§ion=&combo2=&text1=&text2=&SocNetUsername=&SocNetPassword=&authCode=& 7th Decade Thoughts: The Spy Who Came in from the Cold by John LeCarré

7th Decade Thoughts

Thoughts about books, politics and history (personal and otherwise), pictures I've taken and pictures I've edited.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Spy Who Came in from the Cold by John LeCarré

I reread this in March 2012 and still liked it a lot, but read it this time as a study for Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. In this one the spy is a British one in the East German hierarchy instead of a Soviet one in the British hierarchy. Alec Leamas, British spymaster in Berlin loses an agent who's supposed to be crossing the wall to safety after years of providing good information to the British. That makes Alec less valuable in Berlin so he's recalled to a London desk job--one he's too much of a "field agent" and too independent to find tolerable. And the spymasters in London cook up an undercover job for him. He's to affect disaffection with the Service and go to seed, making himself vulnerable to recruitment by the other side, in order to get rid of a particularly nasty East German intelligence agent. Only he doesn't get all the information he needs. Neither does the naive British Communist girl who befriends him--and who becomes his lover--in the menial job he gets when he leaves the Service.

He is duly recruited as a defector, promised money, and meets his contact in Holland to spill the beans. But his contact soon lures him into the East where the contact is accused of treachery and Leamus finally realizes his real role in the mission. And when the girl turns up--having been "given a trip east a reward" by her local Communist party--Leamus.

LeCarre's message is that human treachery is human treachery whether out of personal cussedness or in the name of the State. And one side is no better than the other. Leamas, about as far away from an idealistic character as one can imagine, rebels.

George Smiley is a more important character in this one than I remembered and not as likable as he becomes later. He's clearly the brains behind the London plot. (Very interesting in these early novels by LeCarre to see how Smiley must have grown on his creator.)

Now I've got to watch the film again--I love Richard Burton in the part. Couldn't resist uploading the movie cover, not the book cover.


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