Friday, June 14, 2019

Eight novels dealing with refugees

Michael Niemann's latest Valentin Vermeulen thriller is No Right Way.

At CrimeReads the author tagged eight "novels of displacement, diaspora, and the traumas of exile," including:
The Foreign Correspondent, Alan Furst

Refugees aren’t just a recent global phenomenon. Historically, every war has generated streams of refugees. It’s not an accident that the original Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees was adopted in 1951, to address the complicated refugee situation left by World War II. Alan Furst has made a career of writing spy novels that all take place at the threshold of World War II. But the seeds for all his novels were sown with World War I and the failure to settle the question of global hegemony in 1919. The twenty years of crisis that followed produced its own refugee crisis, and Furst captures the essence of it in 1938 Paris. This novel revolves around Italian refugees who fled the Mussolini regime to Paris and are publishing an underground newspaper that’s smuggled into Italy to give Italians the real news. Carlo Weisz, the new editor, after the Italian secret police agents assassinate the previous one, finds himself the target of pretty much every intelligence agency that’s active in Paris. The refugees in this novel have a professional background, lawyers, journalists, businessmen. They find themselves reduced to working menial jobs to make ends meet. Only Weisz is lucky enough to work in his chosen profession. The secret police agents after them, but the French authorities aren’t yet interested in protecting the refugees because Italy hasn’t officially thrown in its lot with Germany. In a way, this novel represents the flip side of Havana Libre. There’s the same desire to put undermine a regime from the relative safety of exile, although the existence of the Italian refugees in pre-war France seems more precarious than that of the Cuban emigres in Miami. But the story of having one’s life disrupted, of having to take jobs well below one’s qualifications are similar. A quote that stuck with me was “…spies and journalists were fated to go through life together, and it was sometimes hard to tell one from the other. Their jobs weren’t all that different: they talked to politicians, developed sources in government bureaux, and dug around for secrets.”
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Page 99 Test: The Foreign Correspondent.

--Marshal Zeringue