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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very detailed, slow going, but well researched
A very interesting book but detailed to such a level that it was slow going. It's also a translated book that occasionally suffers from weak or literal translation that hinders flow. However, the detailed approach demonstrates the level of research that has gone into this book and ultimately results in a comprehensive account of the activities of Vladimir Vetrov. I'd...
Published on 4 Nov 2011 by Alison

versus
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating story...somewhere in there
Nestling in amongst the lengthy sections of background history and detail there is, indeed, a fascinating story here. But in their attempts to provide a definitive and exhaustive acount the authors have risked losing the plot in a welter of unneccessary and distracting detail. This book needed a strong editor to pull out the core tale and excise the, frankly, often boring...
Published on 29 Aug 2011 by Setter man


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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very detailed, slow going, but well researched, 4 Nov 2011
By 
Alison "runninggirlcycling" (Derbyshire, UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Farewell (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
A very interesting book but detailed to such a level that it was slow going. It's also a translated book that occasionally suffers from weak or literal translation that hinders flow. However, the detailed approach demonstrates the level of research that has gone into this book and ultimately results in a comprehensive account of the activities of Vladimir Vetrov. I'd never heard of Vetrov before and yet his actions had a major impact on the end of the Cold War. A very interesting and informative read but does require perseverance.
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36 of 39 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars How it should be done!, 6 Aug 2011
By 
Alexa (United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Farewell (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is journalism of the highest quality. A Russian and a Frenchman combine forces to research the background, activities and motivation of Vladimir Ippolitovich Vetrov - an apparently obscure KGB agent who single-mindedly set out to destroy that organisation.

Vetrov chose to collaborate not with the 'big players' on the international stage, but with the French, and, moreover, with their counter-intelligence branch, rather than the SDECE. He revealed, and sabotaged, the industrial espionage that was enabling the Soviet Union to maintain parity with the West; thus it is claimed that single-handedly he brought about the end of the Cold War! This is not glamorous stuff, and before reading this book I had never heard of Vetrov, but when you take into account the impact of this one man's actions around the world, it is a story that deserves to be told!

Although Vetrov was handsome and with both high intellectual capacities and physical prowess, this is no story of a James Bond-style super-spy. Ultimately the tale is as much about his flaws as his virtues. And this is where the quality of the journalism shows.

Although the international collaboration means that the authors are well-placed to maximise their access to information, ultimately, in any account of the murky world of espionage, whilst some facts will be verifiable, many have to rely on a single, possibly unreliable source, whilst yet others can only by hypothesised, by analogy with other cases. Often the resultant account suffers from one of two flaws: either it races away with its author's personal interpretation of events leaving a 'controversial' account which can be 'debunked' by anyone whose political agenda differs from the author, or it is so careful not to state anything that might be subsequently disporoved that it confines itself with a bald recitation of the known facts, leaving the reader to interpret their implications as best they can!

This book falls into neither of these traps. It extends well beyond a mere account of Vetrov's actions; it goes deep into his past, attempting to understand his beliefs and interpret the motivations of this undoubtedly complex and contradictory character. However, at all points the authors painstakingly identify their sources for each statement - including an analysis of the source's general trustworthiness and possible ulterior motivations. They are not afraid to advance hypotheses and make inferences - but they make it clear when, and indicate on what basis they are doing so.

Thus the novice reader is guided through the complex situations and circumstances that characterise the late Cold War, but is simultaneously provided with enough information to come to their own conclusions at the end.

A rewarding and fascinating expose of a little-known contribution to recent history.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The definitive account, but maybe too much information....., 14 Mar 2012
By 
Pompom (Devon) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Farewell (Paperback)
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An important and compelling piece of Cold War history detailing Valdimar Vetrov's spying for the French Intelligence Service, the DST. The subject matter is fascinating and dramatic, but whilst the authors have applied diligent and objective research in tracing Vetrov's journey from committed KGB officer to double agent, the impact of the story is undermined by the sheer volume of detail. This is clearly a labour of love by Sergei Kostin and you can see that he has methodically and deliberately worked through the back-story to provide what is going to be unarguably the definitive account.
The work could have benefitted from more judicious editing - both in terms of translation and content. A much shorter and concise read would have ensured that this book was more accessible to a general readership - the story is a rich and deserving one and would have benefitted from it. As it is, it is too dense and the translation is too stilted for a casual reader and will only appeal to those with a specific interest in this area of history and on international espionage which is a shame given Vetrov's complex and dramatic personal story which is very much defined by the Cold War.
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How the cold war was won, 10 Aug 2011
By 
T. Burkard (Norwich, England) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Farewell (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The title of this book is slightly misleading--anyone expecting a lightweight spy thriller to take to the beach will be disappointed. Rather, this is the real deal: Kostin and Raynaud spent years interviewing the key players in the Farewell saga, but we can never be sure exactly what happened. This is the real world, not a novel.

Vladimir Vetrov, the KGB agent who gave the West the documents that turned the tide of the cold war, was first posted to Paris and Canada, where he led a flamboyant life and was compromised by French and Canadian intelligence. He got away with this, but his career almost came to an end when his wife was caught out in a seemingly minor slip involving an expensive piece of jewelry. This would not have been a problem if Vetrov had connnections--as it was, it was touch and go as to whether he would keep his job.

Burning with resentment against a system he considered inept, he was relegated to desk work in Moscow. There he had access to the KGB's most sensitive files. Oddly, the picture that emerges is that the KGB was pretty much like all Soviet bureaucracies: sloth, incompetence and chaos reigned. Vetrov was able to take top secret documents home with very little risk, because the sheer numbers of KGB employees made it impractical to check everyone's briefcases when they went home.

Amazingly, he was able to copy and transmit them to the DST, the French counter-intelligence agency. The French had no spies working in the Soviet Union, so all of these papers had to be transmitted through amateur volunteers working for Thomson, the French telecoms company that had big contracts in Russia. And oddly enough, the sheer amateurism of this effort meant that it was never detected until long after the fact, when Vetrov was in the Gulag for a murder that was only vaguely connected to his treachery.

Vetrov is a fascinating if repulsive character, and his motivations and personality are fully explored. But more importantly, Kostin and Raynaud explain the crucial nature of this intelligence coup. In the first instance, it happened in 1981 and 1982, when Mitterand and Reagan came to power. When Mitterand--whose government included Communist ministers--offered all this material to Reagan, the mutual suspicion was broken, and the US accepted that France was still onside in the struggle against the evil empire.

The documents that Vetrov delivered proved that the Soviets knew all about the technical developments of Nato weapons systems. Ironically, this proved their ulitmate weakness; their own formidable army of scientists and engineers--the men and women who beat the US into space--were reduced to making slavish copies of Western armaments. Vetrov enabled the West to cut off the flow of information, which left them stranded. As America developed the Star Wars programme, they had no answer--and they were further hampered by a successful disinformation programme.

This is a massive book with acute insights into the messy ways in which the world, and more specifically the old Soviet Union, worked. It's not a difficult read, but a bit depressing. Vetrov, needless to say, was eventually shot.

The Vine version lacked an index, a serious omission for a work of this nature. I trust this will be supplied in the commercial edition.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A revelation, 16 Aug 2011
By 
Peter Gordon (Bournemouth, Dorset United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Farewell (Paperback)
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The authors have clearly engaged in very careful and detailed research, followed by an equally careful analysis of the information gathered. For anyone who can remember the events which led to fall of the Russian empire, the final chapters in this book will be a revelation because of the manner in which the Communist regime came to an end. We are given a backroom look from which we have, otherwise, been sheltered.

The first few chapters explain the various Intelligence [KGB, DST, CIA] organisations which play a part in the story of FAREWELL. Once that necessary information has been absorbed, the reader moves on to the actions of the persons involved. For those expecting to learn how these Intelligence organisations work, and anticipating being informed of their extreme professionalism and technological innovation, there will be surprises, not the least being just how much luck was involved, sometimes good and sometimes bad, for all parties.

Although the writing is conversational, the authors make every effort to keep to a time-line and try to ensure that whatever assumptions they make are, where appropriate, backed up with the facts. Where they are unsure whether they believe an informant, or are unsure whether their interpretation of an event is correct, they put another similarly plausible view or alternative.

FAREWELL is the code name for Vladimir Vetrov. As the story [and it could easily have been a work of fiction] proceeds, this man becomes a more and more interesting and complex personality, as do the many people with whom he comes into contact. This is a sad story of a sad, man but a man whose actions could be said to have changed the world.

My only criticisms are minor: [i] there are many names and acronyms to remember, but it does not help when the authors keep referring to an individual by different names. It took this reader a while to realise that Vetrov, Vladimir and Volodia, were,in fact, the same man; and [ii] I am not too keen on notes, especially when they require the reader to look to the end of the book. That means two bookmarks! However, notes are ok except where, in this case, they are lengthy and could have been included in the main narrative.

Otherwise, a very good and informative read.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating story...somewhere in there, 29 Aug 2011
By 
Setter man (Sheffield, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Farewell (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Nestling in amongst the lengthy sections of background history and detail there is, indeed, a fascinating story here. But in their attempts to provide a definitive and exhaustive acount the authors have risked losing the plot in a welter of unneccessary and distracting detail. This book needed a strong editor to pull out the core tale and excise the, frankly, often boring background detail. Furthermore, it needed a translational review - too much of the English is literally taken from the French and simply does not flow.
A slightly disappointing read overall, then, but if one is prepared to skip read certain sections the core of the story is indeed worth the effort.
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2.0 out of 5 stars heavy going, 28 Jun 2014
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This review is from: Farewell: The Greatest Spy Story of the Twentieth Century (Kindle Edition)
Am reading it in bits as it is heavy going because of poor, stilted and boring translation. The contents are interesting although not always essential for a casual reader.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Overrated, 21 May 2014
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This review is from: Farewell: The Greatest Spy Story of the Twentieth Century (Kindle Edition)
Not as good as i expected. Maybe the Title of the Book influenced this viewpoint.
Far fetched and difficult to believe at times.
A reasonable read but not sensational.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Boring, 8 May 2014
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This review is from: Farewell: The Greatest Spy Story of the Twentieth Century (Kindle Edition)
Boring catalogue of events, can't believe others could rate this on the basis of the content which could have been written by a 6th year school pupil
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4.0 out of 5 stars An Excellent Read, 6 May 2014
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This review is from: Farewell: The Greatest Spy Story of the Twentieth Century (Kindle Edition)
A great Russian spy story which was very well researched and written by Sergei Kostin. Prompted me to try the film which I didn't know existed either.
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