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The Company: A Novel of the CIA de Robert…
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The Company: A Novel of the CIA (original: 2002; edição: 2003)

de Robert Littell (Autor)

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1,2982515,088 (4)13
Depicts the global power struggle between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, told from the viewpoint of CIA and KGB spies. Spans four decades, from the dawn of the Cold War in the 1950s to the downfall of the Soviet Union in the '90s. Trace the activities of the CIA's underground fight with the KGB and where three CIA agents must find out the moles in their own ranks before every operation in an unrelenting battle within the organization itself.… (mais)
Membro:Mcdede
Título:The Company: A Novel of the CIA
Autores:Robert Littell (Autor)
Informação:Pan Books (2003), Edition: Unabridged, 1296 pages
Coleções:Sua biblioteca
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Etiquetas:to-read

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The Company de Robert Littell (2002)

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This is going to be a little long and disjointed, because I want to vent some stuff about this book. THPOILERTH from here on out are to be expected.

The Company is a book that, for whatever reason, is steeped in Alice in Wonderland (more on this later), and there's a quotation from it towards the end that made me tear my bookmark in half because I wanted to remember it for when I wrote this:

"...there would be no harm, she thought, in asking if the game was over. "Please, would you tell me--" she began, looking timidly at the Red Queen."

I was first exposed to The Company through the rather fun TNT miniseries, which has some great casting (Alfred Molina is perfect as the alcoholic spymaster Harvey "The Sorcerer" Torriti, Michael Keaton as James Jesus Angleton is almost as good as Matt Damon's fictionalized substitute, Edward Wilson, Sr.). I grabbed the book a long time ago and never really had the time to get into it, and frankly, the miniseries seemed to work a lot better.

The miniseries is much more condensed, covering three main areas: Berlin immediately following WW2, the Bay of Pigs invasion, and 1980s America as the USSR falls apart. This is a great idea because it leaves out the God-awful Russian-adventurism-in-Afghanistan interlude in the book, which seems to serve little purpose besides letting Littell wink at the CIA Stinger missile program and bin Laden's activities in the area during this time period. (The Alice quote I posted above comes from just after that section, and I really did find myself wishing that the game was over.)

Ultimately, the frustrating part of The Company is that it starts off great. The early parts of the book, with Jack learning at the feet of Harvey Torriti and his college roommate returning to Russia to do the same with Russian spymaster Starik, are great stuff. The parts discussing the CIA leaving the Hungarian Revolution out to dry while Ebby tries to survive are also pretty darn good. Somewhere around the Bay of Pigs, however, it falls apart: there's one long scene of Kennedy and his advisors discussing the details of the invasion that had me bored to tears and wondering where all the characters I cared about had gone.

The Bay of Pigs is made up for by the AE/PINNACLE chapters, which introduce a Soviet defector who seems to hold the key to the identity of SASHA, the CIA mole that the characters have been pursuing since the beginning. This is great, tense stuff, with Angleton's true nature revealed and Leo put through the wringer as he's accused of having worked for the Russians all along. An eleventh-hour revelation on Jack's part saves Leo, and then the book really goes to hell.

The Afghanistan section of the book flat-out sucks. The characterization of historical figures has at least been interesting to this point, but Littell clearly has an enormous bone to pick with Reagan, because every single scene with Reagan made me think of the artificial-intelligence-Reagan from The Dark Knight Returns (WAY TO WORK BATMAN INTO THIS SOMEHOW MIKE) that was a walking, talking caricature. It starts out kind of fun - finally, a leader the CIA can work with - but just ends up feeling boring and somehow petty. Oh, and then it turns out Leo has been SASHA all along, and he meets up with Eugene/Yevgeny and escapes the Americans, but it's okay, because they all team up again in THE NEXT CHAPTER WHY ISN'T THIS BOOK OVER where they try to get together some kind of plan to stop the 90s coup against Gorbachev. The whole thing just feels like Littell didn't know where to stop and decided to just cover as much of CIA history as possible until he couldn't think of anything else to say.

A few other points:

- Alice in Wonderland. Seriously, what's up with this? Angleton and Starik are somehow both obsessed with it as a metaphor for espionage, but it never seems to get explained. I guess it's just supposed to be a coincidence, but with how many times it gets referenced, you'd think that it would turn out to have some Bigger Significance for them.

- Starik being revealed as a pedophile seemed like a cheap way for Littell to say "HERE IS YOUR ANTAGONIST". It left a bad taste in my mouth that Littell introduces that best-of-things, an antagonist/villain who you can actually understand/understand why they do what they do, and then tosses in "by the way, he's a serial molester that uses the Soviet government to procure girls" as if to say "SEE HE'S THE BAD GUY". Blech. BLECH.

- Props to Littell for passing the Bechdel test, though. The scene with Tessa and Vanessa figuring out the KGB quiz-show-code brought a big old smile to my face.

Overall: if you really want to read 900 kind-of-meandering pages about the CIA and the KGB, go for it. Otherwise, just go watch the miniseries or The Good Shepherd. ( )
  skolastic | Feb 2, 2021 |
There is an unusual type of dramatic irony in Robert Littell's "The Company." When a defector reveals to his CIA handler, the presence of a mole in M16 in 1950 the reader with even a minimal knowledge of history latches onto Kim Philby. Consequently when the information is handed over by a senior analyst, Angleton, to a stuttering M16 liaison officer it is difficult not to shout "don't do it, damn it."
Sometime later, the author lets us know explicitly, "Angleton's luncheon partner, Harold Adrian Russell Philby - Kim to his colleagues in M16, Adrian to a handful of old Ryder Street pals like Angleton." The author proceeds to take us down Alice's rabbit hole and through her looking glass into a view of the apparently schizophrenic world of spies of both sides of the cold war.
The world of "The Company" includes real events and real people, Allen Dulles, Frank Gardiner Wisner, James Jesus Angleton, Khrushchev, Philby, Chicago mobster, John Rosselli and many others interact with the fictional characters. Some of the real events include the Bay of Pigs failed insurgency, the failed Hungarian revolution, and the failed Putsch in Moscow in mid August 1991.
The book offers insiders' views of tradecraft and jargon: for example, "walking the cat," to trace back along path of deception to its origins to discover a "mole." some of the cryptonyms used by the fictional agents include: MOTHER - Jim Angleton, SORCERER - Harvey Torriti, SORCERER'S APPRENTICE- Jack McAuliffe, SWEET JESUS- Silwan I, FALLEN ANGEL - Silwan II, RAINBOW - Helga Agnes Mittag de la Fuente, SNIPER - Professor Ernst Ludwig Loffler, SNOWDROP - Konstantin Vishnevsky. The Russians used cryptonyms also - PARSIFAL - Kim Philby, , STARIK, Pavel Semyonovich Zhilov - GREGORY OZOLIN - Yevgeni Alexandrovich Tsipin.
"The Company" is filled beginning to end with the very best spy fiction and a lot of downright insight into the real world confrontation between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R.
  RonWelton | Dec 17, 2020 |
Acontecimentos que originam crises mundiais sempre à espreita em cada esquina, numa trama povoada de espiões que estão sempre no meio de nós. Para este seu décimo terceiro romance, Robert Littell cria uma saga da CIA que passa de geração em geração, perversamente nostálgica - conhecida, entre os seus funcionários como A Companhia. Os personagens fictícios e históricos do brilhante e frequentemente insidioso romance de Robert Littell revelam muito sobre os quase cinquenta anos desta complexa e poderosa organização... ( )
  LuisFragaSilva | Nov 8, 2020 |
Everything you could want as an easy-to-read spy thriller.

Everything you could want as a stroll through the history of the CIA.

The subtext is that the CIA are the good guys, so that's a bit weird (minus one star) but otherwise spotless and excellent. ( )
  GirlMeetsTractor | Mar 22, 2020 |
History as thriller/page-turner. Simplified, romanticized account of the CIA costarring many real characters from the past (some names were changed to protect someone??, but it's easy to figure out who's who with wikipedia.) Among others, Andropov drops in, Castro comes by, and Nixon is off in the wings.

Also a little mild lovey-dovey. Lots of plots, liquor, and subplots. Multiple generations of Yale-trained US spies and their counterparts from Moscow hunt each other and snoop and beget more spies.

Starts when Stalin and Truman were nose-to-nose, and plays the Great Game thru Afganistan(sound familiar, you history buffs). Hungary, Berlin, Bay or Pigs, all make an appearance, too. A hot read for a long voyage (nearly 1000 pages). The question here is what is real and what is fiction. It scares me to think so much was probably real. ( )
  kerns222 | Aug 24, 2016 |
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Depicts the global power struggle between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, told from the viewpoint of CIA and KGB spies. Spans four decades, from the dawn of the Cold War in the 1950s to the downfall of the Soviet Union in the '90s. Trace the activities of the CIA's underground fight with the KGB and where three CIA agents must find out the moles in their own ranks before every operation in an unrelenting battle within the organization itself.

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