This page is about the original Jason Bourne novel. For the Bourne Identity movie, click here.

Jason Bourne.

He has no past. And he may have no future. His memory is blank. He only knows that he was flushed out of the Mediterranean Sea, his body riddled with bullets.

There are a few clues. A frame of microfilm surgically implanted beneath the flesh of his hip. Evidence that plastic surgery has altered his face. Strange things that he says in his delirium -– maybe code words.

The initials: "J.B." and a number on microfilm that leads to a Swiss bank account, a fortune of four million...

"Alpha, Bravo, Cain, Delta ...

Cain is for Charlie, and Delta is for Cain.

Get Carlos. Trap Carlos...

Kill Carlos!" 

The Novel

This is the book that started the Bourne saga. The Bourne Identity - the book that introduced the world to Jason Bourne - is the most vital book of the entire Jason Bourne series. Without it, the reader can't begin to understand the world created by Robert Ludlum - the world of Jason Bourne.


Summary: First published in 1980, The Bourne Identity was written by Robert Ludlum. The book begins with a nameless man, found by a fishing crew off the ports of southern France. The nameless man, later to become Jason Bourne (AKA Cain, AKA the Chameleon, AKA Delta One, originally David Web), is a retrograde amnesiac who cannot even remember his own name (any of them). Learn more about Jason Bourne.

As Bourne follows the clues to uncover his identity, he discovers several facts. First, Jason Bourne has abilities - non-conventional abilities and instincts that do not lend themselves to a common man. For example, Bourne speaks fluent French and several Asian dialects, in addition to his native English. Also, Bourne has unique physical abilities, and expertise in all manner of weapons. 

Second is his dark past. Just below the surface, Bourne knows that there has been violence, trauma, and pain. Lots of pain. In fact, we later find out that an indescribably traumatic event was the catalyst for the fabrication of the Bourne's identity by a secret group of US officials within the CIA. 

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, there are people - here and now - who want Jason Bourne killed. In fact, there are multiple groups with vast resources (including certain members of his own government) who will not rest until Bourne is eliminated.

Through sheer determination, will, nerve, and cunning, Jason Bourne fights his way towards the truth of his identity. Simultaneously, Bourne must elude his pursuers, without knowing who they are or what to expect. 

Discovering his strange, but very useful survival capabilities, Bourne moves blindly towards his goal, following any seemingly random clue, from a bank account number implanted in his hip, to a randomly recalled phrase.

The Bourne Identity Audio Book

Personally, I prefer listening to books on my mobile device (my phone or iPod).  

I'm not a very fast reader and I like to make sure I get every detail. I also don't have a lot of free time, so I enjoy listening to my books while traveling.

Here's the beginning of The Bourne Identity, as heard on the unabridged audio book. 

The Bourne Identity: Preface (4:02):

01-02 The Bourne Identity.mp3

Soundtrack: You can listen to, and download, the Bourne Identity Soundtrack on the Multimedia page or the Movies page.

Check out the carousel below for just about any Bourne Identity product you could want: book, audio book (CD), movie (DVD & Blu-ray), Soundtrack (CD & MP3), even the TV miniseries!


Read an excerpt from the Bourne Identity (Chapter 4):

Mr. J. Bourne.

He wrote the name as naturally as he could, letting his mind fall free, allowing whatever thoughts or images that might be triggered come through. None did; he was merely signing an unfamiliar name. He felt nothing.

“You had me worried, mein Herr,” said the clerk. “I thought perhaps I’d made a mistake.

It’s been a busy week, a busier day. But then, I was quite certain.” And if he had? Made a mistake? Mr. J. Bourne of New York City, U.S.A., did not care to think about the possibility. “It never occurred to me to question your memory ... Herr Stossel,” replied the patient, glancing up at the On-Duty sign on the left wall of the counter; the man behind the desk was the Carillon du Lac’s assistant manager.

“You’re most kind.” The assistant manager leaned forward. “I assume you’ll require the usual conditions of your stay with us?”

“Some may have changed,” said J. Bourne. “How did you understand them before?”

“Whoever telephones or inquires at the desk is to be told you’re out of the hotel, whereupon you’re to be informed immediately. The only exception is your firm in New York. The Treadstone Seventy-One Corporation, if I remember correctly.”

Another name! One he could trace with an overseas call. Fragmentary shapes were falling into place. The exhilaration began to return.

“That’ll do. I won’t forget your efficiency.”

“This is Zurich,” replied the polite man, shrugging. “You’ve always been exceedingly generous, Herr Bourne. Page--hierher, bitte!”

As the patient followed the page into the elevator, several things were clearer. He had a name and he understood why that name came so quickly to the Carillon du Lac’s assistant manager. He had a country and a city and a firm that employed him - had employed him, at any rate. And whenever he came to Zurich, certain precautions were implemented to protect him from unexpected, or unwanted, visitors. That was what he could not understand. One either protected oneself thoroughly or one did not bother to protect oneself at all. Where was any real advantage in a screening process that was so loose; so vulnerable to penetration? It struck him as second-rate, without value, as if a small child were playing hide-and-seek. Where am I? Try and find me. I’ll say something out loud and give you a hint.

It was not professional, and if he had learned anything about himself during the past forty-eight hours it was that he was a professional. Of what he had no idea, but the status was not debatable.

The voice of the New York operator faded sporadically over the line. Her conclusion, however, was irritatingly clear. And final.

“There’s no listing for any such company, sir. I’ve checked the latest directories as well as the private telephones and there’s no Treadstone Corporation--and nothing even resembling Treadstone with numbers following the name.”

“Perhaps they were dropped to shorten ...”

“There’s no firm or company with that name, sir. I repeat, if you have a first or second name, or the type of business the firm’s engaged in, I might be of further help.”

“I don’t. Only the name, Treadstone Seventy-One, New York City.”

“It’s an odd name, sir. I’m sure if there were a listing it would be a simple matter to find it. I’m sorry.”

“Thanks very much for your trouble,” said J. Bourne, replacing the phone. It was pointless to go on; the name was a code of some sort, words relayed by a caller that gained him access to a hotel guest not so readily accessible. And the words could be used by anyone regardless of where he had placed the call; therefore the location of New York might well be meaningless. According to an operator five thousand miles away it was.

The patient walked to the bureau where he had placed the Louis Vuitton billfold and the Seiko chronograph. He put the billfold in his pocket and the watch on his wrist; he looked in the mirror and spoke quietly.

“You are J. Bourne, citizen of the United States, resident of New York City, and it’s entirely possible that the numbers ‘zero-seven--seventeen-twelve--zero-fourteen--twenty six-zero’ are the most important things in your life.”

The sun was bright, filtering through the trees along the elegant Bahnhofstrasse, bouncing off the windows of the shops, and creating blocks of shadows where the great banks intruded on its rays. It was a street where solidity and money, security and arrogance, determination and a touch of frivolity all coexisted; and Dr. Washburn’s patient had walked along its pavements before.

He strolled into the Burkli Platz, the square that overlooked the Zurichsee, with its numerous quays along the waterfront, bordered by gardens that in the heat of summer became circles of bursting flowers. He could picture them in his mind’s eye; images were coming to him. But no thoughts, no memories.

He doubled back into the Bahnhofstrasse, instinctively knowing that the Gemeinschaft Bank was a nearby building of off-white stone; it had been on the opposite side of the street on which he had just walked; he had passed it deliberately. He approached the heavy glass doors and pushed the center plate forward. The right-hand door swung open easily and he was standing on a floor of brown marble; he had stood on it before, but the image was not as strong as others. He had the uncomfortable feeling that the Gemeinschaft was to be avoided.

It was not to be avoided now.

“Bonjour, monsieur. Vous désirez ...?” The man asking the question was dressed in a cutaway, the red boutonnière his symbol of authority. The use of French was explained by the client’s clothes; even the subordinate gnomes of Zurich were observant.

“I have personal and confidential business to discuss,” replied J. Bourne in English, once again mildly startled by the words he spoke so naturally. The reason for the English was twofold: he wanted to watch the gnome’s expression at his error, and he wanted no possible misinterpretation of anything said during the next hour.

“Pardon, sir,” said the man, his eyebrows arched slightly, studying the client’s topcoat.

“The elevator to your left, second floor. The receptionist will assist you.” The receptionist referred to was a middle-aged man with close-cropped hair and tortoise-shell glasses; his expression was set, his eyes rigidly curious. “Do you currently have personal and confidential business with us, sir?” he asked, repeating the new arrival’s words.

“I do.”

“Your signature, please,” said the official, holding out a sheet of Gemeinschaft stationery with two blank lines centered in the middle of the page.

The client understood; no name was required. The handwritten numbers take the place of a name ... they constitute the signature of the account holder. Standard procedure. Washburn.

The patient wrote out the numbers, relaxing his hand so the writing would be free. He handed the stationery back to the receptionist, who studied it, rose from the chair, and gestured to a row of narrow doors with frosted glass panels. “If you’ll wait in the fourth room, sir, someone will be with you shortly.”

“The fourth room?”

“The fourth door from the left. It will lock automatically.”

“Is that necessary?”

The receptionist glanced at him, startled. “It is in line with your own request, sir,” he said politely, an undertone of surprise beneath his courtesy. “This is a three-zero account. It’s customary at the Gemeinschaft for holders of such accounts to telephone in advance so that a private entrance can be made available.”

“I know that,” lied Washburn’s patient with a casualness he did not feel. “It’s just that I’m in a hurry.”

“I’ll convey that to Verifications, sir.”

“Verifications?” Mr. J. Bourne of New York City, U.S.A., could not help himself; the word had the sound of an alarm.

Copyright 1980 by Robert Ludlum.
Originally published by Richard Marek Publishers.
Subsequently published by Bantam Books by arrangement with the author.