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.
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
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
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
I got ahold of this after reading in Young Philby, by Robert Littell. In that book, as Kim is recruited into the British secret service he asks if there is some sort of instructions or a manual he could read. His recruiter recommends this book. About a week later I read in another soirée that MI6 really used these stories as required reading during training.
These semi-autobiographical short stories about being a spy during the First World War
What a time to be a spy!
This is a collection of seven short stories featuring Ashenden, an intelligence agent working for the British government during WW II. They reflect the real life activities of Maugham during the war, and Ashenden is his alter ego. The cover he uses is that he is working out of the country in order to finish writing his latest play. In all, Ashenden is boring. Maugham never manages to instill any sense of excitement into the character or any of the plots...more
The fact that it was broken up into what basically amounted to a series of short stories meant that I didn't get as sucked in to it as I would have a straight-up novel, but it was a good format for read...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