Ashenden, or The British Agent
A collection of stories rooted in Maugham's own experiences as an agent, reflecting the ruthlessness and brutality of espionage, its intrigue and treachery, as well as its absurdity.
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What a gem this is! Maugham, who served in the British secret service during World War I, cleverly combines autobiography and satire in these interconnected tales of European espionage. Crisp prose, memorable (if somewhat exaggerated) characters, humour, poignancy and a subtle dig at modernist fiction make this book an absolute delight. Knowing that Ashenden inspired the creation of fictional spies such as James Bond is an added bonus, even though Ashenden and Bond could not be more different as ...more
Maugham cannot write badly but this book is still (structurally) an imperfectly strung together group of short stories and novellas. It can also be rather self-consciously literary at times.
Famous as a precursor of Fleming's Bond and influencing an early Hitchcock film, it is rath ...more
Ashenden, or the British Agent, first published in 1928, is a series of linked stories relating the adventures of a writer of comic plays who is recruited into Britis ...more
Through a series of interrelated short stories the reader gains an appreciation of Maugham's spying experiences. He is insightful about those he meets, their motivations, and the extent to which they might be friend or foe.
In the course of these stories, Maugham's protagonist Ashenden (a self p ...more
Ashenden: or the British Agent
Vintage Classics, Paperback, 2000.*
First published by Heinemann in 1928.
* Contains the preface written in 1934 for The Collected Edition published by Heinemann between 1934 and 1969.
Table of contents:
2. A Domiciliary Visit
3. Miss King
4. The Hairless Mexican
5. The Dark Woman
6. The Greek
7. A Trip to Paris
8. Giulia Lazzari
10. The Traitor
11. Behind the Scenes
12. His Excellency
13. The Flip of a Coin
14. A Chance Acquaintance
15. Love ...more
I should say in fairness that I do really like a couple of the stories, 'Behind the Scenes', which paints a vivid picture of sexual obsession, and and the poignant last tale in the collection, 'Mr ...more
To think that ...more
The language is quite something. It is dated, but still the eloquence is lovely to hear (audiobook ...more
Sounds rather exciting doesn't it? It is.
The different tales take you on a journey of the playwright only known as Ashenden Somerville ( it is insinuated that this is not his real name) w ...more
I guess that's why the beginning of the novel felt separate from the rest of it. It felt like a drawn-out establishing shot, and I confess I didn't like it much. Soon enough, though, each chapt ...more
There are a few chapters that give some background information and several cases, which take a few chapters. Not all the cases are ...more
Maugham is interested in telling us a ...more
With the characters who recur within the stories make these the book gel. Unfortunately the stories are inconsistent in quality and without an overall sense of progression, the book isn't as satisfying as it should be.
Although my reaction to Ashenden as a whole was lukewarm, there were moments that I reall ...more
As long as you don't expect a thriller in the James Bond style, this book is engrossing. It certainly never lets you forget that spying is a very nasty business indeed.
This, however, is not your typical spy story. Maugham presents a vivid portrait of the daily life of dangerous men and subtle women, espionage agents, dou ...more
His parents died early and, after an unhappy boyhood, which he recorded poignantly in 'Of Human Bondage' , Maugham became a qualified physician. But writing was his true vocation. For ten years before his first success, he alm ...more