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Intrigue

Intrigue: Espionage and Culture

ALLAN HEPBURN
Copyright Date: 2005
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 352
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt1npcxq
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  • Book Info
    Intrigue
    Book Description:

    Why do spies have such cachet in the twentieth century? Why do they keep reinventing themselves? What do they mean in a political process? This book examines the tradition of the spy narrative from its inception in the late nineteenth century through the present day. Ranging from John le Carré's bestsellers to Elizabeth Bowen's novels, from James Bond to John Banville's contemporary narratives, Allan Hepburn sets the historical contexts of these fictions: the Cambridge spy ring; the Profumo Affair; the witch-hunts against gay men in the civil service and diplomatic corps in the 1950s.

    Instead of focusing on the formulaic nature of the genre,Intrigueemphasizes the responsiveness of spy stories to particular historical contingencies. Hepburn begins by offering a systematic theory of the conventions and attractions of espionage fiction and then examines the British and Irish tradition of spy novels. A final section considers the particular form that American spy narratives have taken as they have cross-fertilized with the tradition of American romance in works such as Joan Didion'sDemocracyand John Barth'sSabbatical.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-14848-0
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. xiii-xviii)

    THIS BOOK deals with espionage narratives produced between 1900 and 2000. During the twentieth century, a period of formalized and unprecedented spying, cultural fantasies and deformations of history created a representational legacy of treachery, doubleness, and paranoia.

    In literary representations, spies recall dissonance at the heart of ideological certainty. Throughout this book, I question whether identities associated with spying—recruits, moles, femmes fatales, double agents, leaks—come into being as historical phenomena or whether they exist prior to history and merely find expression within a culture of espionage. A spy may be born, not made: endowed with a desire to...

  5. PART ONE: ON BEING THRILLED

    • CHAPTER ONE Spies: A THEORY OF INTRIGUE
      (pp. 3-23)

      A body floats in the Mediterranean Sea in the opening chapter of Robert Ludlum’s 1980 spy thrillerThe Bourne Identity.Although the man—for the body is male—appears “fully drowned, passed from this world” (10), he is still alive. The man clings to a piece of debris until fishermen pull him out of the water. He is unconscious, with bullets lodged in his chest, legs, and stomach. Another and more dangerous bullet in his head has caused him to lose his memory. The fishermen expect the wounded man to become “a corpse” (11) before he reaches a doctor. Saved...

    • CHAPTER TWO Thrills: FEAR AND CATHARSIS AS IDEOLOGICAL EFFECTS
      (pp. 24-48)

      Spy narratives rely on thrills, those tremors of almost-out-of-body attentiveness that seize a reader or action film spectator at moments of crisis, as when the villain and pursuer race through the sewers of Vienna inThe Third Man,as when the double agent, gun in hand, tracks his antagonist through a greenhouse and confronts him with a lifetime of betrayals inThe Untouchable.Speaking of the many risks he took as a communist sympathizer and seller of secrets, Victor Maskell, septuagenarian narrator ofThe Untouchable,acknowledges the pleasures of being caught: “What a risk I took—my God, when I...

    • CHAPTER THREE Codes: SELF-EVIDENT MEANING IN NARRATIVES OF INTRIGUE
      (pp. 49-78)

      Like the Enigma machine used by Nazis for encoding messages during World War II—a gizmo with rotors, scramblers, and plugboards permitting approximately 10 trillion key settings to encrypt messages (Singh 136) —the spy novel demands deciphering because it always means something other than itself. InEnigma(1995), Robert Harris’s best-selling novel about events at Bletchley Park in England, where cryptanalysts broke the Enigma code during the War, the all-knowing historical narrator points out that the Enigma machine “had only one tiny—but, as it turned out, crucial—flaw. It could never encipher a letter as itself: an A would...

  6. PART TWO: FRONTS

    • CHAPTER FOUR Ghosts: ILLEGITIMACY AND COMMITMENT IN UNDER WESTERN EYES
      (pp. 81-109)

      Ghosts are relics of desire. They incarnate covert erotic or political wishes that have gone unrealized and that come back to haunt the divided subject. They are also, sometimes, estranged elements of subjectivity projected as alien shapes. Ghostliness characterizes partisan roles or acted-out identities that have been violently repudiated, or just as violently endorsed, that is, a suite of identities adopted to suit changing circumstances. Ghosts stand for those aspects of character most fully realized during moments of terror: who are we when we are frightened out of our wits? For the bereft, ghosts stand as figures of obstructed mourning....

    • CHAPTER FIVE Sewers: FANTASIES OF DEATH AND DISGUST IN THE THIRD MAN
      (pp. 110-133)

      Whereas ghosts will not leave Razumov alone inUnder Western Eyes,corpses will not stay in the ground inThe Third Man.Harry Lime dies twice and is twice buried in Graham Greene’s novella. On the lam for selling impure penicillin on the black market in post–World War II Vienna, Lime moves through the sewers of the city to escape detection. In many ways, the sewer is “a place of definition for Harry” (Evans 39). Calloway, the police inspector who narrates Lime’s case, draws a connection between street-level and subterranean realms: “the gravediggers had been forced to use electric...

    • CHAPTER SIX Collaborations: LOVE AND WAR IN THE HEAT OF THE DAY
      (pp. 134-165)

      The Heat of the Day,a literary espionage novel published in 1949, directs attention towards treacheries within love as a consequence of treacheries within public service. In this narrative of traumatic discovery, emphasis falls not on the spy’s duplicities, but on the ethical dilemmas that love affairs create for women during wartime. Falling in love is, in this case, a subset of political collaboration. Set principally in London between 1940 and 1942,The Heat of the Daytraces a love affair between Stella Rodney, a translator in the Ministry of Information, and Robert Kelway, who, after being wounded at Dunkirk,...

    • CHAPTER SEVEN Walls: THE SPY WHO CAME IN FROM THE COLD AS ALLEGORY
      (pp. 166-186)

      John le Carré’sThe Spy Who Came in From the Coldallegorizes the genre of spy fiction. More specifically, allegory expands the range of political meanings in this novel that represents conflict between East Germany and Britain at the height of the Cold War. In allegories, signs and characters possess meanings in excess of themselves, meanings that play across historical, political, and semiotic registers. In allegory, nothing is selfidentical. “Cold” inThe Spy Who Came in From the Coldinitially means snow and freezing temperatures, then enlarges in scope to include emotional frigidity, intellectualfroideur,political chilliness, and wintry death....

    • CHAPTER EIGHT Leaks: FIGHTING THE QUEER COLD WAR IN THE UNTOUCHABLE
      (pp. 187-228)

      Prophecy:In a 1924 letter to André Gide congratulating him on his novelCorydon,Edmund Gosse conjectures that homosexuality will one day be commonplace: “No doubt, in fifty years, this particular subject will cease to surprise anyone, and how many people in the past might wish to have lived in 1974” (qtd. in Sheridan 380). Whatever fondness anyone feels for 1974—the year that Richard Nixon resigned in the wake of Watergate; the year after the American Psychiatric Association delisted homosexuality as a pathological disorder; the year streaking became a fad; the year John le Carré publishedTinker Tailor Soldier...

  7. PART THREE: HOW BIG THE WORLD

    • CHAPTER NINE Disappearances: MISSING BODIES IN SABBATICAL
      (pp. 231-253)

      In the foreword toSabbatical,a romance-cum-spy-thriller published in 1982, John Barth acknowledges a factual inspiration for his fictional narrative: “The story was suggested by the curious death in my home waters, Chesapeake Bay, of one Mr. John Arthur Paisley, an early-retired highranking operative of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, who in late September 1978 disappeared from his sloopBrilligduring an overnight solo cruise in fair weather on this normally tranquil estuary” (3). Recovery of Paisley’s corpse a week later—decomposed, forty pounds of scuba weights cinched to the waist— does not satisfy questions about the motive for his...

    • CHAPTER TEN Democracy: THE DEATH OF A SPY
      (pp. 254-275)

      Whereas John Barth offers a mystified version of early 1980s American foreign policy cast as a romance about missing spies, Joan Didion demysti-fies 1980s American foreign policy by critiquing political representation. Covering Cold War politics between 1952 and 1975, Didion’s novelDemocracyinvestigates American influence in Pacific Rim countries through the figure of Jack Lovett, a government agent who knows about “the diversion of technology to unfriendly” nations (37), who knows how to run “‘a little coup somewhere’” (34). “Exactly what Jack Lovett did was tacitly understood by most people who knew him,” writes Didion, “but not discussed” (40). Lovett’s...

    • CHAPTER ELEVEN Conclusion: LITTLE ROOMS
      (pp. 276-288)

      SPIES ARE ICONS of political identity in the twentieth century, especially the ethical dimensions of identity that pertain to just conduct in hazardous circumstances. Recruited into missions that he may not approve of fully, the spy keeps his commitments fluid. Although party affiliation and lifelong loyalty to specific ideologies—communism, republican democracy, czarist police states, parliamentary monarchy—may be possible, the spy demonstrates that such commitments conceal conflicts between character and action. The spy affirms allegiances impermanently in order to preserve the right to doubt the wisdom of official decisions. Moreover, while he represents a particular nation or political party,...

  8. NOTES
    (pp. 289-302)
  9. WORKS CITED
    (pp. 303-322)
  10. INDEX
    (pp. 323-332)