I was sad to hear this morning of the death of the author, John le Carre. David Cornwell is his real name but he is universally known by his pseudonym and for his books about espionage and the whole intelligence industry. We love them and have a copy of them all. My parents had ‘The Spy who Came in From the Cold’ in the 60’s and I certainly read ‘A Small Town in Germany’ while at university in the 70’s. since then of course there have been many more. When my husband and I met and moved in together we found we had multiple copies of many books and John le Carre was one that was frequently replicated.
There are some great obituaries that are worth reading and some lovely tributes. I particularly like the short description of The Pigeon Tunnel’ from his auto biography.
He travelled to Monte Carlo casino with his father where – “Beneath the lawn of the sporting club were small tunnels from which trapped pigeons were ejected over the sea as targets for the sportsmen. The ones that survived returned to the place of their birth on the casino roof, where the same traps awaited them,” le Carré writes. “Quite why this image has haunted me for so long is something the reader is perhaps better able to judge than I am.”
His childhood was a perfect grounding in spy craft as he and his brother took great care to read their father’s correspondence in attempts to find out what he was up to. He wrote a long and astonishing piece for the New Yorker magazine in 2002 on life in the court of King Ronnie. It was an apprenticeship like no other. It is little wonder that he became a master of double cross and deceit and lived quite happily under his pseudonym for many years. It wasn’t until the 1980s that he finally admitted that he had worked for the intelligence services in the 1950’s and 60’s.
Of course his books are wonderful and they provided some wonderful television adaptations. The Night Manager from 2016 was surely one of the best tv thrillers for many years. Not only was Tom Hiddleston superb in the title role, along with the ever adaptable Hugh Laurie as an international arms dealer, it was the mild mannered Tom Hollander who was terrifying as Major Corky Corkoran, and indeed won a BAFTA for it. If you haven’t seen it I can really strongly recommend it.
We have lost a literary giant who wrote about people. He happened to give them odd jobs such as spy or arms dealer, but they were recognisably people all the same.