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The Polish Officer

Jun 21, William rated it really liked it Shelves: espionage , world-war But what makes each of these novels excellent is the infusion of stories within stories, of the heroes among millions, who give to the inhuman scale of war a believable realism. In The Polish Officer, you find these stories in a seventeen-year-old Polish girl working at a wireless transmitter in a Paris wareho The Polish Officer, like Night Soldiers and Dark Star, is good for its picturesque detail and rich understanding of the deep ties and rivalries between European states during World War II.

In The Polish Officer, you find these stories in a seventeen-year-old Polish girl working at a wireless transmitter in a Paris warehouse. You find a gangly, bookish bomber pilot who unwittingly leads an attack to thwart the German landing at Dover. Furst is an amazing author and The Polish Officer is an awesome book. Sep 12, T. Scott rated it really liked it.

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This book has a scene of such heartbreaking sadness, desperation, fragility and beauty that I think about it quite often. For those that have read it, it's the scene near the beginning with young girl who wants on the train. It says something about the impact of war on the innocent and something else that I can't quite put my finger on.

It's small scenes like this which make his books so dependably good.

Feb 06, Robin Webster rated it it was ok. He then moves on to Paris just before the occupation, then acted as an intelligence officer before moving on to the Ukraine. There is no doubt that the author has much knowledge of the subject and there were some interesting snippets regarding the intelligence service in Paris and the tactics of the partisans in the Ukrainian forest. In fact there were a lot of good ideas, but far too many to fit into a book of pages. I found that many, but not all the characters in the book were underdeveloped and for the most part the dialoge was just functional.

However, someone who enjoys reading novels where the characters main function is to relay the events to the reader may have a different opinion. View 1 comment. Sep 02, Emily rated it liked it Shelves: As other reviewers have noted, this book seems to be an extreme example of Furst's tendency to offer disconnected episodes, or episodes whose connection is so oblique that it's hard to perceive.

Furst's novels are really starting to run together for me, so even though I like this author a lot, I'll probably give it a rest for a while before I read another one. I'd like to see him follow a character through a significant change of heart, or through the end of the war, or have him develop a charac As other reviewers have noted, this book seems to be an extreme example of Furst's tendency to offer disconnected episodes, or episodes whose connection is so oblique that it's hard to perceive. I'd like to see him follow a character through a significant change of heart, or through the end of the war, or have him develop a character more deeply generally, since he tends to offer us unknowable, taciturn men--though I suppose I should be careful about calling for a favorite author to extend himself, since that's clearly how we ended up with The Twelfth Enchantment.

For the record, I think Furst's best are Dark Star , which is longest and most involved, or The Foreign Correspondent which uses a newspaperman to good effect. Jan 23, Robert rated it really liked it. The Polish Officer, a novel published by Alan Furst twenty years ago, is an excellent study in the vagaries of Polish history, defined so much by being trapped between Germany and Russia. Furst is a demon for historical detail, anecdote, and quirk.

He creates splendidly foggy, smoky atmospheres and populates them with deadly serious, clever characters who could not The Polish Officer, a novel published by Alan Furst twenty years ago, is an excellent study in the vagaries of Polish history, defined so much by being trapped between Germany and Russia.

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He creates splendidly foggy, smoky atmospheres and populates them with deadly serious, clever characters who could not, back then, get Europe right any more than Europeans today can get it right. But Europe is still a wonderful subcontinent, and that's part of the reason I like Furst's books so much: they enable me to walk familiar streets via sentences if not sidewalks. Our officer, de Milja and we'll leave it at that, is a Polish cartographer who falls in with the Polish underground intelligence network. He's reliable, stoic, and resourceful. He does the kinds of things we all like to see happen: sabotages the Nazi war machine by engineering prison breaks, harbor mishaps, and air field miseries.

Nothing on a grand scale, but this is just one man, after all, and in a wide-ranging war, a few hundred Polish officers like de Milja, contribute quite a bit of useful chaos -- striking at the Russians, too. Some of the war details are are difficult to follow. At many points Furst is as nimble as de Milja in escaping narrative logjams, leaving the reader scratching his head as to how things quickly ended up here But resistance is not a systematic enterprise; it's an opportunistic enterprise; so we forgive Furst for what de Milja must do, much in demand as he is.

One of the amusing aspects of the book, unintentional, I suspect, is de Milja's luscious hard luck with women who keep making themselves available to him. This spices the storyline, but after a point, this man who otherwise suppresses all emotions begins to exhibit a suspiciously Hemingwayesque flare for melting sultry accomplices, so it's "here we go again" as soon as a new damsel or matron--all women are beautiful and desirable in the face of death--parachutes onto the page. Oddly the most moving and restrained of de Milja's interactions with a woman comes at the very end.

I won't spoil it, but it's a nice passage, particularly because he manages to use her as a reference point for recalling women he's lost and not adding to his list of heartaches as a new conquest. As a stylist, Furst is good. He has a restrained but insistent cadence, very sure-footed. Again, he creates settings quickly and persuasively. And some of the situations he imposes on de Mija, whether by research or imagination, are exquisite. I particularly love a difficult truck journey up a tributary of the frozen Bug maybe my favorite river name.

Couldn't have happened.. Jun 05, Darwin8u rated it really liked it Shelves: There are certain historical truths that can only be teased out of the past with a fiction narrative build on the skeleton of the past.

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The Polish Officer by Alan Furst - Books - Hachette Australia

There are hidden truths that are exposed only with a story, with fiction, with literature. Alan Furst's war and pre-war espionage novels do that. His novels flesh out more about the people who fight, suffer and die in war than most straight academic histories can ever hope to give to the reader. You finish an Alan Furst novel tasting the blood and the smoke, body There are certain historical truths that can only be teased out of the past with a fiction narrative build on the skeleton of the past.

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You finish an Alan Furst novel tasting the blood and the smoke, body black with soot, blinded by the fiery lights, frozen by the cold, heart sick by all the death of war. Into this setting, Furst inserts little glimmers of caritas, humor, and love. He isn't prepared to make the entire world, even a world that is mewed in the machinery of war, devoid of humanity.

There are flowers to smell, food to enjoy and even soft women to touch. It is sad but beautiful and that is sometimes just enough. Jul 24, Lewis Weinstein rated it it was amazing Shelves: a-research , fiction-historical. A truly outstanding novel Jan 28, Toby McMillen rated it really liked it.


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One of my favorite of Furst's books, this is a great look into the war from the viewpoint of the Poles; who writes about that? Like many Furst books this one ends up in Paris, which is never a bad place for a book setting, and de Milja is a great character. Aug 10, John Caviglia rated it it was amazing Shelves: historical-novels , spies.

Espionage at its deepest, darkest best. Though crafted from tissues of cunning and deceit—as such novels are—The Polish Officer is less the kind of chess game played with human pawns often depicted in this genre, than an exploration of the price and meaning of survival … less a novel concerning spy craft than a perspective announced by the title itself. As a Pole, the main character, De Milja, plants his feet on a land bloodied by the battles between East and West since the time of Genghis Khan— Espionage at its deepest, darkest best.

As a Pole, the main character, De Milja, plants his feet on a land bloodied by the battles between East and West since the time of Genghis Khan—a land that looks, like Janus, in both directions. As a Pole, he has both East and West in him with their languages. And his statelessness is compounded by his Jewishness. Emptied of place, an outsider everywhere, De Milja has all it takes to be a spy. Never mind the plot, which—to the degree that it exists—is picaresque.

That is, after becoming a spy more or less by accident, the hero progresses from adventure to episode, crisis to escape, surviving this barrage of war and espionage both by dint of wit and the courage of those who have only life left to risk. Genya Bielis, of uncertain name, is one, who, despite her beauty has complicated bloodlines, an intricate past, and a future which requires her to leave him—should she survive.

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The fact that she is a prostitute says much, if not all. This novel narrates the complex price that the courage of survival can mean in times of war. This is my third Furst … and favorite, so far. View all 3 comments. Jan 07, Bibliophile rated it it was ok Shelves: mystery-and-suspense , fiction , spy-stories , historical-fiction , zentropa , ww2 , The Polish Officer encapsulates all that is both excellent and maddening about Alan Furst's spy novels.

On the maddening side, Alexander de Milja, the titular Polish officer, is another one of Furst's frustratingly opaque characters whose motivations and inner life are as impossible to discern after pages in his company as they were on page one.


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  • And he's the best -realized of the characters in the novel. If you're going to pay so little attention to character, then you need to have a great plot At that point, I don't even care, to be honest! I suspect that in a couple of days, like every other Furst novel I've read, I will not remember who the main character was or what he was doing - they all blur together like so many patches of atmospheric film noir fog.

    Feb 18, Anne rated it really liked it. Actually I now have either read all of his books or the library will send on the last 2 in a few days. That will make 7 in a week. I don't know why I'm obsessed with these spy novels by Furst, but maybe because we were in and out of these countries in eastern Europe several years ago, only a few days here and there, just as the characters cross back and forth between borders.


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    • The various countries portrayed in the short time before the US entered WWII blended together in ways that were interesti Actually I now have either read all of his books or the library will send on the last 2 in a few days.