John Le Carré

John Le Carré: The Little Drummer Girl

One thing I like and admire about John Le Carré’s work is that he is not content to rest on his (by this, his tenth published novel, considerable) laurels, but time and again ventures out of his comfort zones into unexplored territory. The departure in The Little Drummer Girl is not quite as radical as it was in The Naive and Sentimental Lover where he left the thriller genre completely, but here we find him moving away not only from his protagonist George Smiley but also the Cold War setting where he seemed to have found his narrative home and instead turn his writerly attention to the Israeli-Palestine conflict instead.

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What I’m Reading: John Le Carré – The Honourable Schoolboy

Apparently, many people read John Le Carré’s spy novels for a glimpse at what the world of international espionage is really like; in other words, they read them like a kind of journalism about the shady world of Intelligence Services. And there certainly is something to it – we’ve grown used to a more realistic perspective on secret services, but we can still imagine what it must have been like to read a novel like The Spy Who Came In from the Cold for someone whose idea of spy thrillers were Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels. Le Carré profoundly debunked the myths about the spy trade, showing it to be a world not of elegant womanizers lounging in luxurious surroundings, but of middle-aged men holding bureaucratic meetings in dull offices, not of noble deeds and lofty aims but of petty infighting and political maneuvering. The novels of Le Carré were filled with detailed descriptions and precise observations, and had authenticity written all over them and thoroughly destroyed any conception of glamour clinging to the spy profession – today, nobody would consider a James Bond novel anything but fantasy.

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What I’m Reading: John Le Carré – Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy was my next stop in my (mostly) chronological tour of the works of John Le Carré; and it is interesting to note that he followed what very many consider his worst novel with what most consider one of his best (although that distinction usually goes not so much to this novel in and of itself as to the “Karla Trilogy” of which it is the first volume).

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What I’m Reading: John le Carré – The Naive and Sentimental Lover

This is not, like I have seen claimed in several places, le Carré’s first novel that is not a spy thriller (there is also A Murder of Quality, which although it features George Smiley as its protagonist is not about espionage at all, but is a murder mystery) but his first (and possibly only, I have not read them all yet) non-genre novel. It also seems the least liked of his novels, and while it would be easy to dismiss that as fans complaining that they are not getting their customary fare, I think there might be rather more to it in this case.

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What I’m Reading: John le Carré – A Small Town in Germany

I’m still making my way through John le Carré’s oeuvre in chronological order, and so far it has been a surprisingly interesting and enjoyable journey. My most recent stop, A Small Town in Germany, is no exception to this, and once again it is a much more complex affair than I would have expected – like previous works by le Carré, not so much in regard to the plot (which one would expect to be intricate in a spy novel) as to the quiet, perspicacious writing, whose very precision often makes it slide into lyrical territory, and to the finely spun web of imagery and theme that defines the novel much more than the intrigues that constitute its plot.

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What I’m Reading: John Le Carré – The Looking Glass War

This is the fourth novel by John Le Carré I have read in the space of that many months, and it is starting to look like I might have embarked on a (more or less) chronological reading of his whole oeuvre. Chances do seem good that I will continue as The Looking Glass War is the novel I liked best so far, even better than The Spy Who Came in from the Cold.

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Book Diary: Catching Up

Due to my recent blogging slump I’ve fallen far behind on keeping up with the books I’ve read, pretty much beyond hope of ever catching up by way of regular blogging (at least for someone as fundamentally lazy as myself). Considering that the main purpose of this blog is to keep track of my reading, I did not want to just skip them like I did last year in a similar situation (and still regret doing), but constantly dragging two months behind is not an appealing prospect either, I’m finding it rather more fun to write about books while they’re still fresh in my mind. So I’ve decided to do a catch-up post that will bring me up to date (or at least close enough) where I basically just write a sentence or two on most of the books that I’ve read in October and November. I’m hoping to be able to return to at least some of them (Checkmate and Hydrogen Sonata in particular) for a more extensive post, but at least they won’t drop completely under the table.

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What I’m Reading: John le Carré – The Spy Who Came in from the Cold

I really do not know why I don’t read more spy thrillers – in Fantasy and Science Fiction novels, I love reading about intrigue and political maneuvering and those are after all what spy thrillers mostly consist of (or so one would think). I also enjoy watching spy movies (somewhat realistic ones, not the glamourized James Bond variety, but something along the lines of Three Days of the Condor). So it’s quite a mystery to me why the only spy novels I ever read were the ones forming the George Smiley trilogy by John le Carré, and that several decades back (after watching the TV show with Alec Guiness in the main role).

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