The Centurions by Jean Larteguy

Have you ever not wanted to put a book on the shelf because you would be admitting that it is done?  This is how I feel about Lartéguy's The Centurions.  I drug my feet reading the last 50 pages because I didn't want it to end.  Luckily for me I have The Praetorians pre-ordered.  It comes out on June 7th.

These books have been long out of print yet have remained favorites of the counter-insurgency and small wars crowd.  Generals Petraeus and McChrystal are famously fans.

The novel follows a group of French parachute officers from the fall of Dien Bien Phu, through Communist imprisonment, to the battle of Algiers.  Lartéguy was a soldier who fought with the Free French in WW2.  His book is anti-communist and anti-leftist-intellectual which may explain why it has been out of print for so long.  One of the fundamental questions that gets mentioned around this book is: what happens when a class of soldiers realizes that the society they serve is no longer worthy of their sacrifice?  The legions returned to Rome and the Paras threatened to jump on Paris.

"nothing great, alas, has ever emerged from peace... Peace has always been the reign of mediocrities, and pacifism the bleating of a herd of sheep which allow themselves to be led to the slaughter-house without defending themselves."

"I've made two mistakes, gentlemen. I've confided in a woman and I've slept in a bed."

"Capitalist system... using money and technology as a substitute for faith, forgetting that the masses are the mainspring of all endeavor, corrupting them with modern amenities instead of keeping them wiry and alert with the offer of some valid purpose in life... The civilization of the frigidaire and the bidet."