THE POLISH OFFICER by Alan Furst

THE POLISH OFFICER

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KIRKUS REVIEW

 Furst (Dark Star, 1991, etc.) has shown that he can produce an espionage tale that sloughs off the coil of genre. But his new book--hugely ambitious and masterfully written--ups the ante. For starters, the author understands, with astounding breadth of vision (his historical erudition is endless), what WW II was all about: murderous, megalomaniacal Nazi thugs enslaving whole populations while the free world fiddled. Captain Alexander de Milja, a Polish spy, has no time to mourn his conquered nation. He's too busy trying to wreck the German war machine (or at least slow it down) and stay alive. In doing so, he ranges from Warsaw to occupied Paris, from England to frozen Russia, always on the verge of capture, shedding names, professions, and disguises as he moves. He smuggles the Polish gold reserve out of the country on a refugee train; he's an ÇmigrÇ Russian poet in Paris, hobnobbing for a while with Nazis before sabotaging their invasion plans for Britain; he masquerades as a coal merchant and plots to ambush a busload of Luftwaffe pilots. There's plenty of sex, with all sorts of different women, but love for de Milja occurs strictly among the ruins. Briefly solaced in Paris by a publisher's daughter (and fellow resistance member), he considers her offer to head for Switzerland, but duty compels the sad captain to accept the next suicide mission, and the couple parts. Neither master of deception nor killing machine, de Milja comes across as a lucky soldier who gets smarter, at least in the ways of war, as the book progresses. Forever remasking himself, unable to put any real faith in his wits, he exists as a shadowy template (the eponymous ``Polish Officer'') for a heroless struggle. A truly splendid novel of the wartime experience.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-679-41312-X
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Random House
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1st, 1994




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