War has a number of different faces. Probably the most common image people have of war is that of fighting a foreign enemy, whether it be on your own soil, on the enemy’s soil, or on someone else’s. Not as common is the idea of fighting a war when the enemy is your own country, yet this is the lot of those who find themselves in the role of resistance. All those people in Germany who saw Nazism for what it was and chose to oppose it fought a domestic enemy…as did those who opposed the leadership of Italy and Japan. All of these people paid a price.
Alan Furst provides a picture of the cost of resistance in his book The Foreign Correspondent. The main character is Carlo Weisz, an Italian working out of Paris as a journalist for Reuters at the outbreak of World War II. In addition to his day job, he edits an Italian resistance newspaper called Liberazione. He assumed that responsibility when the previous editor was assassinated by the Italian secret police. He and the rest of the editorial committee realize that a statement has been made but choose to risk harassment, loss of livelihood, or even loss of life to keep providing the truth to the people back home.
As Weisz travels for Reuters, he sees the war coming and he meets others who have sacrificed in order to resist a government whose policies they found immoral. One of those he meets is an Italian officer, “Colonel Ferrara” who could no longer support “Mussolini’s war of conquest” and left the Italian army to become a freedom fighter. As a result, he cannot return home or see the family he left behind. At one point he finds himself in a POW camp in France before being freed to tell his story. Arturo Salamone leads the editorial committee of Liberazione and, so, works closely with Weisz. When his employer receives a visit from a man posing as an officer of the Sureté (but in all likelihood a member of the Italian secret police), he loses his office job, eventually has to take a physically demanding job in a warehouse, and suffers a mild heart attack.
Christa von Schirren is a former lover of Weisz who is now married and lives in Berlin. When Reuters sends Weisz to Berlin to cover the signing of the Pact of Steel, a treaty between Italy and Germany, he decides to renew acquaintances. In addition to falling in love again, he learns that she is part of an underground resistance movement. As Germany begins its campaign to conquer Europe, she comes under increasing scrutiny by the German authorities. In the end, her only hope of escape is a bargain made by Weisz in return for his agreement to expand Liberazione, an effort that will place him in increasing danger.
Although the book starts slowly, it did pick up as the story progressed. And though the main characters were well-developed, there were a few whose role in the story weren’t clear. The strength of the book, however, is in conveying the risks faced by those who chose to take an active stand against fascism. Even though many were living in supposedly safe countries, the forces they opposed could reach out and disrupt their lives. The courage they showed wasn’t always extravagant, but it was impressive.