Night Soldiers: A Novel Paperback – Jul 9 2002
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From Publishers Weekly
When a small-town Bulgarian landlord, a grocer and their cohorts, decked out in foolish uniforms and caps with goose feathers, hear a village teenager ridicule their march, they do what petty fasciststaking their cue from the no-longer laughable Nazisdid best: they gang up on the boy and kill him. Set in 1934, this evocative, moving novel concerns the travails of the boy's brother, Khristo Stoianev. Khristo, realizing the menace of fascism, takes a risk on the promise of communism and flies east to Moscow, where he becomes a promising agent of the NKVD, predecessor of the KGB. His superiors assign him to Catalonia during the Spanish Civil War and Khristo begins to experience the relentlessly cruel, cataclysmic decades of World War II and its aftermath. Furst shows a remarkable talent in his fifth novel, integrating details about the cultures of Spain, France and Eastern Europe with a fascinating story of the constantly changing, constantly unpredictable events of that world at war. Moreover, he is never so carried away by his character's adventures that he fails to accurately depict the true scale of a man's tragic life, a life like that of many who suffered during those terrible years.
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Library Journal
A young Bulgarian, Khristo, is recruited into an elite unit of the Soviet espionage network. Bloodied and betrayed in the Spanish Civil War, he seeks oblivion in Paris but soon leads fresh sorties, this time against his Red spymasters. As World War II closes in, secret contacts among those who trained together makes it possible for most of them to evade the revenge of their former Russian overlords and eventually find their way to well-deserved refuge. An engaging writer and Esquire contributor, Furst deploys communists, fascists, and American naifs in Europe's theater of war and supports the action and romance with well-researched detail. Barbara Conaty, Library of Congress
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
Mr Furst is a good writer, his characterisations are entertaining, the book is well researched with convincing descriptions of various European locales and regions and the plot is coherent and plausible, at least for three-quarters of the novel. The part of the story set in Paris for me is the best, the passages involving Khristo and Alexandra, a woman he becomes involved with I particularly liked. You get a real sense of what Paris must have been like in those nervous, decadent pre-war years.
After that though, I thought the book lost focus. There is a lengthy diversion involving an American OSS operative in France which comes out of nowhere and doesn't seem to hang properly with the rest of the story. Up until then you felt you were reading more of a character study, how average individuals such as Khristo would get swept up and carried away by the brutal forces at work in Europe in the era.Read more ›
Much is written about the historical accuracy of the author's work, there is no issue with making such a claim as long as it is valid. Mr. Furst even goes to the point of suggesting historical reading that he uses for his readers to also enjoy, which also reinforces the idea that he is concerned with historical accuracy. Unless the reader has traveled to the cities and countries his books cover, we all must rely on what he tells us as fact. Major historical events can always be checked independently, but the details of day to day living, architecture, and countless other details we must take on faith. In his book, "Red Gold", he made a variety of errors that would not be noticed by most of his readers, and they were largely missed by me as well. Another reviewer shared his thoughts about the book with me, and my faith in Mr. Furst's accuracy was diminished. I don't speak French but those who do will note how poorly he represents the language in the book I mention. Again, in most issues the faults slide by, and some details would probably not be considered worthwhile by many to even note. However when an author places a historical event in the wrong year, there is no excuse, no defense, and credibility is damaged.Read more ›
Alan Furst elsewhere mentioned his respect for the remarkable novel Darkness at Noon by Arthur Koestler (1940). Night Soldiers was obviously influenced by Koestler, but Furst manages to capture the spirit of Darkness at Noon without borrowing from its plot.
I have now read three novels by Alan Furst. His stories offer interesting plots, but the primary focus is always his protagonist. And yet, I suspect what one remembers most about his works is the authentic setting, a remarkable blend of European history, culture, and geography.
Khristo Stoianev flees local fascists responsible for the death of his younger brother in the small town of Vidin in Bulgaria. It is 1934. Recruited and trained by the Stalin's NKVD, he serves in the Spanish Civil War, and later flees to Paris as his mentors become victims of Stalin's purges. Reluctantly he becomes involved in a Bulgarian plot to intercept Soviet payments to their secret agents in Paris. World War II and German occupation follows, and Stoianev now joins the French Resistance. At some point Stoianev began to seem less authentic to me than were the primary characters in other novels by Furst. Possibly the story was simply too long.
Nonetheless, Night Soldiers is a chilling portrait of Stalin's dictatorship. Europe in the 1930s and 1940s was trapped between the brutal dictatorships of Hitler and Stalin. The choices were few.
I highly recommend the superb historical spy fiction of Alan Furst. Reading his novels is great fun and additionally we become students of history, the history of European civilization engaged in self-destruction.
Most recent customer reviews
Furst is trying too hard here, as a result the story is overloaded with unnecessary detail which takes you away from the plot.Published 16 months ago by Michael Abrahams
all of Alan furst books are superb but Night Soldiers is outstandingly good.After i read Spies of Warsaw i didn. Read morePublished on Aug. 24 2011 by april
After having read the first of these, we ordered all of them, and have been reading them over the past two weeks. Read morePublished on April 4 2004 by James Comfort
Another good espionnage book by Furst. The only real flaw with the book is its length. If you are anything like me, you'll get the feeling that Furst is trying to make a long novel... Read morePublished on Feb. 14 2004 by mathieu laine
This novel is extremely well-written--if you like Le Carré, Furst will not disappoint you. The story, about a Bulgarian who becomes a Soviet spy between the world wars, is... Read morePublished on Jan. 8 2004 by Deb Oestreicher
I discovered this book by accident and, boy, am I glad I did. Alan Furst's writing, plotting and setting are absolutely superb. Read morePublished on Sept. 25 2003 by Keith S.
This is a thrilling spy novel, set against the historical events occurring in eastern Europe during the time that Adolf Hitler rises to power and great nations prepare to engage in... Read morePublished on Sept. 9 2003 by Vilbs
Enthralling and gripping, but not in the usual terms of the genre. Furst really knows how to write. Read morePublished on July 16 2003 by Amazon Customer