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    • CommentAuthorBomilkar
    • CommentTimeAug 23rd 2008 edited

    Hi everybody,

    two months ago, I graduated from Bonn University, Germany, with a teacher's degree in English and Latin. Part of the final exams was writing a final thesis in one of your subjects. Inspired especially by 'Spione' but also by Contested Ground's 'Cold City' RPG, I decided to write about Cold War Berlin as a setting for British and American Spy Fiction. While researching this subject, it struck me how little it had been covered in academic discourse. This proved quite fortunate as it allowed me to concentrate on the source material at hand. So what I did was create a selection of 10 'representative' works of spy fiction set in Cold War Berlin, and look at how they dealt with their setting.

    The professor of literature who had to grade my thesis came to the conclusion that I had struck gold with my choice of subject. Apparently, the urban environment in modern Crime/Spy Fiction has been in 'dire lack of academic treatment'. Therefore, he decided to publish a book with essays on this very topic, which is also to include an abbreviated (40-45 pages) version of my thesis (the original version has 114 pages), apart from other essays on, for example, ancient Rome in historical crime novels.

    So why I am telling you this? Apart from wishing to thank Ron for 'Spione' and especially the Wiki, which had been tremendously useful to my endeavour and especially my selecting the right novels, I would also like to share my findings in the ongoing discussions here. I could also send a pdf of my thesis to anyone interested, but, as it is written in German, it won't be of any use to the majority of the forum users.
    If I find the time, I may actually write a shorter synopsis in English, but I don't know if or when that will happen.


    Wow! So Spione is now embedded in the academic literature. I would like to thank you in return for your attention to the important topic and for making use of the relatively modest resources I've tried to build here.

    Please do begin here with any finding you'd like to present. I look forward to it! Also, maybe in one of my later trips, I can meet you and your prof.

    If you'd like, I'd be glad to provide the server space to house your thesis in PDF form, and to put a link to it in the Support section of the site. It's OK that it's in German - my primary intended audience is German, after all. Let me know.

    Best, Ron

    • CommentAuthorBomilkar
    • CommentTimeAug 26th 2008

    Before presenting any of findings, I should perhaps list the ten novels I analysed for my thesis and the reasons for my selection. This list started with 5 books, but grew in time until I had to put a limit at the manageable amount of ten books. The selection was based on the following criteria:

    1) It should include British and American authors.
    2) The novels needed to be written in different decades during and after the Cold War.
    3) They should also cover different times in the Cold War.
    4) Not all the novels needed to focus on Berlin - most of them actually contained only (lengthy) episodes set in Berlin.
    5) Some novels were selected to contrast with others they shared a certain degree of similarity with.

    So here is the list I came up with (in chronological order)

    Le Carré - The Spy Who Came In From The Cold (60s; iconically featuring the Wall; written directly in reaction to it)
    Deighton - Funeral in Berlin (60s; spying as a complex and deadly game; lighter tone than Le Carré and Hall, however)
    Hall - The Quiller Memorandum (60s; mainly expressing British fears of Germany's unresolved Nazi Past)
    Deighton - Berlin Game (80s; first of Deighton's Samson series, which, as a whole had Berlin as its focus)
    Deighton - Spy Sinker (90s; another one in the Samson series; written from a different POV, providing a first (if vague) view into life in East Berlin)
    Mailer - Harlot's Ghost (90s; Mailer's unfinished magnum opus on the history of the CIA; featuring a Berlin epsiode in the days of the Berlin Operation Base; the first American author in my selection)
    Powers - Declare (90s; mixing the already occult world of espionage with real occultism; written as a tribute to Le Carré; showcasing Berlin right after the end of WWII; I have to confess I included this novel because I like reading Tim Powers and thought his works deserved some academic treatment)
    Littell - The Company (2000s; another novel presenting the history of the CIA and, again, we have a Berlin episode set in the 50s; tone and story are quite different from Harlot's Ghost, though )
    Le Carré - Absolute Friends (2000s; written about 40 years after The Spy, it provides a different view on the Cold War; interesting 70s Berlin episode with student protests replacing the spy game one would usually expect)
    Porter - Brandenburg Gate (2000s; set right before the Fall of the Wall; written from an East German POV).

    That's it for now. There are, of course, quite a few books I might have included but didn't. Feel free to comment on this list, discuss it, or ask questions. I will continue to provide material for discussion, but my daily schedule prevents me from writing anything lengthier. Next time, I will write a couple of lines on what exactly I was looking for in the novels and why I was looking for it.

    BTW, Ron, I'm fine with your hosting my thesis in the support section. My e-mail is Drop me mail and I will send the PDF to you.

    • CommentAuthorRon Edwards
    • CommentTimeAug 26th 2008 edited

    By the way, did you cite Spione in your thesis?

    I would be especially happy if you were to post Reflections in the Wiki. Reflections aren't reviews or analyses such much as personal testimony as to the book's immediate impact on you. You might not be excited about yet more writing about these texts, but I've found the Reflections concept to be a lot of fun and different from any other approach.

    I haven't read the Hall book, and I haven't yet managed to steel myself to wade through a brick's width of Mailer prose. Here's my question: let's take The Spy Who Came In From the Cold, which a lot of people on this forum have read - how does it factor into your thesis, both particularly and in terms of the overall point? That would give people an idea of what to expect, and perhaps spur a lively discussion as well.

    Best, Ron

    • CommentAuthorBomilkar
    • CommentTimeOct 6th 2008

    Sorry for the long hiatus. My new job as a teacher has kept me quite busy for the last weeks. Shortly, I will do as you say, Ron, and start the discussion by explaining why I chose to include The Spy and how it influenced the image of Berlin we get in subsequent espionage fiction.


    Excellent! I'm looking forward to it.

    I have been paying close attention to the depiction of Berlin in Hollywood too. The most obvious example is the film version of The Good German, but also in The Company and Spy Game.

    Best, Ron