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Jean Lartéguy

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Books by Jean Lartéguy

The Centurions

"I'd like France to have two armies: one for display, with lovely guns, tanks, little soldiers, fanfares, [and] the real one, composed entirely of young enthusiasts in camouflage battledress, who would not be put on display but from whom impossible efforts would be demanded and to whom all sorts of tricks would be taught."

Ticking time bombs around the city are set to explode, and only a captive rebel knows their locations. Does saving lives justify torture? Or is such cruelty always unpardonable? Over the course of the 20th century, conventional modern warfare--that precise theatrical art cultivated by Napoleon--was supplanted by irregular fighting, guerrilla tactics, and counterinsurgency. No fictional account better depicts this historical shift and the ethical dilemmas that entailed than Jean Larteguy's searing military classic, The Centurions.

While imprisoned in the notorious Camp One in Vietnam for over a year, Lt. Col. Pierre Raspéguy studies his captors, the Viet Minh, and begins to understand how they employ ideology and dogma to create a politically motivated, efficient fighting force. Raspéguy eventually gains his release, but in France he finds himself a part of the new reality of soldiering: a loyal fraternity of warriors alienated from an unsympathetic public at home. Unable to sit idly while conflicts abroad rage, Raspéguy joins a paratrooper unit in Algeria, where he again faces an enemy with complete freedom to conduct war without rules. Yet rather than turning to the conventional tactics so shockingly unsuccessful in Vietnam, he builds off what he has learned from his enemies--tactics suited to the chaos of guerilla war but out of step with the ideals of a just war. When life and empire are in danger, how far is too far?

An extended symposium on waging war in a new global order, an essential investigation of the ethics of counterinsurgency, and an intensely thrilling account of soldiers faced with chilling moral decisions on how to survive in hostile environments, The Centurions poses crucial questions about how we fight when "the age of heroics is over."

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The Praetorians

Out of print for decades and praised by the likes of Stanley McChrystal, Robert Kaplan, and David Petraeus, The Praetorians picks up in the footsteps of The Centurions. When a group of French paratroopers serving in the Algerian war are called to answer for actions they consider necessary, however immoral, they plot a coup that results in a new French government and in the death of one of their own. Based on the events of May 1958 in France, The Praetorians continues with some of Lartéguy's most persistent, and most pertinent, themes: counterinsurgency, the ugly, self-conflicted nature of modern war, and the seemingly unbridgeable gulf between the experiences of soldiers and of the civilians they serve.

A former soldier himself, Lartéguy writes with unique authority on war and with a clear insight into the human costs of global conflict, balancing riveting scenes of actions with intelligent political dialogue. As relevant now as when first published, his novels have remained essential to the international conversation surrounding counterinsurgency and the ethics of modern war. Highly recommended by military leaders and soldiers, they are now finding new readers and sparking new conversation as Penguin Classics reissues.

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