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Night Soldiers: A Novel Paperback – Jul 9 2002

4.2 out of 5 stars 20 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks; Reprint edition (July 9 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375760008
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375760006
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 2.5 x 20.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 340 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars 20 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #95,343 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

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

Format: Paperback
Interesting spy novel set in the world of espionage in Europe in the 1930's and 40's. The main character is Khristo Stoianov, a Bulgarian. The story begins in 1934 when Khristo's brother is murdered by a fascist street gang. Sensing his potential, and realising he is now longer safe in his own village, a local Soviet agent recruits him into the NKVD, a forerunner of the KGB. His first assignment is in Spain during the Civil War. Things turn sour however and as he about to become a victim of the Stalinist purges, Khristo flees to Paris. Once there he is co-opted by anti-Soviet elements in an assassination plot involving British intelligence. He is imprisoned, escapes when Germany invades France and ends up in the French resistance. In the final stages of World War II he is again recruited, this time by the OSS and eventually decides to undertake one final, hazardous mission.
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.
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Format: Paperback
To date all the novels of Alan Furst have been issued in the US as soft cover books, and they have generally been briefer than I like. There was even a two book cycle that could have been presented as one. "Night Soldiers", by comparison is a lengthy novel encompassing well over 400 pages and gives the author a much greater opportunity to demonstrate his talents. Mr. Furst's novels generally are described as taking place between 1933-1945, "Night Soldiers", is spread over this entire time frame and a bit 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.
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Format: Paperback
Night Soldiers is nearly twice as long as The World at Night and Kingdom of Shadows. It is epic in scope and spans more than a decade.
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.
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