We are currently living in the era of John le Carré, if the attention given to the recent biography, memoir, and the television adaptation of his 1993 novel, The Night Manager, is any indication. I’m a long-time le Carré watcher. No adaptation will beat Thomas Alfredson’s film of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy as far as I’m concerned, especially not for capturing the weirdness of his plots and characterizations. Ian Buruma’s article covers the familiar (to le Carré scholars) territory of the image of the father in his various fiction.
An article of mine on John le Carre’s The Secret Pilgrim appears in the latest issue of Clues: A Journal of Detection. Here’s the abstract: The Secret Pilgrim was John le Carré’s first novel to consider the end of the Cold War. The author describes how the novel’s embedded structure reveals le Carré’s political perspective more clearly than previous works and argues that this narrative frame is an adaptation to the sudden collapse of le Carré’s traditional subject matter.
I’m going to write a review of John Banville’s The Infinites before too long. As I was preparing, I came across this interesting interview where Banville says: “John le Carré, for instance, not a great novelist, but he has a genius when it comes to names. I mean, all the names called in his cast are absolutely perfect. Henry James is similar.” Was he thinking of Fanny Assingham? I have a paper on Le Carré that’s coming out soon and have read almost all of his novels, and I can’t say that his facility with names ever caught my notice.
As I have a scholarly interest in Le Carre, I’ve noticed over the years that Clive James’s opinion of his writing, delivered in the New York Review, has been unduly influential. James suggested that his early work was superior to the later because of increasing bloat. Here’s a related example from his review of The Honorable Schoolboy: “To start with, the prose style is overblown. Incompatible metaphors fight for living space in the same sentence.
First day of school tomorrow. Mood: Actually, not at all like that. I seem to recall Rushdie begrudgingly crediting Le Carre with skillful plotting in Tinker, Tailor. It would be interesting to chart the geography of the novel, particularly that of Tarr’s (an allusion?) movements. The board above is also too monochromatic (the amber spectacles for life’s eclipse!).
Here’s the game we’re playing. Lem’s Summa Technologiae. Ok, it’s never been published in English; but I could work my way through the German or finally learn Polish. What better place to start? Waugh’s biography Edmund Campion. To quote Carl, “classic. Total classic.” Le Carre’s The Naive and Sentimental Lover. I once claimed to have read this, falsely. It, along with the most recent book, is the only Le Carre I haven’t read, though I do own it.