W. Somerset Maugham, Ashenden: or The British Agent

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Ashenden: or The British Agent (1928) is a collection of linked stories by W. Somerset Maugham, based upon his experiences of wartime espionage in Switzerland (1915-16) and in Russia (1917). It is not Maugham’s best volume of short stories, but it is significant as a landmark of modern spy fiction, displacing the high drama of the adventure-thriller school (E. Phillips Oppenheim, John Buchan) with cooler intelligence, in both senses. The ironic realism with which Maugham presents the unglamorous routines of intelligence in Ashenden laid the foundations for a new realistic tradition in espionage fiction developed by Graham Greene, Len Deighton and John Le Carré. The stories are also notable for the first …

1928 words

Citation: Baldick, Chris. "Ashenden: or The British Agent". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 28 May 2020 [https://www.litencyc.com/php/sworks.php?rec=true&UID=11450, accessed 07 February 2023.]

11450 Ashenden: or The British Agent 3 Historical context notes are intended to give basic and preliminary information on a topic. In some cases they will be expanded into longer entries as the Literary Encyclopedia evolves.

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