Monday, February 07, 2005

The Spy Who Came In From The Cold

Book 12 of '05: The Spy Who Came In From The Cold, John le Carré.

The Spy Who Came In From The Cold was John le Carré’s third novel and his most important. It’s popularity with critics and the reading public established him as the master of the espionage genre. A position he held for more than three decades.

Three ingredients contributed to le Carré’s long-term success. His novels were well written with splendid pacing and memorable characters. For the first time, we could sneak a peek behind the curtain of clandestine operations as le Carré introduced us to the tradecraft of espionage and took us inside the minds of spies and their handlers.

Finally, le Carré’s novels were more than mere thrillers. He brought a political conscience to his work that was rare for this genre. In The Spy Who Came In From The Cold characters instruct us as to the importance of the state over the individual in Communist philosophy. Yet, in the end, it is the Democratic state that betrays and sacrifices the individual to advance its interests.

This balance, which bordered on detachment, gave le Carré’s novels an extraordinarily fine tension. Not the tension that emerges from mere suspense, but the tension that springs from the balancing of titanic forces, from the latent hostility between opposing governments or philosophies. Tension that, without remorse or hesitation, threatens to tear apart the lives of individuals caught in its web.

This was the strength and the appeal of writer John le Carré.


If you admire le Carré, you are almost to certain to appreciate the novels of Alan Furst. He is the best writer in the genre today.

No comments:

Post a Comment