Narrator – A man without qualities


Note: this post is a study in loyalty and betrayal; the persons and situations in this post are fictitious.

On a rainy afternoon during the second winter in Copenhagen, I met a man who would change the next five years in my life. I only learned the birth name of this man after his death; in my presence he called himself Raven. Suddenly he stood silently beside me. After he had introduced himself, we had diner in a small restaurant near Nyhavn. That night we spent together and that night he slept in my attic room. In the course of the next five years, I have met him with intervals in many places in Europe; usually he stayed an evening and a night, sometimes we were a few days together.

During these years he told me about his past; he was taciturn about his work, but I understood that his profession had to do with trust and betrayal in all shapes and gradations. His work consisted of unnoticingly retrieving confidential information in other countries, and of the dissemination of altered or misleading information. Like me, Raven spoke many languages and dialects fluently and without an accent; also in this way he adapted himself as a chameleon to his environment. He regularly changed name and passport.

Rush Hour by[1]

From our conversations I understood that Raven was born in London near the end of the First World War. Several years before the Second World War he moved first to Heidelberg and later to Munich for his study philosophy and linguistics in Germany. There he met two friends for life – he called them Fox and Bear.

Fox was a fellow student who had grown up in the Rhineland and Bear was the father of their girlfriend. In all circumstances they remained faithful to each other and thus they had betrayed everything and everyone in their environment.

At the beginning of the Second World War Fox and Raven retrieved strategic information in Germany for Russia and England. Bear was a high officer in the German army who prevented Fox and Raven for their doom, because Bear despised the new regime in Germany with all his being, and because he loved his daughter dearly. During the Second World War Raven went off to England several times and he returned in France, Belgium, Netherlands and Germany to disseminate misleading information and to retrieve new secret information with the help of acquaintances and relatives. Hereby he had deliberately endangered the lives of his relatives; some of his family had not survived the war.

At the end of the Second World War Bear was made prisoner by the English. With help of his contacts in England Raven had assured that Bear could soon start soon a new life as a businessman in Germany.

After the war, Fox – with his preference for socialism and communism – decided to start working for the secret service in East Germany; he received a key position within this service.

Raven – with a tendency towards tradition – returned in June 1945 to England to work for a British secret service. First he said goodbye for good to his girlfriend – the daughter of Bear. She married Fox one month later. In February of the next year, a daughter was born from this marriage who looked like Raven, but she had the character of her mother.

Throughout the Cold War – invisible to the outside world – Raven was head of the Eastern European operations. Also in this position, he had endangered the lives of colleagues, friends, acquaintances and relatives; a number of his family did not survive their missions in Eastern Europe.

Berlin_tanks[2]

The emptiness caused by the death and absence of so many loved ones remained anywhere and any time in his life. With this fathomless emptiness and with his constant fear of discovery he did penance for his actions and for the betrayal of everyone and everything in his environment.

The following afternoon, he met an older sailor from Rostock in a bar in the Nyhavn. Later I understood that this sailor was his study friend Fox. Raven asked me to distract the attention from his entry in the bar.

Nyhavn_copenhagen1[3]

This was the beginning of my small contributions to the work of Raven in the area of loyalty and betrayal that lasted until his death five years later. After his death, a distant cousin who had succeeded him in the work for a secret service, asked me for information; within this investigation I was involved in a meeting with Fox.

For Raven, I looked for meeting places and places to sleep that changed sometimes for unclear reasons. I distracted attention when Raven wanted to meet someone unobtrusively, because with my black/blue colour and my exuberant appearance I stood out anywhere. And I served as a beacon to see if a location was observed by opponents.

Smiley[4]

Was Raven also faithful to me? The answer is: as far as he could be within his activities. Looking back, I would never have wanted to miss the friendship and relationship with Raven, and I have had no regrets of my small share in the work of Raven.


[1] Source image: http://otravida.wordpress.com/2010/03/26/march-26th-rush-hour-by-george-segal/ ; a photo of the sculptors “Rush Hour” made by George Segal. See also: Histoire de la Vie privée. Tome 5: De la première Guerre mondiale à nos jours. Red. Ariès, Philippe et al., p. 8

[2] Tanks at Checkpoint Charlie on October 27 during the Berlin Crisis in 1961. Bron afbeelding: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cold_War

[3] Source image: http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nyhavn

[4] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Smiley

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