At the end of WWII, Adolf Hitler ordered Choltitz to hold Paris, but if that wasn’t possible, to destroy it. Although General Choltitz had been very loyal to Hitler, he could not bring himself to obliterate the City of Light. He ultimately surrendered Paris to French forces on August 25, 1944. He’s been called the “Saviour of Paris” for preventing its destruction.
After his surrender, Choltitz was held for the remainder of the war in London and the United States and was ultimately released from captivity in 1947. He died in Baden-Baden in 1966.
Before listening to An Officer and a Spy by Robert Harris, I knew only the broad outline of the Dreyfus Affair, a political scandal that divided France from from 1894 until 1906. The twists and turns during this 12-year period are amazing and exciting. It is sometimes hard to believe this all really happened. Émile Zola’s 1898 open letter to the President of France accusing the French government of antisemitism was bold and courageous.
This is historical fiction but Robert Harris’s writing is based upon through research. The book has a lot of detail which added to my enjoyment. As a result of this detail, I felt as though I was actually in France.
I enjoyed learning about an important chapter of French history filled with intrigue. The ending is amazing and left me wanting more, despite the length of the audiobook — a little over 16 hours.
The audiobook is narrated by David Rintoul, an accomplished Scottish actor. His intonation and pronunciation are exceptional and added greatly to my enjoyment of the audiobook.
Downie likes to walk. His book is divided into “Paris People”, “Paris Places” and “Paris Phenomena.” It is the places that interested me the most. For example, Downie describes a long walk along the Seine that I decided to replicate. It transformed my view of Paris because I learned how much of the city revolves around the river. I also learned just how small the city is geographically and how it seems that almost every centimeter of the city has been lovingly cultivated.
The walk begins at France’s gigantic national library — Bibliothèque nationale de France. This is the largest library I have ever seen; it houses more than 15 million books and journals. It is located near the Métro station Bibliothèque François Mitterrand right along the Seine. But not much else is nearby. The location feels desolate, modern and suburban, although the library remains within Paris’s Périphérique or beltway.
However, it was unclear to me from reading the book where the walk ended so I emailed the author who cheerfully responded with the details and even suggested a nice, reasonably priced restaurant for lunch right along the walk. The restaurant is La Fregate and is at the only spot on the walk where you have to go up to the sidewalk from the river.
I watched the city transform from stark, modern suburbs and eventually came upon Notre Dame and the Eiffel Tower and on to its terminus at the Pont Mirabeau. I will never forget Le Pont Mirabeau after reading Guillaume Apollinaire’s poem in high school breathing life and love into the bridge. Seeing Le Pont Mirabeau at the end of this day-long walk was special.
The entire walk was about 10 km or 6.2 miles. The transformations within that short distance speak volumes about Paris.
At Downie’s suggestion, I also visited Buttes-Chaumont park which is even more impressive than Mr. Downie describes. He knows Place des Voges like the back of his hand so that chapter is exceptional.
On top of the wonderful details that make Paris come to life, Downie’s prose shows a love and mastery of the English language that I appreciate. This gem of a book will teach you so much about Paris and make you want to return again and again or just to go to Paris and remain as Downie has.
Dujardin portrayed George Valentin in the 2011 award-winning silent movie “The Artist”. Dujardin won numerous awards for that work including the Academy Award for Best Actor. That was the first time a French actor won that award.
Rochant relies on familiar actors in both “The Bureau” and “Möbius.” Brad Leland portrays a senior CIA official both in both pieces. And the wonderful Ukrainian actor Aleksey Gorbunov, who plays Karlov in seasons 4 and 5 of “The Bureau,” plays a similar role in “Möbius.”
So if you can’t get enough of “The Bureau”, check out Möbius. “Möbius” isn’t in the same league as “The Bureau” but it’s an enjoyable spy story filled with intrigue and romance.
“The Bureau” is a French spy TV series (“Le Bureau des Légendes”) on Canal+ created by Éric Rochant. The series concerns the daily life and missions of spies within the French Direction générale de la sécurité extérieure or DGSE. The DGSE is the French equivalent of the CIA. Its head office is in the 20th arrondissement of Paris.Variety reports that the creators of the series had the cooperation of the DGSE and that the DGSE liked the series. The series won Best TV Series from the French Syndicate of Cinema Critics.
The series begins with the return to Paris of French intelligence officer Guillaume “Malotru” Debailly ( Mathieu Kassovitz) after six years as an undercover agent in Syria. Guillaume struggles to reconnect with his former life. But after learning that his lover in Syria (Nadia, played by Zineb Triki), is in Paris, Guillaume breaks agency rules and approaches her as the man he was in Damascus: Paul Lefebvre. As Guillaume begins living a double life, he opens himself up (and the DGSE) to serious dangers.
Henri Duflot ( Jean-Pierre Darroussin) portrays the head of the French clandestine service. He’s never himself been an undercover agent and this bothers him because he fears he lacks the respect of his operatives. At the same time, he’s very likable and down-to-earth. He wears garish neckties, which makes him seem more normal.
The beautiful Léa Drucker plays a DGSE psychiatrist with a top secret clearance. Marina Loiseau ( Sara Giraudeau) portrays a naïve but determined young undercover operative.
The acting is first-rate and the spying seems realistic. This is among the best espionage stories I have seen on TV or in the cinema.
The series concluded after five magnificent seasons. It’s available on Sundance Now including the Sundance Now channel on Amazon.