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  • Published: 15 January 2017
  • ISBN: 9780143107446
  • Imprint: Penguin Classics
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 544
  • RRP: $37.99

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."

The military cult classic with resonance to the wars in Iraq and Vietnam—now back in print

When The Centurions was first published in 1960, readers were riveted by the thrilling account of soldiers fighting for survival in hostile environments. They were equally transfixed by the chilling moral question the novel posed: how to fight when the “age of heroics is over.” As relevant today as it was half a century ago, The Centurions is a gripping military adventure, an extended symposium on waging war in a new global order, and an essential investigation of the ethics of counterinsurgency. Featuring a foreword by renowned military expert Robert D. Kaplan, this important wartime novel will again spark debate about controversial tactics in hot spots around the world.

For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.

  • Published: 15 January 2017
  • ISBN: 9780143107446
  • Imprint: Penguin Classics
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 544
  • RRP: $37.99

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