From Russia, with Love (novel)
First edition cover, published by Jonathan Cape
|Cover artist||Richard Chopping
Devised by Ian Fleming
|8 April 1957|
|Media type||Print (hardback & paperback)|
|Preceded by||Diamonds Are Forever|
|Followed by||Dr. No|
From Russia, with Love is the fifth novel in Ian Fleming's James Bond series, first published in the UK by Jonathan Cape on 8 April 1957. As with the first four books, From Russia, with Love was generally well received by the critics. The story was written at Fleming's Goldeneye estate in Jamaica in early 1956. By the time the book was published, he did not know whether he wanted to write another Bond book or not.
The story centres on a plot by SMERSH, the Soviet counterintelligence agency, to assassinate Bond in such a way as to discredit both him and his organisation, the Secret Service. As bait for the plot, the Russians use a beautiful cipher clerk and the Spektor, a Soviet decoding machine. Much of the action takes place in Istanbul and on the Orient Express.
The novel's sales were aided by an advertising campaign that played upon a visit by British Prime Minister Sir Anthony Eden to Fleming's Goldeneye estate and by the publication of a 1961 Life Magazine article, which listed From Russia, with Love as one of US President John F. Kennedy's ten favourite books. There have been four adaptations of the book: a serialisation in the Daily Express newspaper, a subsequent daily comic strip by Henry Gammidge and John McLusky in the same paper, the 1963 film version, and a 2012 BBC radio adaptation of the same name, produced by Jarvis & Ayres and starring Toby Stephens.
SMERSH, the Soviet counterintelligence agency, plans to commit a grand act of terrorism in the intelligence field. For this, it targets British secret service agent James Bond. Due in part to his role in the defeat of Le Chiffre, Mr. Big and Hugo Drax, Bond has been listed as an enemy of the Soviet state and a "death warrant" has been issued for him. His death is planned to precipitate a major sex scandal, which will run through the world press for months and leave his and his service's reputation in tatters. Bond's killer is to be SMERSH executioner Red Grant, a psychopath whose homicidal urges coincide with the full moon. Kronsteen, SMERSH's chess-playing master planner, and Colonel Rosa Klebb, head of Operations and Executions, devise the operation. They persuade an attractive young cipher clerk, Corporal Tatiana Romanova, to falsely defect from her post in Istanbul, claiming to have fallen in love with Bond after seeing his file photograph. As an added incentive, Tatiana will provide the British with a Spektor, a Russian decoding device much coveted by MI6. She is not told the details of the plan.
An offer of the Spektor is subsequently received by MI6 in London, ostensibly from Romanova, and contains the condition that Bond collects her and the machine in Istanbul. MI6 is unsure of Romanova's story, but the prize of the Spektor is too tempting to ignore and Bond's superior, M, orders him to go to Turkey and meet her. Bond meets and quickly forms a comradeship with Darko Kerim, head of the British service's station in Turkey. Kerim takes Bond to a meal with some Gypsies, in which Bond witnesses a brutal catfight, interrupted by an attack by Soviet agents. In retaliation, Bond helps Kerim assassinate a top Bulgarian agent.
Bond duly encounters Romanova and the two plan their route out of Turkey with the Spektor. He and Kerim believe her story and in due course she, Bond and Kerim board the Orient Express with the Spektor. Bond and Kerim quickly discover three MGB agents on board travelling incognito. Kerim uses bribes and trickery to have the two taken off the train, but he is later found dead in his compartment with the body of the third agent, both having been killed by Grant. At Trieste a fellow MI6 agent, "Captain Nash", arrives on the train and Bond presumes he has been sent by M as added protection for the rest of the trip. Tatiana is suspicious of Nash, but Bond reassures her that Nash is from his own service. After dinner, at which Nash has drugged Romanova, Bond wakes up to find a gun pointing at him and Nash reveals himself to be the killer, Grant. Instead of killing Bond immediately, Grant reveals SMERSH's plan, including the detail that he is to shoot Bond through the heart and that the Spektor is booby-trapped to explode when examined. As Grant talks, Bond slips his metal cigarette case between the pages of a magazine he is holding in front of him and positions it in front of his heart to stop the bullet. After Grant fires, Bond pretends to be mortally wounded and when Grant steps over him, Bond attacks him: Grant is killed, whilst Bond and Romanova subsequently escape.
Later, in Paris, after successfully delivering Tatiana and the Spektor to his superiors, Bond encounters Rosa Klebb. She is captured but manages to kick Bond with a poisoned blade concealed in her shoe; the story ends with Bond fighting for breath and falling to the floor.
Characters and themes
One of the background aspects of the novel was also a central theme: the Cold War. Academic Jeremy Black points out that From Russia, with Love was written and published at a time when tensions between East and West were on the rise and public awareness was high. 1956 saw both the public exposure of an Anglo-American tunnel into East Berlin to intercept Soviet communications, and a popular uprising in Hungary "brutally repressed" by Soviet forces.
As in Casino Royale, the concept of the loss of British power and influence was also present in the novel. With the British Empire in decline, journalist William Cook observed that "Bond pandered to Britain's inflated and increasingly insecure self-image, flattering us with the fantasy that Britannia could still punch above her weight." In From Russia, with Love, this manifested itself in Bond's conversations with Darko Kerim when he admits in England "we don't show teeth any more – only gums."
Following on from the character development of Bond in his previous four novels, Fleming adds further background to Bond's private life in From Russia, with Love, largely around his home life and personal habits, with Bond's introduction to the story seeing him at breakfast with his housekeeper, May. Continuation Bond author Raymond Benson sees aspects of self-doubt entering Bond's mind with the "soft" life he has been leading when he is introduced in the book, as well as the fear he feels when his flight to Istanbul encounters severe turbulence from a storm. Benson also considers the other characters in the book to be well developed, with the Head of Station T, Darko Kerim Bey, "one of Fleming's more colourful characters." Young Bond author Charlie Higson finds Red Grant to be "a very modern villain: the relentless, remorseless psycho with the cold dead eyes of a 'drowned man'."
In January 1956 Fleming travelled to his Goldeneye estate in Jamaica to write From Russia, with Love, returning to London in March that year with a first draft manuscript. This was 228 pages long and was eventually heavily altered by Fleming, with a number of significant re-writes. One of the re-writes was Bond's fate at the end of the novel; Fleming had become disenchanted with his books, and decided in April 1956 to alter the ending to make Klebb poison Bond, allowing Fleming to finish the series with the death of Bond if he wanted.
Fleming's trip to Istanbul in June 1955 to cover an Interpol conference for The Sunday Times was a source of much of the background information in the story. In Istanbul Fleming met the Oxford-educated Nazim Kalkavan, who became the model for Darko Kerim; Fleming wrote much of Kalkavan's conversations into a notebook, which he then used verbatim in the novel. Whilst in Istanbul, Fleming wrote an account of the Istanbul Pogroms, "The Great Riot of Istanbul", which was published in The Sunday Times on 11 September 1955.
Other elements of the novel came from people Fleming knew or had heard of: Red Grant, the name of a Jamaican river guide described as "a cheerful, voluble giant of villainous aspect", was used for the half-German, half-Irish assassin, while Rosa Klebb was partly based on Colonel Rybkin of Soviet Intelligence. The Spektor machine used as the bait for Bond was not a Cold War device, but had its roots in the World War II Enigma machine, which Fleming had tried to obtain during his time in Naval Intelligence Division.
Using the Orient Express as a plot device came from two sources: Fleming had returned from the Istanbul conference in 1955 on the train, but found the experience drab, partly because there was no restaurant car. Fleming also knew of the story of Eugene Karp and his journey on the Orient Express: Karp was a US naval attaché and intelligence agent based in Budapest who, in February 1950, took the Orient Express from Budapest to Paris, carrying a number of papers about blown US spy networks in the Eastern Bloc. Soviet assassins were already on the train. The conductor was drugged and Karp's body was found shortly afterwards in a railway tunnel south of Saltzberg.
Release and reception
From Russia, with Love was released on 8 April 1957 in the UK as a hardcover edition by publishers Jonathan Cape, priced at 13s 6d. The American edition was published a few weeks later. In August 1956, Fleming had commissioned Richard Chopping for fifty Guineas to provide the art for the cover, based on Fleming's design; the result won a number of prizes. After Diamonds are Forever had been published, Fleming received a letter from a thirty-one-year-old Bond enthusiast and gun expert, Geoffrey Boothroyd, criticising the author's choice of firearm for Bond: his suggestions came too late to be included in From Russia, with Love, but one of Boothroyd's guns – a .38 Smith & Wesson snub-nosed revolver modified with one third of the trigger guard removed – was used as the model for Chopping's image. Fleming later thanked Boothroyd for his suggestions by making him Major Boothroyd, the armourer in Dr. No.
In 1956, Prime Minister Sir Anthony Eden visited Fleming's Jamaican Goldeneye estate, to recuperate from a breakdown in his health. This was much reported in the British press, and the publication of From Russia, with Love was accompanied by a promotional campaign that capitalised on this exposure.
Continuation Bond author Raymond Benson analysed Fleming's writing style and identified what he described as the "Fleming Sweep", a stylistic point that sweeps the reader from one chapter to another using 'hooks' at the end of chapters to heighten tension and pull the reader into the next. Benson felt that the "Fleming Sweep steadily propels the plot" of From Russia, with Love and, though it was the longest of Fleming's novels, "the Sweep makes it seem half as long."
The serialisation of the story in the Daily Express in 1957 provided a boost in the sales of the book, although the biggest jump in sales was to follow four years later. In an article in Life Magazine on 17 March 1961, US President John F. Kennedy listed From Russia, with Love as one of his ten favourite books. This accolade, and its associated publicity, led to a surge in sales that made Fleming the biggest-selling crime writer in the US.
From Russia, with Love received broadly positive reviews from the critics. Julian Symons, in The Times Literary Supplement, considered that it was Fleming's "tautest, most exciting and most brilliant tale", that the author "brings the thriller in line with modern emotional needs", and that Bond "is the intellectual's Mike Hammer: a killer with a keen eye and a soft heart for a woman". The critic for The Times was less persuaded by the story, suggesting that "the general tautness and brutality of the story leave the reader uneasily hovering between fact and fiction". Although the review compared Fleming in unflattering terms to the crime fiction writer of the 1930s and 1940s, Peter Cheyney, it concluded that From Russia, with Love was "exciting enough of its kind."
The Observer's critic, Maurice Richardson, thought that From Russia, with Love was a "stupendous plot to trap ... Bond, our deluxe cad-clubman agent" and wondered "Is this the end of Bond?" The Oxford Mail declared that "Ian Fleming is in a class by himself", while The Sunday Times opined that "If a psychiatrist and a thoroughly efficient copywriter got together to produce a fictional character who would be the mid-twentieth century subconscious male ambition, the result would inevitably be James Bond."
Writing in The New York Times, Anthony Boucher – described by a Fleming biographer, John Pearson, as "throughout an avid anti-Bond and an anti-Fleming man" – was damning in his review, saying that From Russia, with Love was Fleming's "longest and poorest book". Boucher went on to write that the novel contained "as usual, sex-cum-sadism with a veneer of literacy but without the occasional brilliant setpieces". The critic for the New York Herald Tribune, conversely, wrote that "Mr Fleming is intensely observant, acutely literate and can turn a cliché into a silk purse with astute alchemy". Robert R Kirsch, writing in the Los Angeles Times, also disagreed with Boucher, saying that "the espionage novel has been brought up to date by a superb practitioner of that nearly lost art: Ian Fleming." In Kirsch's opinion, From Russia, with Love "has everything of the traditional plus the most modern refinements in the sinister arts of spying."
- Serialisation (1957)
- Comic strip (1960)
In 1960 Fleming's novel was also adapted as a daily comic strip in the Daily Express and was syndicated worldwide. The adaptation ran from 3 February to 21 May 1960, and was written by Henry Gammidge and illustrated by John McLusky. The From Russia, with Love comic strip was reprinted in 2005 by Titan Books in the Dr. No anthology, which also included Diamonds Are Forever and Casino Royale.
- From Russia with Love (1963)
The film From Russia with Love was released in 1963, produced by Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, and directed by Terence Young. It was the second James Bond film in the Eon Productions series and starred Sean Connery as Bond. The film version contained some changes to the novel, with the leading villains switching from SMERSH to SPECTRE, a fictional terrorist organisation. In the main, however, it was a faithful adaptation of the novel, Raymond Benson declaring that "Many fans consider it the best Bond film, simply because it is close to Fleming's original story".
- Radio adaptation (2012)
The novel was dramatized for radio by Archie Scottney, directed by Martin Jarvis and produced by Rosalind Ayres; it featured a full cast starring Toby Stephens as James Bond and was first broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in 2012. It continued the series of Bond radio adaptations featuring Jarvis and Stephens following Dr. No (2008) and Goldfinger (2010).
|Wikiquote has quotations related to: From Russia, with Love|
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