Sunday, 10 April 2016

Dress Down Sunday: From Russia with Love by Ian Fleming


James Bond book 5


--second entry

published 1957


From Russia with Love DD


[James Bond has found a young Russian woman in his bed in his Istanbul hotel room]

She pulled the sheet a fraction lower to show a quarter-inch black velvet ribbon round her neck. ‘This.’ Bond looked down into the teasing blue eyes, now wide as if asking if the ribbon was inadequate. He felt his body getting out of control. ‘Damn you, Tania. Where are the rest of your things? Or did you come down in the lift like that?’ 

‘Oh no. That would not have been kulturny. They are under the bed.’

[A short time later] Bond reached up and took the edge of the sheet and pulled it right down and threw it off the end of the huge bed. She was wearing nothing but the black ribbon round her neck and black silk stockings rolled above her knees. Her arms groped up for him.

Above them, and unknown to both of them, behind the gold-framed false mirror on the wall over the bed, the two photographers from SMERSH sat close together in the cramped cabinet de voyeur, as, before them, so many friends of the proprietor had sat on a honeymoon night in the stateroom of the Kristal Palas. And the view-finders gazed coldly down on the passionate arabesques the two bodies formed and broke and formed again…

commentary: This book, with all its clothes opportunities, could never be confined to one entry. So many possibilities - why on earth didn’t I show the topless masseuse in the first chapter? (Fleming claims, delightfully, that she takes off her top as a secret hint that the action – so far unspecified - is in Crimea, as that is what massesuses do there.) What about the wild gypsy men and women in Istanbul? Or even the fighting gypsy girls who tear off each other’s rags until they are grappling naked? Or Rosa Klebb in her ‘semitransparent nightgown in orange crêpe de chine’?

So many possibilities. But what intrigued me most was Bond himself, who wears ‘a sleeveless dark blue Sea Island cotton shirt’, at a time in his life when ‘the blubbery arms of the soft life had Bond round the neck and were slowly strangling him.’ I can’t imagine a sleeveless shirt quite like that, and think the metaphor conjures up a very strange image.

A lot of the action is set in Istanbul, where James Bond has a new friend: Darko Kerim, head of the local office. Kingsley Amis in his indispensable James Bond Dossier is understandably conflicted about him – Kerim has fairly horrible views on women and other things, but on the other hand ‘provides a human glow and a kind of energy that Bond lacks.’ He is, as Amis points out, much more fun than Felix Leiter or Rene Mathis. But Kerim also says:
All women want to be swept off their feet. In their dreams they long to be slung over a man’s shoulder and taken into a cave and raped.
- sadly this would not have been seen as either surprising or reprehensible in 1957.

Fleming plainly had a real talent for picking his titles and all of them have entered the language. This one is perfect – intriguing, and truly descriptive of the book.

The picture is from the ever wonderful Clover Vintage Tumblr.

Friday's entry on the book is here








12 comments:

  1. Hmmm....a semitransparent nightgown in orange crêpe de chine...Now that's definitely something, Moira. And you're right; that mention of the sleeveless blue shirt is very strange indeed. In the main, though, I think it's interesting how much attention Fleming really does pay to clothes. Even if the only clothing consists of a black velvet ribbon and stockings.

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    1. Yes, I don't know how I stuck to just these two entries Margot - the book could have been written specially for me...

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  2. I do remember the fighting gypsy girls in the film. All of the scenes in that area are fun.

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    1. I think before I read this I thought there would be more scenes in the USSR, but the Istanbul setting, including the gypsy encampment, is really good and memorable, and I presume is the same in the film.

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  3. That image is bizarre and looks damn uncomfortable! That line by Kerim is right up there with Noel Coward's quip from PRIVATE LIVES about gongs!

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    1. I know - you do wonder what people thought at the time. Was it really acceptable? But I fear that it was.

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  4. Moira, I have read much about Kingsley Amis' "The James Bond Dossier" and I have been looking out for it. But before that I hope to read a couple of Fleming's novels.

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    1. Prashant, I am finding the Kingsley Amis book an indispensable companion as I work my way through the Bond books.

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  5. Bond's fashion sense functions the same way that I imagine Fleming's did--Is it comfy, is it long lasting, will I have to change it often? I'll bet that a lot of the decisions are left to Bond's 'expensive tailor'. "Is that really what you want, Sir? This would really be far more suitable, if you will forgive the pun, for you".

    Reading the bit where 007 finds the naked lady in his bed, it still amuses me that JFK picked this as one of his favourite books. The others are heavyweight novels by Stendhal, or biographies of famous political and literary figures. Whilst I'm sure that he read the other stuff, you get the feeling that this was pretty much bed-side reading!

    Kerim Bay seems designed as a sort of father figure for Bond, but his opinions do make one cringe nowadays. I do wonder whether the fact that he's a foreigner are supposed to make them rather earthy and charming. They don't, but he does conform to a sort Zorba the Greek type of peasant/philospher cliche.

    I tried to find out exactly what Crimean Massesuses do, but all that my search engine produced was page after page about Mary Seacole!

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    1. I had no idea what the rest of JFK's list would've looked like - interesting that it was so heavyweight. Now you'd be sure the spin doctors were dictating 'something serious, something popular, something quirky, a good thriller' - I wonder if they did then?
      Kerim was totally unreconstructed but I couldn't hate him as much as I should.
      So funny about Mary Seacole.

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  6. Moira: Here is link to a photograph of the fighting gypsy girls from the movie:

    http://i.ebayimg.com/images/i/130583936717-0-1/s-l1000.jpg

    Nice to see how Hollywood can glam up a fight with hair still perfect.

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    1. That is such a great picture Bill, hysterical. I love the way they are both 'acting' like crazy, but manage to have their full faces poised for the camera.

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