Bond Behind the Iron Curtain by James Fleming

I have just finished reading a new book entitled "Bond Behind the Iron Curtain" by James Fleming, nephew of Ian.

This small volume delves into the reaction in the Eastern Bloc to Bond, or perhaps more correctly, to the enormous popularity of Bond throughout much of the world at a time when we were all wrapped up in the Cold War. Some of the stories I had heard before, although generally not in as much detail, while others were new to me. Fleming has clearly done a great deal of research into the topic and the result is a very readable, rather entertaining, and highly informative new angle on Bond and his genuine influence on the Cold War.

Adrian Harrington Rare Books have signed first editions in stock for just £25 which makes it a perfect Christmas present for...ourselves!


Comments

  • Silhouette ManSilhouette Man The last refuge of a scoundrelPosts: 7,893MI6 Agent

    I bought this book recently directly from The Book Collector website itself. I had to buy it as the subject matter fascinates me and of course it's another book by the Fleming dynasty to add to the collection. You can't go wrong with that family of writers. I did miss out on the signed first edition though I've since learned that apparently these can be requested from the publisher at no extra cost to the buyer. Ah, well.

    "The tough man of the world. The Secret Agent. The man who was only a silhouette." - Ian Fleming, Moonraker (1955).
  • RevelatorRevelator Posts: 410MI6 Agent

    Here's a review from the Telegraph:

    007 vs Pravda: the Soviet Union's bizarre obsession with James Bond

    4 out of 5 stars

    In a new book, Bond Behind the Iron Curtain, Ian Fleming's nephew shines a light on the USSR's farcical attempts to smirch Bond's reputation

    By Jake Kerridge 7 November 2021

    The flowering of James Bond’s cultural dominance at the height of the Cold War did much to make the work of Soviet propagandists easier. There was no need to slog away at inventing examples of Western decadence when, on the release of Dr No in 1962, British and American audiences had instantly taken to their hearts a borderline-sociopathic killer and serial rapist.

    Throughout the 1960s, newspapers in the Soviet Bloc catalogued the moral failings of the Bond films – to a readership who had no opportunity of seeing them. “James Bond lives in a nightmarish world where laws are written at the point of a gun, where coercion and rape [are] considered valour and murder is a funny trick,” thundered Pravda in 1965. It’s a fair cop, one could argue, but some of Pravda’s other claims about how the films were “guilty of furthering the shameful aims of the Western capitalists” put it a bit high. “Although [Ian Fleming] is now dead, James Bond cannot be allowed to die because he teaches those sent to kill in Vietnam, the Congo, the Dominican Republic and many other places.” Did US soldiers in Vietnam really gee themselves up to kill by whispering: “Be more Bond”? Perhaps the lack of a similar character in the USSR accounts for the notorious soft-heartedness of the Red Army.

    James Fleming, nephew of Ian, has produced a snappy survey-cum-anthology of attitudes to Bond in the Soviet Bloc. His argument is that Bond, with his repeated trouncings of Smersh and other Communist baddies, represented an affront to Soviet dignity that could not be ignored, particularly in the wake of the humiliating outcome of the Cuban Missile Crisis.

    It helped that Bond leant himself to ridicule even more easily than to moral denunciation, and the Soviet press seized on the more absurd aspects of the films and of Ian Fleming’s novels. By a familiar process, however, the shrewd scheme of Bond-mockery for propaganda purposes deteriorated over the years into what seemed to be a rather desperate obsession.

    The most pathetically funny episode in this book concerns the Bulgarian novelist Andrei Gulyashki, author of a hugely popular series of novels about a mild-mannered Sherlock Holmes-like detective called Avakoum Zakhov, who was ordered to write a book in which Zakhov defeats and kills Bond. The hapless Gulyashki was dispatched to London, with a minder to prevent his being “ideologically influenced” by the British, to drum up interest in the book, but spent much of his time locked in legal disputes with Fleming’s formidable widow Ann; in the end the novel was retitled Avakoum Zakhov vs 07, the other zero dropped for reasons of copyright.

    James Fleming warns his readers in his introduction that “this is an untidy book”, and so it proves. The material is somewhat haphazardly arranged. The book has been issued by the publishing arm of that indispensable magazine The Book Collector — founded by Ian Fleming himself — and there is a tendency to get bogged down in bibliographical detail; you long for James Fleming to get back to the geopolitics, about which he writes very well. Still, the book is full of charm as well as fascinating detail. And Fleming is fair-minded, too: when writing about the Soviets’ over-the-top denunciations of the relatively mild sexual content of the Bond novels, he points out that the same response was fairly common among British critics and readers too. “My father, Ian’s brother, who had eight children and was nothing if not liberal, threw The Spy Who Loved Me into the fire because it disgusted him.”

    About half the book is given over to essays by other hands. A long article from the 1960s by the Russian critic Maya Turovskaya is one of the best things I have ever read on Bond; although she overstates the inimical effects that the Bond films and books have on their admirers, her analysis of their faults and foibles is so insightful and witty that it makes Paul Johnson’s celebrated critique of Fleming look clodhopping. The latter part of the book deals with the gradual encroaches Bond made behind the Iron Curtain, beginning with the Czech translations of some of the Bond novels that were briefly permitted to appear during the Prague Spring — the illustrations by M Novák, some of which are reproduced here, are simply wonderful.

    One finishes this beautifully produced little book wondering what the anti-Bond propagandists would have thought if they lived to see Pierce Brosnan being welcomed to St Petersburg to film GoldenEye in the 1990s. And I can’t help speculating, too, on what Putin’s Russians make of today’s “emotionally intelligent” Bond films. Does Russia now see us as laughably touchy-feely rather than loutishly degenerate — and might that be something to worry about?

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    @Silhouette Man, IIRC you've purchased but haven't had time to read the book yet--when you do I'd love to hear your thoughts, especially on that essay by Maya Turovskaya. Is it really one of the best things ever written about Bond?

  • caractacus pottscaractacus potts Orbital communicator, level 10Posts: 3,394MI6 Agent
    edited December 2021

    oh this book sounds awesome, a whole new angle of analysis on the Bond mythos from a particularly relevant point of view.

    The most pathetically funny episode in this book concerns the Bulgarian novelist Andrei Gulyashki, author of a hugely popular series of novels about a mild-mannered Sherlock Holmes-like detective called Avakoum Zakhov, who was ordered to write a book in which Zakhov defeats and kills Bond. The hapless Gulyashki was dispatched to London, with a minder to prevent his being “ideologically influenced” by the British, to drum up interest in the book, but spent much of his time locked in legal disputes with Fleming’s formidable widow Ann; in the end the novel was retitled Avakoum Zakhov vs 07, the other zero dropped for reasons of copyright.

    so Avakoum Zakhov vs 07 was published, but with the number changed just enough to avoid trademark infringement? now I need to read that book too!

    in regards to the new movie...

    ...in another thread I was asking for examples of other stories in which James Bond dies. This would be one of them! I wonder how it happens in this version...

     “My father, Ian’s brother, who had eight children and was nothing if not liberal, threw The Spy Who Loved Me into the fire because it disgusted him.”

    this is a good nugget too. Elsewhere we have a thread asking if Fleming's family were embarrassed by the Bond books, and the consensus was only his wife. Now we see his brother threw one particular book in the fire! that's an extreme reaction!

  • Number24Number24 NorwayPosts: 19,975MI6 Agent

    I'm considering adding this book to my Christmas wish list!

    On a more serious note I think making a big deal out of the possible rapes of a fictional agent is petty when one knows of the horrible mass rapes the Soviet soldiers were guilty of in east Germany about twenty years before, not to mention the tens of thousands of suicides among German women these war crimes caused.

  • Silhouette ManSilhouette Man The last refuge of a scoundrelPosts: 7,893MI6 Agent
    edited January 16

    @Revelator - I'll certainly let you know my thoughts on this book and that essay specifically when I finally get around to reading it but, as always, my reading list is rather long and I'm slow at getting through things. I'll make giving this a read a priority though. I'd say that this rather specialist publication is an essential purchase for the serious literary Bond fan, simply because of its authorship and the rather underexplored area of Bondology it explores. I imagine that it does add significantly to the pool of knowledge on this literary Bond topic and that can only be a good thing.

    "The tough man of the world. The Secret Agent. The man who was only a silhouette." - Ian Fleming, Moonraker (1955).
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