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The Polish Officer

(Night Soldiers #3)

4.07  ·  Rating details ·  5,342 ratings  ·  404 reviews
September 1939. As Warsaw falls to Hitler’s Wehrmacht, Captain Alexander de Milja is recruited by the intelligence service of the Polish underground. His mission: to transport the national gold reserve to safety, hidden on a refugee train to Bucharest. Then, in the back alleys and black-market bistros of Paris, in the tenements of Warsaw, with partizan guerrillas in the fr ...more
Paperback, 294 pages
Published October 9th 2001 by Random House Trade Paperbacks (first published February 7th 1995)
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Franco Gurskis The Spies of Warsaw mini series started with the original character of a French army attache in the days leading up to the German invasion of Poland a…moreThe Spies of Warsaw mini series started with the original character of a French army attache in the days leading up to the German invasion of Poland and borrows heavily from the novel The Polish Officer about a Polish officer's adventures and tribulations in Poland and France and the Eastern Front.(less)
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Oct 15, 2013 rated it really liked it
It is a common and valid critique of Furst's books that they are just strung together scenes and images. The main character serves mostly to propel the viewpoint around (pre)war Europe and to provide a place to hang a sense of resigned wistful badassery. This is certainly true here, but I think it misses the point.

To me these are more history books than spy novels. They have given rich and broad context - cultural, economic, military - to many aspects of the first half of the 20th century I didn
I was a bit horrified to find myself reading (and enjoying!) a piece of historical-fiction, a genre I'm supposed to hate... But so it goes.

This book is weak in plotting, which is one of the two main reasons why this is not first-rate literature. The characterization is not bad, though so many characters wend their way through the narrative that there is not much development. All this is the common knock on Furst, apparently.

Also -- one finds too many hackneyed phrases and observations... just to
Jun 21, 2007 rated it really liked it
The Polish Officer, like Night Soldiers and Dark Star, is good for its picturesque detail and rich understanding of the deep ties and rivalries between European states during World War II. But what makes each of these novels excellent is the infusion of stories within stories, of the heroes among millions, who give to the inhuman scale of war a believable realism. In The Polish Officer, you find these stories in a seventeen-year-old Polish girl working at a wireless transmitter in a Paris wareho ...more
T. Scott
Sep 12, 2007 rated it really liked it
This book has a scene of such heartbreaking sadness, desperation, fragility and beauty that I think about it quite often. For those that have read it, it's the scene near the beginning with young girl who wants on the train. It says something about the impact of war on the innocent and something else that I can't quite put my finger on. It's small scenes like this which make his books so dependably good. ...more
Alex Cantone
Jun 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
(de Milja) was getting tired of the four walls – could they out for a walk? She agreed to go. Scared as she was, she agreed. Strange, he thought, how you stumble on the world’s secret nobility when you are not even looking for them.

September 1939. As the Germans annex Poland, Captain Alexander de Milja, son of the Countess Ostrowa, now a cartographer with Polish Military Intelligence, is enlisted by Colonel Vyborg to requisition a local train of several carriages, ostensibly taking passengers fl
Robin Webster
Feb 06, 2014 rated it it was ok
The ‘Polish Officer’ follows the fortunes of Captain Alexander de Milja, from the fall of Poland in 1939 when he is recruited into the Polish underground to 1941, when he finds himself fighting alongside the partisans in the forests of the Ukraine. de Milja’s first mission is to take charge of the transportation of Poland’s gold reserves which are hidden on a refugee train heading for Bucharest. He then moves on to Paris just before the occupation, then acted as an intelligence officer before mo ...more
Sep 02, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2012
As other reviewers have noted, this book seems to be an extreme example of Furst's tendency to offer disconnected episodes, or episodes whose connection is so oblique that it's hard to perceive. Furst's novels are really starting to run together for me, so even though I like this author a lot, I'll probably give it a rest for a while before I read another one. I'd like to see him follow a character through a significant change of heart, or through the end of the war, or have him develop a charac ...more
Lewis Weinstein
Jul 24, 2009 rated it it was amazing
A truly outstanding novel ... the action scenes are stunning
Jan 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
The Polish Officer, a novel published by Alan Furst twenty years ago, is an excellent study in the vagaries of Polish history, defined so much by being trapped between Germany and Russia. More than that, this is a novel replete with knowledge of WWII throughout Europe, with as much action occurring in France as Poland. Furst is a demon for historical detail, anecdote, and quirk. He creates splendidly foggy, smoky atmospheres and populates them with deadly serious, clever characters who could not ...more
Jun 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2013
There are certain historical truths that can only be teased out of the past with a fiction narrative build on the skeleton of the past. There are hidden truths that are exposed only with a story, with fiction, with literature. Alan Furst's war and pre-war espionage novels do that. His novels flesh out more about the people who fight, suffer and die in war than most straight academic histories can ever hope to give to the reader.

You finish an Alan Furst novel tasting the blood and the smoke, body
Toby McMillen
Jan 28, 2008 rated it really liked it
One of my favorite of Furst's books, this is a great look into the war from the viewpoint of the Poles; who writes about that? Like many Furst books this one ends up in Paris, which is never a bad place for a book setting, and de Milja is a great character. The events portrayed in the book have the feeling of historical fiction; while they may not be true, they make me smell, feel, & taste the time. ...more
John Caviglia
Aug 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Espionage at its deepest, darkest best.

Though crafted from tissues of cunning and deceit—as such novels are—The Polish Officer is less the kind of chess game played with human pawns often depicted in this genre, than an exploration of the price and meaning of survival … less a novel concerning spy craft than a perspective announced by the title itself. As a Pole, the main character, De Milja, plants his feet on a land bloodied by the battles between East and West since the time of Genghis Khan—
The Polish Officer encapsulates all that is both excellent and maddening about Alan Furst's spy novels. First, the excellent parts: He is a master of building atmosphere and creating the sense that you are really there during the fall of Poland in 1939, and it's evident that he's done meticulous research (although, on the off chance that any of his editors ever read this, the German word is "Träger" not Trager, and its plural is the same so I guess he hasn't done the same research on the German ...more
Feb 18, 2009 rated it really liked it
Actually I now have either read all of his books or the library will send on the last 2 in a few days. That will make 7 in a week. I don't know why I'm obsessed with these spy novels by Furst, but maybe because we were in and out of these countries in eastern Europe several years ago, only a few days here and there, just as the characters cross back and forth between borders. The various countries portrayed in the short time before the US entered WWII blended together in ways that were interesti ...more
Tom Meyer
Jan 26, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This is superior historical fiction: obviously well-researched, strongly narrated, with excellent characterization and some of the most effectively subtle prose I've ever encountered. If you can imagine the grit and lack of sentimentality of The Sandbaggers set in Poland during WWII, you're close.

The Polish Officer is the story of Captain Alexander de Milja, a military cartographer recruited into the Polish secret service at the 11th hour, literally as Warsaw burns around him. The novel follow d
Bryan Alexander
Feb 01, 2016 rated it really liked it
Another good example of "historical spy thriller".
Furst takes the title character on a tour of war-torn Europe from 1939 'til about 1942, from the fall of Poland to the Nazi-Soviet war.
Our point of view character is quiet yet effective, a good narrative place for the reader to lodge.
Furst excels at one-off small portraits of many minor characters we briefly meet.
Jose Ignacio
Jan 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
The action unfolds between September 1939 and November 1941 and tells the story of captain Alexander de Milja, a cartographer by trade. It all begins when Poland is being invaded by German Nazi forces. ‘Captain de Milja was a soldier, he knew he didn’t have long to live. And, in truth, he didn’t care. He was not in love with life. One or two things had to be taken care of, then matters could run their course.’ Within this context, colonel Anton Vyborg requests the presence of captain de Milja. T ...more
Jun 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: those who like LeCarre, Ambler, Greene
Episodic but thrilling, steeped in atmosphere. The main character is part Marcus Aurelius, part "Mission [Almost] Impossible." The book does not have the psychological depth of some full-lengthers in the genre (e.g The Human Factor or The Little Drummer Girl . Everything is transient and moving on. Full of good cameos This is a better novel than some I have rated with five stars where the last half star is for sheer fondness. I relished it and respect its craftsmanship . ...more
Lance Charnes
Dec 31, 2011 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: fans of spy noir, Le Carre or historical intrigue
Alan Furst is my writing hero: he writes about obscure people in obscure places doing obscure things to each other in an obscure time, and he makes it fascinating. He owns the 1930s Mitteleuropa spy genre. While I believe he's written only one true sequel, all his books can be considered part of the same larger story: the dark, messy collision of nations and ideologies in a war-haunted Europe that eventually led to World War II.

Leading The Polish Officer is a typical Furst protagonist: Alexander
Elizabeth (Alaska)
The more I read, the more I learn. I had often heard of the French Resistance of WWII, but somehow that there was a Polish Resistance escaped me. Following up on my reading of The Polish Officer, I now learn that the Polish Resistance was the largest of such organizations during this war.

Alan Furst, who says he writes “near history”, gives us Alexander de Milja as the means by which we see the activities of the Polish Resistance from the time of Germany occupying Warsaw to mid-1941. While there
Mar 12, 2012 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Jennifer by: Carl McGee
Furst has a gift for making his main characters extremely distinctive despite all operating at roughly the same time and space. Alexander de Milja, the title character of The Polish Officer is memorable indeed: aristocratic, resigned to death, and very good at being more than one person when necessary. The book involves several dramatic set-pieces (a tense and violent train journey fleeing Nazi-occupied Poland; a nighttime harbor bombing; a desperate jail break) and explores the untenable situat ...more
Oct 07, 2009 rated it did not like it
I really am having a hard time reading this, it is just not good. The other book I read by Furst was ok. The subject matter for this book seems as it could be good...but it is falling flat. As much as I hate to , I might have to leave this partially read.
Oct 13, 2008 rated it did not like it
I could never get into this book. The writing style was slow and uninspiring. The plot mundane and the characters poorly developed.
Dec 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
"He had been first a mapmaker, then assistant director of the bureau's geographical department. But Poland was at war. No, Poland had lost her war, and it was clear to him that no one was going to be assistant director of anything for some time to come."

Having now read two of Furst's World War II Spy Books I'm starting to fall in love with this sort of bleak humour that's omnipresent in them. He paints a depressing and visceral picture of occupied Europe while constantly keeping an ironic distan
Captain Alexander de Milja defends his city of Warsaw as the Germans advance in 1939, but the Germans have too much firepower. The war in Poland is over almost before it is begun. Except it really isn't.

The Poles fight on by other means, implacably opposing their invaders in ways both great and small, but stealthily, indirectly, underground. Before the last shot of the direct war is fired, Captain de Milja is recruited to help carry on the indirect war. His first task is to transport the gold th
Lukasz Pruski
Sep 22, 2014 rated it it was ok
Although Alan Furst's "The Polish Officer" (1995) came highly recommended by a friend of mine whose judgment I value and trust, I feel a little disappointed having read the book. It is a rather standard spy novel slash war story fare; Daniel Silva's books, which I do not like at all, are quite similar, with the exception that Mr. Furst is obviously a better writer. The novel is written with great sympathy for Polish people and Polish resistance fighters in particular, but I am not allowed to be ...more
Enrique Ramirez
Mar 23, 2013 rated it liked it
Alan Furst's third spy novel has all of the Furstian machinery firmly in place. It's World War II-era atmospherics are impeccable, and so are the evocations of people caught up in the political and moral gyres of clandestine activity. The book's titular character—the aristocratic Pole Alexander de Milja—is a St.-Cyr-trained cartographer recruited by the Polish Union of Armed Struggle (Związek Walki Zbrojnej, or "ZWZ") in September 1939 to smuggle the remains of the Polish treasury away from onco ...more
Aug 05, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: WW II, Spy Literature, lovers of good writng.
Recommended to Ed by: Head Butler
This is my fourth Alan Furst book and the best so far. I got so caught up in the story that I finished it in two days. I literally could not put it down.

The struggles of Alexander de Milja, a Polish map maker, working for his government's intelligence services, to survive the German/Russian invasion of Poland in 1939 and the ongoing war, while maintaining his integrity and honor, is spellbinding.

The writing is so realistic that it would be easy to believe that Furst experienced the events himse
Tony Daniel
The career of Polish intelligence officer during World War II; kind of a thriller, but fighting against it every step of the way. Furst is best known for his pontilist detail in setting, with each sentence sometimes seemingly like an entire research project into what sort of nails were used in this railcar construction, what substance was used to clear tank parts in German repair facilities (gasoline), etc. His characters are all Hemingway pastiche, but well done enough so as not to become unint ...more
Dec 27, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2011books
A somewhat dense, well-written, slowish, compelling book. I'll go out on a limb and say that Alan Furst doesn't suffer fools; this book doesn't pander. I guess I'm somewhat disappointed in myself that I found it somewhat slow, maybe because of its episodic nature. Maybe it was just TOO realistic, not giving readers satisfying beginnings-middles-and-ends in the episodes. I mean, I wasn't there, but my understanding is that much of the time during World War II there weren't episodes with delightfu ...more
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Alan Furst is widely recognized as the current master of the historical spy novel. Born in New York, he has lived for long periods in France, especially Paris. He now lives on Long Island.

Night Soldiers novels
* Night Soldiers (1988)
* Dark Star (1991)
* The Polish Officer (1995)
* The World at Night (1996)
* Red Gold (1999)
* Kingdom of Shadows (2000)
* Blood of Victory (2003)
* Dark Voyage (2004)
* The F

Other books in the series

Night Soldiers (1 - 10 of 15 books)
  • Night Soldiers (Night Soldiers, #1)
  • Dark Star (Night Soldiers, #2)
  • The World at Night (Night Soldiers, #4)
  • Red Gold (Night Soldiers, #5)
  • Kingdom of Shadows (Night Soldiers, #6)
  • Blood of Victory (Night Soldiers, #7)
  • Dark Voyage (Night Soldiers, #8)
  • The Foreign Correspondent (Night Soldiers, #9)
  • The Spies of Warsaw (Night Soldiers, #10)
  • Spies of the Balkans (Night Soldiers, #11)

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