Saturday, November 09, 2013

Olen Steinhauer on Spying . . .

Illustration by Nous Vous

Some few years back, I went on a Steinhauer kick and read all of his Eastern European espionage novels, reviewing several of them quite positively -- and getting some response from the man himself. So with my recent acquisition of an iPad and the accompanying ability to access literature instantly, I've begun reading Steinhauer's subsequent 'Tourist' series, in which surveillance is almost omnipresent . . .

Surveillance is, of course, a recurrent theme in contemporary literature -- it even lurks just under the surface of my novella -- and presupposes a world in which nothing is accidental, for the watchers are not merely observing. Given this shared presupposition, along with my recent return to the imagined world of Steinhauer, I found coincidental, but unsurprising, my encounter with an op-ed piece of his published in Bloomberg, a column on the everyday espionage revealed by Edward Snowden's release of classified information on the amount of spying that's going on in the world.

In that piece, "Spying Isn't Stranger Than Fiction" (Bloomberg, November 2, 2013), Steinhauer remarks: "As an espionage novelist, I certainly had an opinion on the matter." As he reveals:

Following that citation of his own words from two months previous, he adds: "Like my fictional persona, I'd already guessed this sort of data-vacuuming was de rigueur." So had I! And I thought, there's an upside and a downside to this. The former? We catch more terrorists. The latter? We catch ourselves with our pants down. Is that a necessary trade-off? I hope not, or we'll have to live with the paranoia of kings wearing no clothes!

As consolation, there's the compliment of what Steinhauer wryly alludes to as the "satellite envy" of those less technologically well endowed . . .

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