Sunday, September 5, 2010

John le Carre's Spook World

John le Carre's Spook World

By Paul Davis

Last month I wrote a piece here about John le Carre’s disparaging remarks about Ian Fleming’s iconic character James Bond. The piece generated some interesting responses.

Although I attempted to offer a spirited defense of Ian Fleming and James Bond (the character from the novels, not the films), I did note that I also liked le Carre’s novels, especially Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.

This is perhaps le Carre’s year as a film is being made of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (the TV miniseries based on the novel was outstanding), and he has a new novel coming out called Our Kind of Traitor.

To promote his new book, the 79-year-old author gave an interesting interview to the British newspaper The Sunday Telegraph.

In the interview, le Carre, a/k/a David Cornwell, spoke of how he struggled to demystify and de-romanticise the spook world in his thrillers. He also spoke of his time in the British Security Services and of his con-artist father.

He explained why he refused to meet the British traitor and spy Kim Philby when he was visiting Russia. I admire his stance.

Although le Carre’s spy novels are known for their moral ambiguity, le Carre spoke of the difference between the West’s intelligence officers and the Communists on the other side of the Iron Curtain in the Cold War.

“But there is a big difference in working for the West and working for a totalitarian state,” le Carre told the Telegraph. “I promise you that even when quite ruthless operations are being contemplated, the process of democratic consultation was still relatively intact and decent humanitarian instincts came into play.

“Totalitarian states killed with impunity and no one was held accountable. That didn’t happen in the West,” le Carre said.

Le Carre is right. According to The Black Book of Communism, the communists murdered more than 94 million people.

Although I disagree with le Carre’s politics and worldview, I look forward to seeing the film version of Tinker, Tailor, Solider, Spy and I look forward to reading his new novel, Our Kind of Traitor.

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