Saturday, November 7, 2009
THE SPY WHO CAME IN FROM THE COLD/John Le Carre
If you want a history lesson in how things were during the beginning of the Cold War, read this book. Yes, it's fiction, and yes, it's about a spy, but it will give you a more accurate view of how things work in espionage. Why? Le Carre himself worked as a spy in British Intelligence for years before writing this novel.
This is the antithesis of the Bond novels (and films)—and I'm certainly not knocking those, because who doesn't need a little Bond in their lives, especially now that he's played by Daniel Craig? But Le Carre's novel gives a more realistic glimpse into how things really are for spies. It's mundane work, no more exciting than your average office job.
For Alec Leamas, it's even worse. When his last agent is murdered behind the Wall, his boss approaches him for one last mission—one that will (hopefully) take down East Berlin Intelligence.
All Alec has to do is play the part of an agent on the decline, one who drinks too much and sleeps too little, an agent on the outs. In other words, one who's ready to be turned. He does the part with so much aplomb it was difficult to remember he wasn't actually a lush. But then he meets a young woman, a librarian, and all hell breaks loose in his life.
Le Carre, I think, pokes a bit of fun at Western-style Communists, those thin, emo people I used to see early in my childhood (I forget where, maybe on TV). They dressed in black and handed out some Communist paper. But in TSWCIFTC they were harmless, people playing games and had no idea how real Communists operated. Le Carre obviously did, and he shows you in the last scenes of the novel.
I won't give you any spoilers if you haven't read it. Just know Le Carre doesn't pull any punches. I can't wait to read more of his work.