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Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Mask Of Dimitrios

The Mask Of Dimitrios by Eric Ambler
Excellent story. Alan Furst mentions it in his book The World At Night, and when I look it up, I found a comment that Ian Fleming has James Bond reading it on a flight to Moscow. Well, shoot, guess I better get me a copy.
Dimitrios is a one man model for SPECTRE. He gets his start with robbery and murder, but soon moves on to wholesale drug dealing, espionage and extortion. The book follows a successful English writer as he investigates this criminal's career. Along the way he (and the reader) gets an education in just how espionage is conducted, and how the world of drug smuggling operates. One of the key elements is a private bank that :
  • finances operations in the Balkans that are processing heroin for distribution in the West.
  • engages in assassination (another of Dimitrios' occupations) when the policies of certain countries threaten their profits.
I just love me a good conspiracy theory. Fits right in with why I like Godfather Part III so much.
Notes about stuff that was new to me or just worth noting:
  • Smyrna. Greek city on the West coast of Turkey. Scene of massacre and huge fire in 1922.
  • Strait of Otranto. Between Italy and Greece, it is the entrance to the Adiratic from the Mediterranean. My friend Jack knew that Brindisi, near the heel of Italy, is on the Italian side of this strait.
  • Corfu. A Greek Island on the Eastern side of the Strait of Otranto. (p. 140)
  • Annamite - a mountain range of eastern Indochina. Also a person from that region. (p. 223)
People p. 124
Books & Authors, p. 177 & p. 229
Turns out Just Human and Lame and Lovely were both written by Dr. Frank Crane. Wikiquotes has this to say about him: "Only scarce remnants of his works on positive thinking and a populist political philosophy have survived for reflection by modern readers." Which tells us quite a bit about the character whose books these are.

  • Unknown
    • Fiune ???? (p. 140 )
  • English
    • catarrh - sinusitis - pronounced cut-ar
    • "an old hair carpet" probably made of goat hair. Goat hairs are longer than sheep's wool (!?!). (p. 236 )
  • German
    • Weltschmerz - world-weariness (p. 178)
  • French
    • maquereaux - mackerel, slang for pimp (p. 180)
    • stupefiants - drugs
    • en grande tenue - in full dress (p. 206)
    • affiche - displays (p. 235), or:
      • public notice
      • bill
      • poster
      • placard
  • "Ach! warum, ihr Gotter, ist unendlich, alles, alles, endlich unser Gluck nur?" - Goethe (p. 151)
  • Translation: Ah! why their God is infinite, everything, everything, at last, our only happiness?
    Google provided most of the translation, but failed with Gluck. Stu supplied happiness. All I could find using Google was a Latvian theologian from the 16th Century. Now I notice that Wikipedia translates gluck as luck. I am listing this quote only because I spent the time translating it. It's not here because I think it's worth quoting in and of itself.
  • "Are the desires for money and power inhuman? With money and power a vain man can do so much to give himself pleasure. His vanity was one of the first things that I noticed about Dimitrios. It was that quiet, profound vanity that makes the man who has it so much more dangerous than ordinary people with their peacock antics. Come now Mr.Latimer, be reasonable! The difference between Dimitrios and the more respectable type of successful business man is only a difference of method - legal method or illegal method. Both are in their respective ways equally ruthless." (p. 183) I encountered another passage worth quoting about vanity in Ashenden.
As I can see from the uneven spacing between bullet points, Google Docs and Blogger do not want to cooperate with each other. Bah.

Update January 2012. Corrected a typo. Tried to correct the spacing by editing the html. Failed. Bah, again.

1 comment:

Stu said...

"Ach! warum, ihr Gotter, ist unendlich, alles, alles, endlich unser Gluck nur?" - Goethe (p. 151)

Oh why, you Gods, is everything infinite, except our finite happiness.