Super Member
John le Carré has passed away in Cornwall at the age of 89. A great writer who transcended the spy fiction genre, and wrote deeply-researched, nuanced literary novels about human relationships and betrayal, he continued writing well into his late eighties. I grew up reading his novels starting in the early sixties of the last century, and I had picked up a copy of his last book Agent Running in the Field this summer. I own British and American first editions of almost all of his books.

The Karla Trilogy was a masterpiece, and was televised as Smiley's People with the great actor Alec Guinness playing George Smiley. Last year The Night Manager was also serialized on TV, albeit with a somewhat altered plot, and le Carré himself is in it, in a restaurant scene. Many other books were made into films, notable among them The Spy Who Came In From The Cold starring Richard Burton as Alec Leamas, and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, starring Gary Oldman as George Smiley. Here is the BBC obituary:


RIP, John le Carré.

richard warren

Senior Member
When I was young I was puzzled by his stuff. Great nearly poetic writing but confusing. Then I realized he was playing for the other side, Philby and his ilk were his heroes, and hatred of the US his touchstone.

Granted hatred for the US is quite justified in may parts of the world, in the UK it’s not the hatred of the oppressed for the oppressor, or the bombed out for the bomber, but of the displaced global elite for their successor.

A look at history GB got a lot better than it deserved.


Super Member
For John le Carré, I think hatred of American policies came about mainly after the Iraq war of 2003. In my opinion, this was a completely unjustifiable attack, so I'm with the novelist on that. I don't have the impression that he was motivated by a hero-worship of Kim Philby or Burgess and MacLean or any of the "Oxbridge socialists" of the thirties and forties that recruited agents for the Soviets. Having read almost all of his work during the Cold War, I think his motives were rather different: He explored the complexities of espionage because friendship and betrayal are both at the heart of the business. Graham Greene wrote a novel about Kim Philby called The Human Factor, which also is about this theme.

John le Carré 's true subject was actually this business of betrayal. He experienced this at a very young age, and in fact, in A Perfect Spy, his most autobiographical novel, he explores the betrayal that he experienced in his own life, from a charlatan father. His other novels are also studded with acts of betrayal and the search for a kind of twisted redemption for these acts.

I think British antipathy toward Americans has many aspects to it, and it can't all be laid at the door of loss of Empire and the displacement of top dog status after WWII. In my opinion, I think the British did not get what they really deserved until very recently, when the rest of the countries they colonized and exploited for centuries started to demand at least an acknowledgment of this exploitation. And credit is due to them for the reparations they have been paying to Kenya (for widespread atrocities committed during the fifties against the Kikuyu who were herded into concentration camps) after Britain's Supreme Court examined the evidence and ordered the government to do so.

However, the US has done its share of dastardly deeds in the world as well -- overthrowing democratically elected governments in other countries, attacking small nations on fantastic pretexts, and so forth. So let's say there is enough blame to go around. What's sad is that many of these countries have themselves turned on each other and done similar things to each other. Sometimes I think foreign policy is just like child abuse -- if you were an abused child, you can easily grow up to become an abuser yourself.
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