Funeral in Berlin

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Funeral in Berlin is a spy novel by Len Deighton.



The protagonist, who is unnamed, travels to Berlin to arrange the defection of a Soviet scientist named Semitsa, this being brokered by Johnny Vulkan of the Berlin intelligence community. Despite his initial scepticism the deal seems to have the support of Russian security-chief Colonel Stok and Hallam in the British government's Home Office. The fake documentation for Semitsa needs to be precisely specified. In addition, an Israeli intelligence agent named Samantha Steel is involved in the case. But it soon becomes apparent that behind the facade of an elaborate mock funeral lies a game of deadly manoeuvres and ruthless tactics. A game in which the blood-stained legacy of Nazi Germany is enmeshed in the intricate moves of cold war espionage.

Legal dispute

The U.K. publication of Funeral in Berlin brought on a lawsuit; at the novel's climax, the protagonist and Hallam meet at a fireworks party where they discuss the hazards of fireworks. U.K. fireworks maker Brock's objected to this text, which mentioned them by name, and were granted an alteration of the novel. The 1972 Penguin edition had some dialogue deleted.

The original passage:

'I personally have always been against it,' said Hallam.
'Alcohol?' I said.
'Fireworks night,' said Hallam. 'Once a year animals are frightened, children are blinded and burnt. There are terrible accidents, hooligans take advantage of the occasion to throw fireworks into letter boxes and put them in milk bottles. There are cases of them tying them to animals. It's quite a disgusting business. The fire service always suffers casualties, the casualty wards in hospitals are overworked. Who gains?'
'Brock's Fireworks,' I said.
'Yes,' said Hallam, 'and the shops selling them. There is a lot of money changing hands tonight. A lot of us at the Home Office are very much against it, I can tell you, but the interests we are working against are...' Hallam raised flat palms in a gesture of despair.
'They should pay,' said Hallam. 'They should foot the bill for all the damage and accidents and burnt houses that are caused, and if any money is left over after that, it could be paid to the shareholders.'
'But don't they make signal rockets?' I asked,
'Very few, my boy. I've been into the whole business; it is quite degrading that these people make money out of it. Nasty. If the municipal authorities each organised a firework display, that would be another matter...'

The passage, after being edited, ends after "Fireworks night."


In 1966 a film version of Funeral in Berlin was made starring Michael Caine and directed by Guy Hamilton.

In 1973, the TV series Jason King (starring Peter Wyngarde), used the plot from Funeral in Berlin to smuggle an individual out of East Germany. The book itself is shown at the end of the episode. (Ostensibly, they had been using a plot from a book written by eponymous hero Jason King, but it turns out at the end that that was a double bluff. King ostentatiously throws the Deighton book into the fireplace.)

Chess references

Every chapter title is a quotation from the rules of chess.

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