Saturday 12 May 2012

Unfaithful to the story? The cover of Faith ...

Does the design fit the story?
Is there a fundamental error on the design of the new Harper reissue of Len Deighton's Faith?

One correspondent and blog reader - Sandipan Deb, an Indian journalist and Deighton fan - thinks so. He has pointed out to me an apparent mistake committed on the cover of Faith in the new edition published by Harper in 2011. The cover design is by Arnold Schwartzman, Deighton's friend and fellow designer.

Sandipan writes:
"On the Faith cover, Schwartzman has used the photograph of a window in Poland with a lace curtain (and merged it with a picture of Bernard peering from behind it). In the cover designer's note, Schwartzman explains: 'As Bernard Samson is now on an assignment in Poland I searched through my collection of photographs for a suitable image that would evoke that part of the world...' The point is: Bernard goes to Poland in Hope, and not in Faith, which is set in Berlin and London!"
On first examination, something does seem to be amiss. The majority of the plot action in Faith takes place in East Germany, where Bernard Samson makes contact with the agent VERDI, who promises information that will explain the death of his wife's sister Tessa during Fiona's escape from the East when serving as a double agent in the KGB. It is in Hope that the story essentially shifts further west to Poland, as Bernard is forced to go there to extract Tessa's husband George - who is secretly working for Polish intelligence - who is in the country in the hope of being reunited with his wife, whom the Stasi have told George is still alive.

It does seem to be a discrepancy. Perhaps Schwartzman, in trying to find individual design elements for each of the nine stories while retaining a thematic integrity, overlooked this. Does it matter? Not really. What is as important about the source of the image is the idea it portrays - for net curtains, read Iron Curtain. Schwartzman's aim is to depict Samson behind the Wall, isolated, "an unwilling outsider ostracised from domestic comfort."

Whatever the motivations of the designer and the source of the image, the Harper reissues by Arnold Schwartzman are still iconic covers. The complexity and depth of the nine volume story is one of its attractions as fiction, as it requires the reader to become fully absorbed in the main stories which flow between each of the books.

Still, an interesting observation.

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