Thus the miniseries concentrates on the beginning, with the CIA's recruitment of three of the protagonists', the disasters that the U.S. made of the Hungarian revolt, and the mess of the Kim Philby and his own group of traitors to Britain and the U.S., who eventually defect to safety in the Soviet Union. It's a slick and sleek production, not much resembling the liquor-bloated, rumpled appearance of government-employed D.C. males post WWII and the 1950's. Also, more heroic . . . .
I began reading The Company on January 1st in Miami. I barely finished last night what felt like an endless slog through the hardly fictionalized material from non-fiction books, and from other novels movies and television series, as well as well as Norman Mailer’s Harlot’s Ghost, a novel just as long, but much more interesting and well written.
While still in Cuba (sick as I was, I stayed in most nights while the fellow Travelers were cavorting with Music and El Ron) I reached the thematic and narrative center of the novel. Naturally, this would be the Bay of Pigs debacle, the run-up to the inevitable catastrophe itself, and the surprisingly little effect it has on thinking and operations afterwards at the highest military, executive and espionage in D.C.
This was the only section of The Company that had any kind of fictional kick for me, probably due to being in Cuba while reading it. But even for the author of this book, which appears to be a sort of admonishment of the US and the CIA, Littell's Cuba of 1960-1961 looks remarkably like the Cuba of 2000 - 2003, not at all like the Cuba of 1960-1961. Littell seems to have not figured out that Cuba wouldn’t be looking the same in 1960 as it did in 2000 whenever, before the bushwahs put the hammer down on the Clinton's administration's People-to-People, etc. 1960's cars rusting old junkers in 1961? Not likely. (And not now either, as they've all been retrofitted in the last 3 - 5 years with diesel engines, painted, re-upolstered and make huge profits for the owners as taxis for US tourists with more money than sense or information.)
After the rescue of one of our central protagonists from the sea off the baie des Cochons, we skip past the Missile crisis and the JFK assassination, with the exception of a suggestion that Cubans were executing mafiosi in revenge for the failed Bay of Pigs invasion -- WHAT????? The general consensus is that it was the mafia that whacked JFK in revenge for not getting Cuba back, and particularly for allowing Bobby the Attorney General to prosecute them for a variety of crimes including tax evasion, when they had understood that they'd have immunity for helping old Jack Kennedy get JFK elected in the first place.
The subject of The Company is the long conflict between the US and the Soviets, as played out via their Great Game of espionage and counter espionage. Thus the novel concludes with the Afghani civil war (1989-1992), which contributed so much to the financial dissolution of the Soviet Empire.
Though it is a novel there appears no imaginative leap that another incarnation of Mother Russia and strong leader that could be a global player and a threat to the United States.
As with the 19th century Cuba filibusters sponsored by the southern fire eating secessionsists, the 20th century Pentagon, the Oval Office, Capitol Hill and the CIA, when it comes to Cuba and Vietnam, it seems even in fiction D.C. cannot learn anything from past errors, but, rather, insist on making the same ones over and over again, far into the future.