Doubleday and Co., 19I4-Ö. Markham, Robert (Kingsley Amis). Colonel Sun. New'York: Harper and. Row, 1968. i4i

Rank, Otto. The Myth of the Birth of the Hero. New York: Alfred Knopf, 1932. Rourke, Constance. American Humor: A Study of the National Character. New York: Doubleday and Co. 1931 Smith, Henry Nash. Virgin Land : The American West as Symbol and Myth. New York: , 1950.

Smith, Janet Adam. John Buchan. London: Rupert, Hart- Davis, 1965. Snelling, 0. F. 007 James Bond : A Report. New York Signet Books, 1964. Watt, Ian. The Rise _of the Novel. Berkeley: Univ. of Calif. Press, 1957«

Articles and Period icals

Anon. "The Bond Affair." Times Literary Supplement, 16 December 1966, p. lli+7. Anon. "Cloak Without Dagger." Times Literary Sup­ plement, 8 February 1963, p. 92. Anon. "Violence in America." Time, 28 July 1967, pp. 18-19. Aydelotte, William 0. "The Detective Story as a Historical Source." The Popular Arts. Ed. Irving and Harriet Deer. New York: Scribner's, 1967. Barzun, Jacques. "Meditations on the Literature of Spying. American Scholar, 34 (Spring, 1965), 167-78» Bascom, William. "The Myth-Ritual Theory." Journal of American Folklore, 70 (1957), 103-14» Boyd, Ann S. "James Bond: Modern-day ." Christian Century, 19 May 1965, pp. 644-47» Braudy, Leo. "Private Identity: The Spy Story." Commentary, August 1969, pp. 67-68+.

Carpenter, Richard C. "007 and the Myth of the Hero." Journal of Popular Culture, 1 (Fall, 1967), 80-90. ______. "I_ Spy and Mission Impossible ." Journal of Popular Culture, 1 (Winter, 1967), 286-91» 15-2

Cawelti, John G. "Recent Trends in the Study of Popular Culture," American Studies Newsletter, Winter 1971, PP 23-37. Cook, Bruce. "Cold War Fiction: Spy Stories as Literature." Commonweal, 17 December 1965, pp. 35-2-5-5. Durham, Philip. "The Cowboy and the Myth Makers." Journal of Popular Culture, 1 (Summer, 1967), 58-62.

Eimerl, Sarel. "Bond and I: Techniques of Ian Fleming; Len Deighton; John Le Carre'." Reporter, 13 July 1967, PP. 55-58. Fleming, Denna Frank. "When Did the Cold War Begin?" Nation, 8 January 1968, pp. 53-55. Gilbert, Elliot G. "The Detective asdMetaphor In the Nineteenth Century." Journal of Popular Culture, I (Winter, 1967), 256-62. Howe, Irving. "Mass Society in Post-Modern Fiction." The Dilemma of Organizational Society. Ed. Hendrik M, Ruitenbeek. New York: Dutton and Co., 1963. Jones, Archie H. "Cops, Robbers, Heroes and Anti-Heroines: The American Need To Create." Journal of Popular Culture, I (Fall, 1967), 115.-27. Knickerbocker, Conrad. "Spies Who Come In From Next Door: Spy Novel Syndrome." Life, 30 April 1965, p. 13. Lasch, C. "Cold War--Revisited and re-envisioned." New York Times Magazine, 15- January 1968, pp. 26-27 + . Madden, David. "James M. Cain: Twenty-Minute Egg of the Hard-Boiled School." Journal of Popular Culture, I (Winter, 1967), 178-92. Raglan, Lord. "The Hero of Tradition." The Study of Folk­ lore . Ed. Alan Dundes. Englewood Cliffs, N. J.: Prentice-Hall, 1965. Richardson, Maurice. "It's All Been Done Before," Times Literary Supplement, 8 December 1966, pp. 115-5--5-5. Schein, Harry. "The Olympian Cowboy." The American Scholar, (1955), 309-20. Symons, Julian. "An End to Spying, or, From Pipe Dream to Farce." Times Literary Supplement, 12 December 1968, pp. 15-11-12. 143

Warshow, Robert. "The Gangster as Tragic Hero." The Popular Arts; A Critical Reader. Ed. Irving and Harriet Deer. New York: Scribner’s, 1967.

Williams, John. "The ’Western’: Definition of the Myth." The Popular Arts: A Critical Reader. Ed. Irving and Harriet Deer. New York: Scribner's, 1967.