I’ve always admired John le Carré’s fiction. ‘𝑻𝒉𝒆 𝑺𝒑𝒚 𝑾𝒉𝒐 𝑪𝒂𝒎𝒆 𝑰𝒏 𝑭𝒓𝒐𝒎 𝑻𝒉𝒆 𝑪𝒐𝒍𝒅’, and ‘𝑻𝒊𝒏𝒌𝒆𝒓, 𝑻𝒂𝒊𝒍𝒐𝒓, 𝑺𝒐𝒍𝒅𝒊𝒆𝒓, 𝑺𝒑𝒚’ trilogy, rank as modern classics. No other writer in the field has quite matched him in his unravelling of the complexities of the secret world. My own fiction owes a debt to him as he has greatly enhanced my understanding of the world of power politics, secret intelligence and governmental double-dealing, even if mine tends to the otherworldly.
His latest, ‘𝑨𝒈𝒆𝒏𝒕 𝑹𝒖𝒏𝒏𝒊𝒏𝒈 𝑰𝒏 𝑻𝒉𝒆 𝑭𝒊𝒆𝒍𝒅’, slots itself firmly among his finest. Venting spleen appropriate for these insane times and peppered with scalding humour, it’s bang on the zeitgeist: Trump, Putin, Brexit, Syria, Ukraine and Iran are all there as backdrop to garden-variety perfidy bedded with hopeless idealism and misjudged alignments.
As ever with le Carré, the most seemingly mundane interactions and observations are underscored with ambiguity. His characters are well-drawn, and deep we go from the commonplace into shadowy inner states and their practices, exposing the rot at the core of present day home and international relations. Countless covert departments, sub-departments and secret operations, Orwellian surveillance and the self-serving nature of those running it all, lead to a growing sense of discomfort, particularly knowing that this is fiction of the real. Reading le Carré can be revelatory. The homely and innocent are not what they seem; duplicity is endemic. Yet, in labyrinths of deception and counter-deception, trust, mistrust, ambition, chicanery and numbing betrayal there’s still, perhaps, a ray of human goodness. It’s a page-turner and it’s wonderful.