The Company

The Company

by Robert Littell
4.4 23


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The Company by Robert Littell

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 A.J. 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 Carré" (New York Times) and raving that his books were "as good as thriller writing gets" (The Washington Post).
For 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 40 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 MI6, KGB, and Mossad.
Racing across a canvas that spans the legendary Berlin Base in the 1950s-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, formidable.
Littell 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 field.
As 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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780142002629
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 03/25/2003
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 896
Product dimensions: 5.53(w) x 8.39(h) x 1.52(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Robert Littell's novels include the New York Times bestseller The Company, The October Circle, Mother Russia, The Amateur, The Once and Future Spy, An Agent in Place, The Visiting Professor, and Walking Back the Cat. A former Newsweek journalist, he is an American currently living in France.


Martel, France

Date of Birth:

January 8, 1935

Place of Birth:

Brooklyn, New York


B.A., Alfred University, 1956

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Company 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 22 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I first encountered Robert Littell's work about 20 years ago with his novel, The Amateur. I 'walked back the cat' to the Defection of A.J. Lewinter and have tried to keep up with his work ever since. The end of the Cold War has, in some respects, has left the spy novel languishing, and like NATO, looking for a purpose or a mission. The post-September 11th novel of spies and espionage has yet to be written. That is why Robert Littell's The Company is such a pleasure to read. It is a wonderful nostalgic trip that brings the reader back to the chaos and uncertainty in the post-war years in building the Company during the Cold War. The reader has sense of immediacy in the historical set pieces at the Berlin Station, the Hungarian Uprising,the Bay of Pigs invasion,the 'assassination' of Pope John Paul I, Afghanistan and its consequences,and the 1991 coup against Gorbachev. One knows what's going to happen in these events, nevertheless, Littell's genius style keeps the reader on the edge of his/her seat wanting to know what will happen next. One breezes through the pages without realizing that you've read almost 900 pages.The pacing keeps one glued to the book turning page after page and not wanting the story to end. Littell's other strength in this novel is the seamless blending of fictional and non-fictional characters. The wonderful historical 'walk throughs' from James Jesus Angleton,'Kim' Philby, Nixon, the Kennedy brothers, Gorbachev, Yeltsin and the attempted coup (Mstislav Rostropovich's advice on how to use an AK-47 is memorable), and Vladimir Putin give the story is powerful historical immediacy. The strengths and weaknesses of the fictional and non-fictional characters and the growth of the fictional ones gives one the sense that the Cold War involved human beings as well as ideologies. These human characters are flawed, but not presented as evil incarnate. Perhaps the only 'evil' character is Starik (the old man), the KGB controller of Yevgeney and SASHA, who is portrayed as a blind fanatic for 'the truth', an anti-Semite, and a child molester who dies an ignoble and unheroic death. This wonderful nostalgic trip has a disappointing denoument. This perhaps is the only major weakness in the work as the end of the novel and the end of the Cold War coincide and it leaves the reader languishing and feeling aimless. Perhaps this is Littell's intention. It certainly is historically accurate.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Book started out slow, but it really picks up speed as you read on. The Hungarian uprising chapters were incredible on their own! Really well written.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read espionage. This book is wonderful. I read a lot of John Le carre and Fredrick Forsyth but this book take us through the entire cold war. Lot of guys complain about the length but I don't think anybody can wrap the cold war in say 500 pages. Hats off to Robert.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is a tribute to all those CIA men and women who lost their lives to save us from commies and jhehadis of the world. This is one of the finest books i have read in last few years.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I couldn't wait to get back to reading, really. The writing is great, the characters are so 'alive'... Cannot give 5 because of weakness of the 'Russian' parts.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Fascinating story, spanning 40 years of time...the best read in a long time!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
If you're a fan of the spy novel genre, this is a must read. The story is fantastic following the lives of Leo, Jack, and Ebby for the better part of 40 years. For a book of nearly 900 pages, the biggest compliment I can give it is that you don't feel the length. It make take some time to read the whole thing but it is well worth it. The search for SASHA as well Hungarian revolution kept me reading all night long. The use of historical figures such as Kim Philby and James Jesus Angelton really makes the novel feel authentic even if it is fiction. I almost gave this novel 4 stars on the fact that whoever edited this book should be immediately fired. Many words were misspelled, 'capitol' for 'capital' and the like. Also, idioms were overused such a 'paw' for describing hands. You could also tell that Littell doesn't live in the US anymore with some of the phrases he uses such as having 'a cup of champagne'. Finally, I didn't quite understand the loathing descriptions that Littell used for the Sorcerer. Yes he was overweight and an alcoholic, but for me he was my favorite character in the book. All that said, The Company was a joy to read and in my opinion the definitive Cold War novel.
Fighterjock More than 1 year ago
This very lenghty book was a page turner from start to finish. It seemed as though I was there with the characters experiencing all of the historic episodes I grew up with from the 40s until the late 90s. I'd recommend this book to anyone who appreciates the history amd imtrigue of the Cold War.
iotagammatheta More than 1 year ago
This is apparently the longest spy novel ever, and also one of the best! It weaves real events in with fictional ones, and is suspenseful. It has fantastically real characters and much factual information. I would recommend it to readers of spy novels and thrillers.
KWR57 More than 1 year ago
I blazed through 900 pages and could have read another 900. That's how much I enjoyed this book. Some very memorable characters. An epic story spanning decades. I'm a big historical fiction fan and this is one of the best. The cold war comes to life in living color. It illuminates the world of the spy and the lives of the characters. Buy it, borrow it, read it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
this is one of the best books of any genre I have ever read. Taut prose, rich three-dimensional characters, the reader doesn't know where reality ends and fiction begins. Kind of like Oliver Stone's 'JFK' meets 'Forrest Gump'. Only regret is that it was only 900 pages.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book made me look at the Cold War in a whole new way. It was very well told and it kept me wanting to read more.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The Company is the best spy action thriller published this year and possibly the next couple of years. It's hard to tell which parts of are fiction and documentary.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Clandestine and covert operations, espionage and spying, shadow boxing with the Chinese or the North Koreans, and other things that go bump in the night. Secrets are what we most want to hear; secret things are what the ¿gray people¿ at our CIA do best. We want to be on the inside and Robert Littell stands ready to give it to us. It stands to reason that ¿The Company¿ would have broad appeal. This book is basically a fictionalized version of Bob Woodward¿s ¿Veil¿ published by Simon and Schuster, Inc. in 1987. In Woodward¿s ¿Veil¿ we got a snapshot of the CIA from 1981 to 1987. While ¿The Company¿ is broader in scope, the story covers a time period from 1950 to 1991. I assume that much of Mr. Littell¿s fiction is based on fact. Although former CIA chief William Casey was mentioned in the story I saw his character E. Winstrom Ebbitt II as Casey, who also left a successful New York law practice to join the CIA. Wether it is fact or fiction, I had to laugh at one of the CIA's hair-brained ideas. The plan was to drop thousands of jumbo sized condoms, from planes, flying over Russia. The label on the condom read ¿medium.¿ The objective of the plan was to demoralize the Russian women. I chuckled because the planners must not have known that the women in Russia already suffer from low self-esteem. Even with out the CIA's help. So what was the point? In John le Carre¿s ¿The Perfect Spy¿ he wrote, ¿In every operation there is an above the line and a below the line. Above the line is what you do by the book. Below the line is how you do the job.¿ That is stock CIA, and that is the essence of Littell¿s ¿The Company. Robert Littell, a journalist and author of over ten books, has given us a well-told and well-researched story. His style has been likened to le Carre. I don¿t agree, Robert Littell is his own writer. Highly recommended. Cammy Diaz
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book for the first 780 pages then I realized that the entire book is nothing more than a vehicle for the author to express his hatred of Ronald Reagan. It was just too blatant of a political hit piece. Which is bad because this was a new author to me and was hoping for many titles to come.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
It was an interesting book. But it ran on for to long. There were personal effects best left out. I would not read it again. It doesn't come close to anything Tom Clancy writes. I couldn't wait till it came to and end.