The military cult classic with resonance to the wars in Iraq and Vietnam—now back in print When The Centurions was first published in. The military cult classic with resonance to the wars in Iraq and Vietnam – now back in print. When The Centurions was first published in , readers were. Jean Larteguy (the pen name of Jean Pierre Lucien Osty, ) spent time in prison in Spain in , the year I was born. He then joined.
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Open Preview See a Problem? Thanks for telling us about the problem. Return to Book Page. This is Jean Larteguy’s most famous book that garnered international acclaim and sold millions of copies.
In his autobiography, Larteguy writes that he got the name of the book from when he was traveling with the Foreign Legion in the Sahara and came across an old Roman column at an oasis. Inscr This is Jean Larteguy’s most famous book that garnered international acclaim and sold millions of copies. Inscribed on the column from years before was “Titus Caius Germanicus, centurion of the Xth Legion” and underneath it from a more recent time, “Friedrich Germanicus, of the 1st R. The Vietnamese victors march their French prisoners into communist re-education camps.
During their time in captivity, the French paratroop officers who survive the ordeal to be repatriated, bond together and try to utilize communist “revolutionary war” tactics in order to win their next war in Algeria. The book ends with the French centurions fighting the Battle of Algiers with propaganda, torture, terror and any tactic in order to win so that the last remnants of their empire could survive.
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Lists with This Book. How many times has the story recounted in this classic novel about war been writ in the history of mankind?
Ask our soldiers to find a way to save the nation and they do, only to be blamed for their actions in the end. The thing about violence is that it destroys the actor and the acted-upon. There is no safe place. Penguin Classics has just reissued this title with a Foreword by Robert D. Kaplan, revised from a article in The Atlantic called “Rereading Vietnam. We learn what makes up their tue just as they do, undergoing the hardships, failed escape attempts, sickness, and final release back to France.
We chart their crisscrossing and overlapping lives as they try to put themselves back together on home soil and lament with them the changes to their character that forbid surrender to their old pleasures. Called once again to perform in Algiers, the men reassemble and rely upon one another to build an unusual type of flattened, anti-hierarchical and discrete fighting structure that relies on adopting the guerrilla tactics of the enemy.
Knowing each other so intimately allows each to play to their strengths, but every man is damaged in the course of their work.
Their very integration into a society rebelling French rule gives them access to information but also requires recognizing the humanity of those they strive centuriins overcome.
Later, their tactics are deniable by higher ups in the French military, leaving the soldiers to bear the brunt of saving Algiers’ Kasbah. And they must feel also the loss of the constraints of discipline and danger. A friend has remarked that a “key weakness [in the novel] is its understanding of women.
Men absorbed as they are in war and with fellow officers often do not see women as the whole people they undoubtedly are. Many times the reverse is also true. Men who return from war are something apart. Neither side can comprehend the other: Their primary loyalty is with other men, whom they see with exceptional clarity and sympathy. It is easy to see why this book is the classic it has become.
It has a vivid relevance and feel even now. Immediately it was hailed as a classic, a true example of the immediacy of classic status when a book carries with it such honesty and a sense of history in the making.
There was a film produced inreleased incalled ‘The Battle of Algiers’. It is a harrowing and almost unbearably lifelike reenactment of the scene when the paratroopers described in this book arrive in Algiers.
The docudrama won awards in Venice, London, and Alcapulco immediately on release and yhe today is described as electrifying and eerily resonant.
THE CENTURIONS by Jean Larteguy | Kirkus Reviews
There was palpable excitement in the NYTimes review of the premier of the film at the opening of the New York Film Festival at the Philharmonic in the fall of I loved the French-ness of the book, which did not at all distract from the hhe of its message. Engaging and psychologically tense depiction of French soldiers, centurions, from the prison camps after Dien Bien Phu to the guerrilla wars of Algeria.
One reason this book is so interesting is because of its attention from centutions contemporary American military because of the similarity of the struggles – Vietnam still looms large, of course, but also the bonds between combat troops, the separation of a warrior culture from civilians, and the long grinding lartegyy of military occupation, which to Engaging and psychologically tense depiction of Larteguh soldiers, centurions, from the prison camps after Dien Bien Phu to the guerrilla wars of Algeria.
One reason this book is so interesting is because of its attention from the contemporary American military because of the similarity of the struggles – Vietnam still looms large, of course, but also the bonds between combat troops, the separation of a warrior culture from civilians, and the fhe grinding struggle of military occupation, which to them demands exemptions from the law. In 24 lartwguy the legal opinions of the late Antonin Scalia, torture is used immediately and without regret, but here the centurion agonizes over it for most of the day and the act of torture is a psychological break, which he hates himself for – today thd now more of a political tool, a means of revenge.
I’ll limit my review to a few comments because I don’t want to spoil the story itself. And if you don’t want to know anythingstop here. Focused on a small group of French paratroopers, larteeguy tale unfolds in three acts: Much about the book is artificial, in the way of high drama. The characters speak brilliantly, in fine beautifully composed sentences. It is suffused with the warrior’s creed, an ethos that often has more in common centuriobs its counterpart on the enemy side than with the Christian culture it defends but which does not defend them in turn.
All of ccenturions made excellent reading. Its key weakness, for me, is its understanding of women — and that’s all I’ll say about that. A book like this casts a spell. Readers like David Petraeus or Lwrteguy Kaplan who provides the introduction to this edition are riveted by the insurgent soldier-saint aspect, the “band of brothers.
I’d like France to have two armies: That’s the army in which I should like to fight. Here are resonant echoes of European literature going all the way back to The Song of Roland and the Crusades, if not to the Iliad — and little cenhurions the light mockery that appears as early as Orlando Furioso and Don Quixote a hundred years later or the black comedy of antiwar literature in the 20th century.
The men of The Centurions are as noble and isolated as their Roman precursors. In this respect the novel is a romance. There is also a quite different characterization of these men placed in the mouth of a French journalist, which the reader is free to accept or discard.
Albert Camus and the Quest for Meaning. Camus was trapped in the same moral dilemma as these soldiers in fact, one of the Algerian “terrorists” quotes Camus to her captor largeguy, the chasm which divides the soldier not from a corrupt lartegu but from its fundamental values. In the night thoughts of one of the more appealing paratroopers: He knew it had to come to this, that this was the ghastly law of the new type of war.
But he had to get accustomed rhe it, to harden himself and shed all those deeply ingrained, out-of-date notions which make for the greatness of Western man but at the same time prevent him from protecting himself.
View all 5 comments. Mar 04, Sigrid Weidenweber rated it it was amazing. I do not recommend books very often. Having read all my life I am difficult to please. As an author, I am also a harsh critic, however this book demands that it is recommended to readers. The writing, its style, the content and psychological explanations of character are excellent.
This description of the French war in Indochina deserves to be read in all college history classes, as does the account of the war in Algeria. A complex and cerebral book. It can be viewed as a thinly disguised polemic on counterinsurgency, an anti-communist screed, or the wine of sour grapes by an Imperialist bitterly lamenting the loss of his possessions. Lots and lots of sex. Larteguy voices several times over the moral superiority of France, as evinced in how its men allow the women of A complex and cerebral book.
Larteguy voices several larteuy over the moral superiority of France, as evinced in how its men allow the women of their colonial possessions to be sexually liberated, compared to their oppressive countrymen. All the while, continuing to sexually objectify them.
The Bowed Bookshelf: The Centurions by Jean Lartéguy translated by Xan Fielding
Apparently the freedoms inherent in Sexual Egalitarianism do not include Feminism Larteguy skewers civilians in France, and the Pied-Noirs in Algeria. He skewers intellectuals and the bloated cowards in the military that are not of the paratrooper community. However, it is fascinating. The first third of the book takes place in a prison camp after the fall of Dien Bien Phu.
In this portion, a collection of officers attempt to resist the indoctrination of their Vietnminh jailers. Each of the officers learns a different lesson from this experience, and the alpha officer, Raspeguy, later uses communist methods to indoctrinate conscripts assigned to fight with him in Algeria.
The second portion of the book sees many of these officers return to France, and the intellectual, ideological and emotional battles they fight with the people they’d left behind. This portion speaks to the alienation of the returning combatant and their disconnect with an indifferent, and often scornful nation. Our heroes grapple with the issue of torture, which further goes largeguy develop their disconnect with their civilian masters, and even their own high military leadership.
All in all, it was a powerful book. Lots of food for thought and an interesting document of that era. Americans would do well to read it, and see how other countries have conceptualized wars very similar to the ones we fight now.
If you’re looking for a blood-and-guts, thrill-ride of thd action novel, this isn’t for you, While there is some kinetic combat very, very little in fact, most of centurionw violence is impliedthe majority of this book is a psychological battle of wills and ideology. The main characters of this novel are all inspired and based on real French military officers.