To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Farewell: The Greatest Spy Story of the Twentieth Century Paperback – August 2, 2011
|New from||Used from|
Best Books of the Year So Far in fiction, nonfiction, mysteries, children's books, and much more.
Frequently Bought Together
Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought
Question: You spent two years researching the backstory of this book. What about Vetrov first caught your attention?
Sergei Kostin: It was pure luck that I happened upon this case. I was writing a book with a former KGB colonel who was responsible for counterintelligence operations in the Soviet Union investigating French citizens. While we were working together, he mentioned the Farewell case. He had asked for the Farewell dossier in order to learn about the techniques used by French intelligence for handling Farewell in Moscow, so he studied a number of the files and took many notes. The notes he gave me from his research were the start of my investigation, because I realized how relevant this case was for the present day--and Farewell's complex personality was intriguing to me.
Q: There are many sides to this story: Russian, French, American. How did you begin unearthing all the pieces and evaluating how to share them?
SK: For the first year, I only had the Russian side. I had the notes from the Farewell KGB dossier, as well as notes from interviews with his widow, his son, his colleagues, and his friends. Then I went to France and had the chance to add the recollections of Farewell's first handler, Xavier Ameil, and his wife, Claude. I did try to get additional information from the DST (the French counterintelligence agency) and the DGSE (French foreign intelligence). As I expected, they didn't cooperate. The DST head during Farewell's time, Marcel Chalet, then retired, refused to meet me; his deputy, Raymond Nart, was still in active service. Patrick Ferrant, Farewell's main handler, also refused.
Luckily, I was contacted by Eric Raynaud, who wanted to make a movie of my book Bonjour, Farewell and was working on the script. We met two years later and I offered him the opportunity to collaborate on a new edition, giving him some leads in France. Thus it was Eric who conducted the main investigation from the French side for the second edition. There were several reasons for this: It was six years after my first try at uncovering more information, so Raymond Nart and Patrick Ferrant had retired and were able to reveal more. And on top of that, a Russian journalist researching a book about espionage looks suspicious. Because Eric was French and had plenty of time and flexibility, he was able to convince Marcel Chalet and Jacques Prévost to speak about the case. Also he obtained comments about the Farewell cast from Richard Allen, President Reagan's first national security adviser. As a result of Eric's work, our book on Farewell's case became much more consistent from an international perspective.
Q: Because Vetrov is viewed as a traitor in Russia, you initially published your book in France rather than your home country. The Russian government forbade filming of the screenplay in Moscow, and two Russian actors bowed out of the lead role because of social and political pressure. Did you ever consider not publishing the book because of the social taboos?
SK: No. I wrote the first version of my book in 1995 to 1996, when many more doors, including those inside the KGB, were, if not open, at least not shut in your face. My first edition was an accurate reporting of facts, without any political allegations. What could they have objected to? For the second version, I contacted some people I couldn't get to before or of whose existence I had been unaware. I had a long interview with Vladimir Kryuchkov, the former head of the Soviet Union's Foreign Intelligence and later on of the whole KGB; Igor Prelin, former operative of internal counterintelligence dealing with Soviet intelligence officers; Valery Rechenski, who was Farewell's inmate in prison; and so on. All these people were much more at ease talking about the case the second time around because many of the officials involved had died, and because it looked more like pure history. My reason for not publishing my book in Russia was ultimately out of consideration for Farewell's family. His widow and son helped me a great deal in reconstructing his life, and I didn't want their acquaintances pointing and whispering about them after having read this book. In Russia, Farewell is not considered a hero, even if his work objectively helped bring about the end of the Communist regime.
Q: While conducting background research for his screenplay, Eric Raynaud uncovered new information that was used to expand the book. Is there one new detail he came across that you found particularly enlightening?
SK: Eric's information helped give the book a more consistent French point of view; forced me to modify some of my initial conclusions, which were probably too critical; and helped me to better see the international dimensions of the case. However, the information that was the most exciting to me was the relationship and conversations between Farewell and Patrick Ferrant. That was a huge contribution from Eric's side.
Q: In your opinion, what makes this account of Agent Farewell "the greatest spy story of the 20th century"? What will stick with readers?
SK: I'm convinced that Farewell's aims to destroy the KGB had a much greater impact than even he anticipated. The information he handed over to the West completely changed Western countries' view of the Soviet Union. They thought they could maintain a balance of power with the USSR through peaceful competition. But upon learning of the KGB's proficiency in stealing global technological secrets, they realized this wouldn't work. Whereas Carter and Nixon were partisans of détente, President Reagan didn't see things the same way. He wanted to defeat Communism, and Farewell gave him one of the most important arguments for this stance. But more simply, on a human level, Farewell is a fascinating story of an ordinary man who found himself in the right place at the right time and became an actor in making history.
Click on thumbnails for larger images
“Vetrov is 007’s opposite: a shambolic bear of a man, albeit with the requisite indestructible liver (and penchant for a basement quickie with the secretary).” – The Sunday Times
If you buy a new print edition of this book (or purchased one in the past), you can buy the Kindle edition for only $0.99 (Save 80%). Print edition purchase must be sold by Amazon. Learn more.
For thousands of qualifying books, your past, present, and future print-edition purchases now lets you buy the Kindle edition for $2.99 or less. (Textbooks available for $9.99 or less.)
Top Customer Reviews
Contrary to what a casual observer unfamiliar with the case might imagine, Vetrov did not work through the American CIA, the British MI6, or any other well developed western intelligence organization. Instead, Vetrov cleverly contacted the French, who at the time had no intelligence operatives in the Soviet Uniion. With an added touch of irony, while working as a KGB officer in France, Vetrov made his initial overtures to the French DST (Directorate of Territorial Surveillance), an internal counter-intelligence organization roughly comparable to the FBI. The DST had neither the experience nor the legally mandated authority to handle foreign agents in intelligence gathering. However, when the first documents provided by Vetrov were brought to the attention of the newly elected French President, Francois Mitterand, he supported the DST in its efforts to continue with Operation Farewell.Read more ›
P. 145 The Defense Minister in Mitterand's French government was a Soviet spy. Even though communists were ministers in the government, Reagan changed his mind about Mitterand when Mitterand provided the US with lists of spies and collaborators sending NATO and technological plans to the KGB.
P168 "What Vetrov meant was that, through corruption and nepotism, totally inept and incompetent individuals were holding very highly responsible positions with the regime, and in a world where nuclear weapons kept multiplying, the situation could become dangerous."
P. 169 Beginning in 1981 Andropov and Ustinov (the next two leaders of the USSR) believed the US would start WWIII.
"When Ferrant brought it up, Vetrov simple explained that at the KGB the shooting of the pope was a subject of joking at the expense of the Bulgarians, the main suspects in this affair. On a more serious note, he told Ferrant that there had been a meeting at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs way before the assassinate attempt. Gromyko himself had confided to the Warsaw Pact member representatives that the problem with the pope would be soon taken care of."
"Vetrov felt, in the long run, stealing scientific and technical secrets could only come back to haunt the instigator. When we need a fastener for one of our rockets, our research organizations don't even ask themselves what would be the best type but wonder which workshop in Cape Canaveral would have it.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
It was hard to stop reading but it drug on too long and stopped at 85%.Published 12 days ago by Scooter
Very well written book that presents information objectively. The book was thoroughly researched and includes a well-rounded picture of what happened and how it happened. Read morePublished 16 days ago by Melissa A. Sheesley
What an intense detailed book this was. 50 years? Ok. That means I got about another...I have no idea how many years to go to read 60 pages of a confession by this guy. Read morePublished 29 days ago by Tanya OHearn
Very different kind of spy book. The author goes into the psychological aspects of the spy & speculates why he did it from evidence gathered. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Ms barbara
Since this is history, the authors can and do play a bit with what readers can be reasonably expected to know about the period which is the background of this book. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Lit Teacher
It takes a while to get into the narrative, but its generally worth persisting, and it gets quite engrossing after V's incarceration.Published 2 months ago by Jim Lesjak