The Company

The Company With A Sharp Eye For The Pathos And Absurdity Of The Cold War, Robert Littell Crafted His First Novel, The Now Legendary Spy Thriller The Defection Of AJ Lewinter Christopher Lehmann Haupt Of The New York Times Called It A Perfect Little Gem, The Best Cold War Thriller I Ve Read In Years, And The Praise Kept Coming With Critics Hailing Littell As The American Le Carr New York Times And Raving That His Books Were As Good As Thriller Writing Gets The Washington PostFor His Fourteenth Novel, Robert Littell Creates An Engrossing, Multigenerational, Wickedly Nostalgic Yet Utterly Candid Saga, Bringing To Life Through A Host Of Characters Historical And Imagined The Over Years Of The CIA The Company To Insiders At The Heart Of The Novel Is A Stunningly Conceived Mole Hunt Involving Such Rivals And Allies As The MI, KGB, And MossadRacing Across A Canvas That Spans The Legendary Berlin Base In The S The Front Line Of The Simmering Cold War To The Soviet Invasion Of Hungary, The Bay Of Pigs, The Afghan War, The Gorbachev Putsch, And Other Major Theatres Of Operation For The CIA, The Company Tells A Thrilling Story Of Agents Imprisoned In Double Lives, Fighting An Enemy That Was Amoral, Elusive, FormidableLittell Tells It Like It Was CIA Agents, Fighting Not Only The Good Fight, But Sometimes The Bad One As Well Littell Also Brilliantly Lays Bare The Warring Within The Company To Add Another Dimension To The Spy Vs Spy Game The Battles Between The Counterintelligence Agents In Washington, Like The Utterly Obsessive Real Life Mole Hunter James Angleton, And The Covert Action Boys In The Field, Like The Company S Harvey Torriti The Sorcerer A Brilliant And Brash Rule Breaker And Dirty Tricks Expert Who Fights Fire With Fire, And His Apprentice, Jack McAuliffe, Recruited Fresh Out Of Yale, Who Learns Tradecraft And The Hard Truths Of Life In The FieldAs This Dazzling Anatomy Of The CIA Unfolds, Nothing Less Than The World S Future In The Second Half Of The Twentieth Century Is At Stake At Once A Celebration Of A Long Cold War Well Fought, An Elegy For The End Of An Era, And A Reckoning For A Profession In Which Moral Ambiguity Created A Wilderness Of Mirrors, The Company Is The Cold War S Devastating Truth, Its Entertaining Tale, Its Last Word

An American author residing in France He specializes in spy novels that often concern the CIA and the Soviet Union He became a journalist and worked many years for Newsweek during the Cold War He s also an amateur mountain climber and is the father of award winning novelist Jonathan Littell.

[PDF / Epub] ☁ The Company Author Robert Littell –
  • ebook
  • 991 pages
  • The Company
  • Robert Littell
  • 19 July 2019
  • 9781590208342

10 thoughts on “The Company

  1. says:

    Back when I was in middle school, I would have given my left nut to be James Bond as portrayed by Sean Connery, not Roger Moore I read all the books they were a link from reading comics to reading actual books without pictures and watched all the movies about a half dozen times each The lure of being a super spy was great I even remember reading that the CIA used to show James Bond films as part of their training.The CIA s version of Bond, as rendered here code name Sorcerer , was an overweight alcoholic who played opera full blast in his office just in case the Commies were trying to listen in on his conversations, so any illusions I might still have about Bondian spycraft drinking martinis, shagging supermodel villainesses, driving sports cars, fighting lethal hat throwing henchman have now officially evaporated.This James Michner like tome charts the history of the CIA from their early days in Berlin up until the Gorbachev Yeltsin years The CIA went from a unit who did intelligence gathering and counter intelligence to covertly trying to topple regimes.The book can be a load at times, but some of the early set pieces work well, specifically the ones dedicated to the Hungarian s attempted overthrow of Communism in 1956 and the CIA s covert overt Bay of Pigs debacle in 1961 If true, the way they tried to kill Castro is laughable Beyond that featured point in Agency history, this colossus of a book has a tendency to get repetitive CIA agent in danger captured, let s get him out Didn t this happen 250 pages ago Why yes, Jeff, yes it did.Littell populates his tale with historical figures and gamely tries to bring the past to life So Joe, how was Young Frankenstein Or They made love while listening to new pop music sensation Madonna singing her current hit, Like a Virgin Yeesh JFK and his brother Bobby hubris and especially Ronald Reagan doddering come off poorly, as rendered here The character that livens up the book each and every time he appears is the above mentioned Sorcerer The fat man has moxie.If you like spy novels or historical fiction, I would say give it a go Bayer aspirin dosed with quick killing bacteria.

  2. says:

    High over the city, a rack of clouds drifted across the hunter s moon On a deserted avenue near a long wall, a dirty yellow Fiat mini taxi cut its light and its motor and coasted to the curb at Port Angelica A lean figure wearing the rough ankle length cassock and hood of a Dominican friar emerged from the backseat He had been raised in the toe of the boot of Italy and was known as the Calabrian by the shadowy organizations that from time to time employed his services So opens Robert Littell s insanely ambitious, 896 page novel about the CIA In Littell s precise, hyper specific way, the date is Thursday, September 28, 1978 The Calabrian is in Rome, and he is making a late night visit to Pope John Paul I You know Pope John Paul I, right He died of a heart attack just 33 days into his papacy Or so we re told In the alternate reality of The Company, the Pope actually fell victim to the Calabrian Who the Calabrian is, who ordered the hit, and to what end, is a mystery that will not be resolved for another 600 or so pages That does not really matter, though The Company may begin with this interlude in Rome, but it does not end there Indeed, the Calabrian and the Pope play a relatively small role in this massive undertaking, which seeks to give us a fictionalized history of the Central Intelligence Agency from the 1950s to the early 1990s It s hard to know where to start with a book this big, this entertaining, this problematic Thus, it helps to start at the beginning, especially since this opening section gives us a good idea of what to expect in the pages to follow It is shadowy and mysterious and parses out its clues in a restrained and careful manner It sets up a long game, at which Littell specializes, one that will eventually pay off but requires some patience beforehand It is also a seamless and confident melding of historically accepted truth with fringe conspiracies that creates an entirely new reality that feels real, since all the puzzle pieces are suddenly snug, but which is decidedly not Conspiracists will love this, because in Littell s universe, there are no random occurrences everything is controlled by a man, somewhere, hiding behind a curtain This kind of conflation is endlessly entertaining, intellectually dangerous a bit on that below , and also thematically perfect, as it adds to the wilderness of mirrors aura that Littell successfully cultivates Littell s novel follows a handful of characters, both American and Russian, as they fight the Cold War in the dark corners and blind alleys of the world On the American side, we have the fictional Harvey the Sorcerer Torriti, Jack McAuliffe, Leo Kritzky, and Winstrom Ebbitt, as well as the real life James Jesus Angleton They are opposed by the Russian agent Yevgeni, who goes under deep cover in America ala The Americans , and the all powerful and mysterious Starik, who has a mole deep in the CIA, codenamed SASHA Unfortunately, Starik s most defined trait is his pedophilia, and we are treated to many, many sequences of him and his nieces in disgusting situations This subplot, in which Alice s Adventures in Wonderland is used as a singularly blunt metaphor for spying, is both gratuitous and unnecessary In terms of characterizations, the dramatis personae presents a very mixed bag The best, by a wide margin, is Torriti, a fat, double chinned alcoholic who is nevertheless eminently suited for his job His introduction is quite memorable The Sorcerer was dressed in the shapeless trousers and ankle length rumpled green overcoat of an East German worker The tips of a wide and flowery Italian tie were tucked, military style, between two buttons of his shirt His thin hair was sweat pasted onto his glistening skull Eying his apprentice across the room, he began to wonder how Jack would perform in a crunch he himself had barely made it through a small Midwestern community college and then had clawed his way up through the ranks to finish the war with the fool s gold oak leaves of a major pinned to the frayed collar of his faded khaki shirt, which left him with a low threshold of tolerance for the Harvard Princeton Yale crowd Nobody in the Company bothered consulting the folks on the firing line when they press ganged the Ivy League for recruits and came up with jokers like Jack McAuliffe, a Yalie so green behind the ears he d forgotten to get his ashes hauled when he was sent to debrief Torriti s hookers the week the Sorcerer came down with the clap Clutching a bottle of PX whiskey by the throat, closing one eye and squinting through the other, the Sorcerer painstakingly filled the kitchen tumbler to the brim Not the same without ice, he mumbled, belching as he carefully maneuvered his thick lips over the glass He felt the alcohol scald the back of his throat No ice, no tinkle No tinkle, schlecht Frankly, after Torriti, everyone else seems pretty much a cardboard cutout I m not using cutout in the espionage sense, either Jack, the young Yalie who steadily rises up the ranks, is described mainly in terms of his Cossack mustache, which is referenced enough to make it into a drinking game He is the stereotypical hero who plays by his own rules When told not to fall in love with a source, he immediately falls in love with a source When told not to land on the beaches at the Bay of Pigs, he promptly lands on the beaches at the Bay of Pigs When asked to explain the Cold War and the characters, irritatingly, always refer to it as the Cold War, even early in the book, when the phrase probably wouldn t have been so widespread , Jack says It was about the good guys beating the bad guys This is about as boring a sentiment as you can imagine, and leaves one wishing for the moral complexities of Le Carre who Littell, through his characters, gently mocks Littell does a fairly decent job with the real life personages Most of these are cameos, though some are quite brilliant, if not quite fair This includes a sexually distracted John Kennedy, impossibly entwined with the Mob, and a clueless, dementia addled Ronald Reagan, who keeps forgetting his own decisions The Company doesn t really have a political point of view, unless you count its soft anti democratic leanings In Littell s telling, foreign policy is better left to the intelligence men, rather than elected officials, a view at odds with both democracy, and the many failures of the CIA Littell s fictionalized Angleton, the famed CIA mole hunter, is extremely well crafted Right up until the end, you are not sure whether he was an addled paranoiac, haunted by his onetime friend, the British spy Kim Philby, or whether Angleton was right all along about the extent to which the USSR had penetrated western democracies Interestingly, despite being exceedingly pro CIA, it is the Russians who seem to get the better of the U.S at every turn While the American agents keep getting caught, the Russians go free While American plots fizzle, the Russian plots explode At the end, you will be almost surprised that the USSR fails, and the U.S remains The Company is wildly inconsistent, a testament to how much story it is trying to tell The early scenes set in Germany, with Torriti and Jack playing their version of the great game, are superb In fact, they are the highlight of The Company Try as it might, the book never recaptures the early magic it found in the noirish dividing line between East and West Berlin After Berlin, The Company makes big jumps forward in time There are satisfying set pieces aplenty, including the aforementioned plots to kill Castro, the Bay of Pigs, the Hungarian Revolution, and a surprisingly intense retelling of the attempted coup against Gorbachev by hard line Communists in 1991 The temporal leaps are necessary, in order to get to all these momentous events The downside, though, is that you lose the carefully modulated tension Littell meticulously builds In a way, The Company is a series of rising and falling arcs Once one arc is finished, Littell moves on and starts all over again This can be a bit frustrating, and than once, I found myself wishing that he had chosen one storyline and stuck with it Of course, that would defeat Littell s Mailer like attempt to swallow and digest the whole of the CIA.Another downside to Littell s ambition is that his initial characters, the ones that we become most familiar with, even if they are a bit flat e.g., Jack , cannot remain in the same place As time moves on, they get old, and they have to be replaced The biggest loss is Torriti, who disappears for most of the novel, only turning up now and then In rather simplistic fashion, Littell replaces an aging Jack and an aging Ebbitt with Jack s son, Anthony, and Ebbitt s son, Manny It s saying something that Anthony and Manny are even less developed than their fathers Littell is at ease with the spycraft He is awkward to the point of being cringe worthy when he attempts to flesh out the personal lives of his characters When two men are talking about spying, the dialogue sings, especially at Littell ladles out the lingo, using great phrases such as barium meals and walking back the cat to describe the process of flushing out a rat But when a man attempts to talk to a woman Well, it s not good You might ask, at this point What about the women Well, for the most part, women need not apply Littell has a weird habit of introducing a potentially interesting female character, one who is dynamic, capable, driven, and then forcing her on a short, dull journey to the middle The main role for any woman in The Company is as a wet blanket hausfrau, relegated to nagging her man about his devotion to the job, only to be put in her place by her man s patriotic blandishments In terms of writing, Littell is no Le Carre He is not a prose stylist or deep philosophical thinker Rather, he is a plotter The genius of The Company is how it takes the paranoia of Angleton and allows it to infuse every page You do not know who is who or what is what Is this character loyal or a turncoat Is that a defector or a dispatched agent Every single occurrence might be a genuine event, or it might be a ploy, or it might be a genuine event that is a ploy to make you think the genuine event is not genuine The plot is an Escherian staircase it expands and contracts, folds and unfolds, loops back on itself There is a long con at play, interrupted by a series of shorter ones At times, Littell loses the thread himself, and has to resort to the Mossad to cut the Gordian know deux ex Israeli For the most part, though, things pay off quite satisfyingly At the start, I mentioned the blending of history with fiction This is worth mentioning because Littell s third person narrative is entirely self assured He describes made up events with the same authority as he does the historical elements He takes fragments, such as Kennedy s alleged mob connections, and uses them to build impressive edifices In many respects, this really is an alt history of the Cold War, with the conspiracy theory given prevalence at almost every turn It s important to remind yourself this is a novel But what a novel Strange as it sounds, the prodigious length of The Company actually helps dilute its many shortcomings And Littell s insistence on keeping things moving forward, ever forward, never allows you time to consider quitting That s saying something, too That over the course of 900 pages, despite some terrible sex scenes, grating dialogue, and limp characters, I was always anxious to find out what happened next, even though, for the most part, because this is historical fiction, I already did.

  3. says:

    I am not a patient person when it comes to books, so if I m going to invest the time to read something this long it better be worth it.I ve read The Company three times.I can t comment on how accurate Littell s depictions of the inner workings of the U.S and USSR s secret intelligence and espionage agencies are, but it sure seems authentic And on top of that, there are a number of excellent storylines running concurrently.Even if you re not into spy books , this is top grade drama.

  4. says:

    This doorstopper of a novel about 900 pages is an excellent 40 year overview of the growth of the US Intelligence structure as seen through the stories of a few men and women who started with the beginnings of the CIA after WWII and grew with the Company to hold positions of leadership The method of using factual history as the backdrop for many of the plotlines was intrinsic to keeping the interest level high while Littell flipped through the decades I d be remiss in not saying that at times say after 600 pages and still having a third of the book to go , I didn t think hmm, couldn t just wrap it up here , but the continual growth in the direction the company took through the cold war and foreshadowing the beginnings of the fundamentalist ismamic terrorism that is now considered our greatest enemy called for the scope that was presented One further point after a brief break, the next book I picked up was a modern political suspense book First Patient The banality of this one along with just the poor writing makes me think even higher of Littel s opus Anyone who enjoys the suspense and spy shelves in the library should definitely treat themselves to The Company.

  5. says:

    One of the great cold war, spy novel epics Belongs on the shelf next to le Carr s

  6. says:

    I am not a big fan of spy novels, in the same way that I don t tend to favour genre fiction However, having read a shining review for this book in The Economist , which is not a normally frivolous publication, I picked it up and read it from cover to cover in a few days The book is a compulsive page turner The story is nothing less than that of the CIA from its inception in 1950 to the end of the Cold War in 1992, seen through the lives of several CIA and KGB operatives The story is rigorously researched and the period details seem to be perfectly portrayed I am a big fan of contemporary history, and did not find any significant flaws in the book They follow our boys mostly boys in this book, no big surprise there from Berlin in 1950 to Budapest in 1956, to Havana in 1960, to Washington and Moscow in 1974, to Afghanistan in 1983, to Moscow in 1991, with a brief coda somewhere in Virginia in 1995 The main fictional characters are three CIA agents who join at the beginning and then rise through the ranks They are two fisted action man Jack McAuliffe, honourable attorney sic Winstrom Ebbitt III and efficient organiser Leo Kritzky An additional character who plays an important role is drunken and deadly Harvey Torriti, the Sorcerer, head of Berlin base at the beginning of the Cold War Their counterparts are a KGB operative named Yevgeny Tsipin and spymaster Starik the Old Man Each of the episodes follows all these characters as the CIA spooks try to outsmart the KGB spies, and vice versa Many historical figures drop by, some of them in a clearly ficionalised take on their lives Thus, Martin Bormann is introduced to Yevgeny as a Communist hero who fed Hitler s paranoia and led him to eventually lose the war, Pope John Paul I is shown to have been murdered by a KGB operative for stepping too close to the truth of the dreaded Kholstomer, a far ranging operation to bring the West to its knees, and statesmen such as Harold Wilson and Henry Kissinger are shown to have been nothing than KGB agents.Some of the best parts of the book concern the author s obvious delight in spy craft Many familiar devices such as cypher books, dead box drops, barium meals and all types of bugs turn up, and we learn a few new ones, such as walking back the cat don t ask Littell s spies are thoroughly professional and their work is hard, dangerous and unappreciated Old spies such as The Sorcerer, the historic James Jesus Angleton or Starik die alone, forgotten by all, or almost all The set pieces the Soviet invasion of Budapest in 1956, the Bay of Pigs fiasco in 1960 or the attempted coup in Moscow in 1991 are very well put together and hugely exciting Political leaders, both American and Soviet Eisenhower, Bobby Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, Leonid Brezhnev, Yuri Andropov, Mijail Gorbachev come out particularly poorly as they misunderstand the very valuable intelligence information they receive and abandon their agents and allies whenever expedient A recurrent motif, in fact, is how US governments have usually abandoned local allies to the wolves whenever things got nasty the Hungarians in 1956, the anti Castrista Cubans in 1960, the Czechs in 1968, the Taiwanese in 1972, friendly Vietnamese in 1975 and friendly Cambodians in that same year.The book is definitely a must read for any fan of conspiracy theories, as it sets out quite a few that are literally mindboggling And the leitmotiv Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass is apposite and never distracting.Does the book have any weaknesses Contrary to what may initially appear it s too damn short Operation Kholstomer, which is built up very nicely as the standard issue mortal threat to global democracy unravels too quickly Surely there could have been an additional chapter describing how it would have worked and specifying how it was defeated Starik s perverted liking for pre pubescent girls is probably unnecessary and contrived to make him the obvious baddy although it is a nice touch since it shows a sort of malignant reflection on the historic Lewis Carroll And the discovery of ber KGB mole Sasha is too easy because Littell does not really create memorable characters and so his hints of the mole s real identity are somewhat transparent.But these are minor quibbles Markus Wolf once said that the only really competent intelligence services were East Germany s Stasi, Israel s Mossad and Cuba s DGI They all turn up in this book, plus the big guys we love to see KGB and CIA How can you lose with this lineup

  7. says:

    Robert Littell is no Tom Clancy and I mean that in only the best sense Littell s style and subject matter are probably closer to that of John le Carre than to the over the top action adventure novels that Clancy Company crank out Just as le Carre s George Smiley bore little resemblance to fellow Englishmen James Bond, Littell s Jack McAuliffe bears little similarity to Clancy s Jack Ryan Don t take this as a knock at Clancy, whose books I happen to enjoy It s just that like Ian Fleming did with his most famous creation, you can t really take any of Clancy s novels as a serious look at what real intelligence agencies are doing.While Littell s CIA may use their fair share of high tech toys in their efforts to protect the homeland, McAuliffe and his fellow veterans of Cockroach Alley spend most of their days sitting in dinghy little offices going through the translated radio and phone messages of their counterparts in the Soviet Union Beginning at the very beginning of what would become known as the Cold War, Jack and his fellow recruits into the newly created Central Intelligence Agency, find themselves in the very center of events that would make headlines and history From the construction of the Berlin Wall, through the planning of the Bay of Pigs and on to the downfall of the Soviet Union, Littell shows us the inner workings of the CIA.Not only does Littell introduce us to these Americans, he also allows us to see what may have been going on in the opposite camp Along with Jack, Ebby and Leo Littell s Three Musketeers , we also meet Yevegny Tsipin a second generation KGB operative and the mysterious spymaster Starik the Old Man , both of whom believe that it is their role to bring down the U.S for the glory of Communism and the Soviet Union While the CIA sends Jack and the others around the world on various assignments, Yevegny finds himself secreted into the U.S where he assumes several identities over the years as an undercover agent.Littell shows us two generations of Company employees as they each make their mark on some of the incidents that shaped the later part of the Twentieth Century We see Jack, Leo and Ebby marry and watch as their sons and daughters each take their turns working to make America safe from its enemies Whether you believe Littell s version of events is up to you, but he certainly has done an amazing amount of research, leaving the reader to feel that things should have happened this way, even if they didn t.Along with his own cast of characters, Littell shows us glimpses of such actual American personages as JFK and his brother Robert, William Casey and Allen Dulles We also get to meet notorious folks such as Sam Giancana, Kenneth Philby and Vladimir Putin Whether fictional or factual, Littell brings to all of these characters a sense of reality showing us human beings capable of the vices and virtues we all share In some cases it doesn t really matter if the person is real or not, as they all leave an impression and impact on the story The novels 800 plus pages explore the Cold War and the personalities who helped shape several generations Littell doesn t soft pedal nor vilify the CIA, as much as he shows us how human beings, usually attempting to do what they thought was right or at least prudent to move the political, economic and social events for a greater purpose Whether or not we believe in that purpose, isn t important in the end Littell rightly uses quotes and allusions to Lewis Carrol s ALICE IN WONDERLAND through out, as the world in which these characters move about truly is something from the far side of the looking glass.

  8. says:

    The company is an extraordinarily well done espionage and conspiracy thriller by author Robert Littell Every page I read of this novel the deeper I sank into the hidden and chaotic world described by Littell The beautiful and grotesque imagery are craft from the same wood as each scene evokes memories of bond films and mission impossible With all the action being packed in so tightly to the book, I was pleasantly surprised by its complexity as the political and narrative perspectives of charters really affect the direction of the story However, the story isn t all flying cars and laser grids, as the story really strikes an emotional cord as it adds realism to the dangerous and often short lives of agents Even saddening is the realization that each of their deaths is for a purpose that few will know I truly eye opening and thought provoking story 5 5 I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys in investing much of their time in to this hefty novel, However in this case the length really just adds to love.

  9. says:

    Littell provides an in depth and captivating look at the history of the CIA The Company incited captivating discussions in my household, and has fostered in me a new found interest in the history behind the turmoil in the Middle East Littell is a masterful story teller and this espionage thriller is without equal.

  10. says:

    Being born at the end of the baby boom, and the youngest in my family, I was surrounded by news and discussion of so many of these news headlines that came out of the second half of this book, and kept saying to myself, so that is what happened with, for instance the Bay of Pigs Littell presents the story of the CIA from its beginnings in post WWII, as an offshoot of the OSS, through the collapse of the Soviet Union While this was fiction, it read as a non fiction work in its accuracy and revelations of so many operations during this 40 year portrayal, also the interior workings of the CIA, and the treachery, of double agents in their midst was shocking The brutal and yet extremely gifted always a step ahead of us and dedicated Soviet spy network was surprising, makes you wonder why they really lost the Cold War, but economics is economics For those who enjoy, history and recent events should read this one.

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