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Title: Ashenden: or, The British Agent Author: Maugham, W. Somerset [William Somerset] () Date of first publication: A set of short stories, connected in theme, featuring Ashenden, “a writer by profession”, who is now a member of the British Secret Service. Like Ian Fleming . Ashenden; or, the British Agent, by W. Somerset Maugham is not the first secret agent novel in English. Joseph Conrad’s The Secret Agent.

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They can telephone, and when your friends attempt their little burglary, I have no doubt they’ll find the station well guarded.

She came to dinner at my house. In life things happen at random, and that is how they should happen in a story; they do not lead to a climax, which is an outrage to probability, they just go on.

There is absolutely no risk.

The spy’s manner, which at first had been obsequious, was now somewhat truculent, but he kept his head and never for a aagent raised his voice. The material it offers for stories is scrappy and pointless; the author has himself to make it coherent, dramatic and probable. As in his preface, he shows a side of war that, well, it just left me sad.

But if they were under the impression that they would get any information out of him that they had not already seen in the Swiss papers he had a notion that they were mistaken. What did this Egyptian prince want to have a governess of that age for?

The 20 best spy novels of all time

Jazz at Lincoln Center: He would have sworn that he had not been asleep five minutes when he was dragged back to wakefulness by a knocking at the door. For agwnt most part, Ashenden is remarkable only in his willingness to show unlimited tolerance for trying personalities. At one moment he had a suspicion that he was being sounded upon the possibility of selling himself. Because this is a WW1 spy story, I have shelved it under thriller-suspense but it is not actually either thrilling nor suspenseful.


Imagine for instance that you went up to a man in a lonely street on a moonless night and stabbed him to the heart.

Ashenden by W. Somerset Maugham, from Project Gutenberg Canada

The story’s themes of Eastern mysticism and war-weariness struck a chord with readers during the Second World War. Are there not a dozen people who saw you before and after? When she caught sight of Ashenden she gave him a furious look and flinging into her room slammed the door.

She gave us no peace and when I said she must wait till morning she cried. Ashenden also has social anxiety, which seems quite paradox when you remember he is a spy. There was nothing, and he was about to get into the lift when the porter told him that two gentlemen were waiting in his room to see him. Being no more than a tiny rivet in a vast and complicated machine, he never had the advantage of seeing a completed action.

We follow him through France, Switzerland, Italy and Russia, as he uncovers spy networks, accompanies agents to intercept certain documents, tries to trap Indian nationalists and is bored to death by an American businessman on the Trans-Siberian express. They were Prince Ali and his secretary. They seldom return to the hotel till dawn. As they try to evacuate, the business man insists on getting back his laundry that had been sent out.

The assistant-manager took Ashenden to the door and partly closed it so that those within should not hear his undertones. Ashenden is quite capable of holding strong sympathies with his required victims while wholly suspending sentiment in order to get the job done.

You’ve had a slight stroke. It was embarrassing to encounter that unshrinking stare. Ashenden waited for the detective to proceed.

Ashenden: or, The British Agent

One after the other, with infinite cunning, between her kisses she cajoled me into giving every detail of the plot, and now I was certain, as certain as I am that you sit before me, that she was a spy. He afent living with his two daughters and a certain Pasha, Mustapha by name, who was his secretary and managed his affairs.


His Excellency – A continuation and conclusion of “Behind the Scenes”. It is dated, but still the eloquence is lovely azhenden hear audiobook again. But I doubt it would have been a flattering portrait. The method of which I speak is that which chooses from life what is curious, telling and dramatic; it does not seek to copy life, but keeps to it closely enough not to shock the reader into disbelief; it leaves out this and changes that; it makes a formal decoration out of such of the facts as it has found convenient to deal with and presents a picture, the result of artifice, which, because it represents the author’s temperament, is to a certain extent a portrait of himself, but which is designed to excite, interest and absorb the reader.

Book Review: Ashenden; or, the British Agent by W. Somerset Maugham | Kansas City Public Library

He packed up the dispatch-case in which he had his medical appliances, washed his hands and shuffled himself into a heavy coat. He spoke as though she could not understand his French.

Maugham presents Ashenden’s adventures in chapters much like short stories, agwnt have the benefit of encompassing one plot as a comprehensible whole rather than allowing the various missions to become tangled, as they agejt have been in real life. Their attitude seemed to claim as a right the alms of the travelling herd.