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Absolute Friends

3.57 of 5 stars 3.57  ·  rating details  ·  3,749 ratings  ·  329 reviews
The epic "New York Times" bestseller by the master of international intrigue--now in paperback--spans the lives of two friends from the riot-torn West Berlin of the 1960s to the grimy looking-glass of Cold War Europe to the present day of terrorism and new alliances.
Paperback, 480 pages
Published August 1st 2005 by Little, Brown and Company (first published 2003)
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Read it and weep, Robert Harris. This is how to write a spy thriller. Le Carre's strength, or one of them (and there are many) is his characterisations which, in less skilled hands, could be the ludicrous caricatures I mentioned above. He makes them believable though. As he does the situations. You really begin to believe that the world of espionage works exactly as portrayed here. His heroes tend to be offbeat misfits who can't seem to settle in a normal life and, from the novels I've read so f ...more
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Susan Emmet
Maybe a "5" is too high a rating...amazing?...maybe not.
But I give it a 5 for Le Carre's tightrope walk from fiction to non-fiction. This novel rings all kinds of bells, historic and political.
And he takes 'em all on - the pseudo-liberals and conservatives, Islamist terrorists, the CIA, the British Secret Service, communists, the HUGE money corporations with hands in pies everywhere - all the stuff that was - and has - "come true" sadly, but expectedly.
Keep thinking about Eisenhower's warning ab
The old spy game is taken up a notch in Le Carre’s “Absolute Friends.” Here the intrigue and spying are not merely about competing Cold War ideologies, but the friendship of two men who came of age and connected as friends amidst the radical student movement of the 1960s in West Germany. The friendship continues throughout the novel, as the friends meet and drift apart again over the years, but never lose the ultimate bond (estranged boyhoods and youthful idealism) that united them in the first ...more

Calling John le Carre a spy novelist is liking calling Shakespeare a jingle writer. Nevertheless, there was something about this book that bothered me enough to knock one star off my otherwise high regard, and I think I can discuss it without issuing a spoiler alert.

First, the basics: Ted Mundy is a Brit who almost falls into the spy trade after he renews his acquaintance with old student friend, the enigmatic and charismatic Sasha. Together, they had played street revolutionaries in Berlin in t
Absolute Friends was the story of a complicated friendship spanning much of the twentieth century. The psychological depth of this friendship was reason enough to read this novel. The issues discussed, events mentioned and locations described gave me much food for thought. The intelligent, well-paced and insightful story was gripping and authentic in the way few thrillers are today . But I was most touched by the power of the story’s cynical conclusion: it forced me to soberly consider the treme ...more
Yvann S
"Leaving the envelope to mature for a week or two, therefore, he waits until the right number of tequilas has brought him to the right level of insouciance, and rips it open."

Ted Mundy, Pakistan-born English major's son, Germanophile and student rebel, has just about settled into mediocrity at the British Council when a trip in his guise as head of Overseas Drama and Arts (particular responsibility: Youth) becomes an exercise in secret police evasion. A figure from his past appears and he is rec
I listened to this long book on CD on a trip and, though I found it interesting enough to finish listening to it, am pretty sure that, had I read it in book form, I wouldn't have had the patience to finish it. Starting out with the appealing depiction of a British spy living happily in retirement with a Turkish woman and her son while working as a tour guide in Germany, the main character--Ted Mundy--winds up being called back into action by his old friend and fellow spy, Sasha. The flashback wh ...more
I’m going to do the same review for “The Mission Song” and “Absolute Friends” because these books have so much in common. They both show a great writer having stumbled on his own frustration at international politics. Both books are suffused with anger that does not characterize Le Carre’s other works, and this anger impedes the storytelling and changes thematic representation to Neanderthalic proselytizing. In the past Le Carre has dealt with subjects before that he finds offensive (“The Night ...more

As a huge fan of 1984, I appreciate many of the Orwellian themes Le Carre develops here. It was also interesting to read about Iraq from the position of hindsight (Le Carre published this in 2003). I enjoyed the careful character development of both Sasha and Mundy as much as I enjoyed the author's excellent, terse prose. Really, the man is a wonderful writer!

So why did I give this a three instead of a four? Or even a five? Le Carre's anger was palpable, to the point I felt he was proselytizing.
Robert Hill
As always, I found Le Carre' quite entertaining. I often wondered what Le Carre' turned to after his Cold War thrillers. This book was great it had a surprise ending. The thesis of this thriller is that the War on Terror can be an excuse for the conservative political powers to seek out and destroy "innocent" liberals. Even though those liberals might be intellectual revolutionaries. The title comes from a friendship between two such liberal "revolutionaries". Le Carre' tracks them from before t ...more
Dexter Meyers
John LeCarre could absolutely be my friend
It continues to be interesting watching Le Carre carry his world into the present, leaving the Cold War behind. I wasn't sure of the friendship between Mundy and Sasha, the pair of the title, right up until the end. This being a spy novel, I kept expecting one to betray or have betrayed the other. Instead both men are bound to the flaws that seem to haunt all spies. Ted Mundy is another interesting creation, a man with a history of shaky identities and changing locals. The one stable thing in hi ...more
I decided to read other reviewers here on Goodreads before I gave my stars. Turns out they didn't change my first instinct to give it a solid four. Was hard for me to buy the (spoiler alert) probability that Mundy would take up with Sasha a THIRD time in response to his appeal to save the world having had two prior undesirable outcomes. But I could get past it in view of so many salient themes to the modern setting. I found it interesting that it was copywritten 2003, which explains all the refe ...more
An excellent & absorbing read that reviews a lot of current politics from the 60's to the present, on the background undergound world of espionage & counterespionage. The 2 central characters ( absolute friends)are Mundy who is recruited to the British secret Service, and Sasha who ends up as a double agent for the British, under the guise of working for Stasi, the East german intelligence agency, when he becomes disallusioned by the Communists whose ideals he espoused. Their collaborati ...more
After one false start I picked this novel up again and was almost immediately hooked. This is high-level entertainment beefed up with some nutritious and timely philosophical questions about national and international loyalties, responsibility to God, King, and Country, and the sometimes-fine-line between duty and righteousness. Do the means justify the ends? Does anyone even know what the "ends" are anymore? Not as crisp, terse, and razor-sharp as The Spy Who Came In From the Cold, but a truly ...more
Nick Duretta
Typical of Le Carre's intelligent, complex and literary spy thrillers, this novel paints a chilling picture of seemingly ordinary people caught up in an upside-down world of counter spies and counter-counter spies. The two "friends" of the title are in many ways opposites: the dwarfish, obsessive Sasha and the studious, unfocused Mundy. Their strong bond through the years is never justified convincingly. Mundy is a frustrating protagonist--he lets himself get easily carried away by any ideologue ...more
Absolute Friends is one of the most poisonously Anti-American spy novels ever written. That said, I have to say LeCarre is pretty spot on about the way the Americans were running their Intel during the Bush years.

Absolute Friends tells the story of two friends, a brit and a German who were radicals together in Berlin during the 1960s and how they subsequently got turned into spies and after serving the West heroically, they ultimately get used by a CIA type operation to invent a terrorist operat
The author's forte is espionage. This is another spy story telling the life and personal development of Teddy who becomes a spy. So, the story isn't an intrigue of plot but a study in human nature. The author's writing is striking, beautiful, masterful. He frequently stunned me with his skill, a Rembrandt of words. But, but, but, there is a cynicism about life, a morose fatalism that dragged me down. Life is just a series of coincidences and ironies. The main character never seems to be able to ...more
Justin Tonna
The characterisation in this book is fantastic - the sheer differences between the two friends, their backgrounds and their hopes and fears are all painted in such exquisite strokes that you cannot help but turn pages.

The plot is not as twisting as some of le Carre's other books, and there are times when you can almost laugh (a rarity in his stories).

Of course, the ending is gut wrenching, leaving you with a profound hatred of soulless spy masters and government expediency. Worse, you know le
This book is a surprise coming from this man. .. It is very good. Maybe it's almost as good as Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. .. The conclusion took me totally by surprise. Le Carre traces the lives of two anarchists from the end of WW II in Germany, through the Bader-Meinhoff era, through cold war espionage, and into the Islamic terrorism of today. The conclusion comes as such a surprise that it left me cold. This man who tends to be very knowledgeable in this area leaves us with a conclusion we ha ...more
John Mchugh
Actually, I'd give it three and a half stars. Oh, maybe three and three quarters. If I read it when it came out, thirteen years ago, I certainly didn't remember much of anything about the characters or the plot. My fault, not his. The writing, as expected, is excellent and sometimes brilliant. The structure is complex, both in the arc of the story and the POV of the narrator (sometimes first person, sometimes third person - with much back and forth). There's a resplendent cast of shadowy figures ...more
Joe Cummings
Old friends,
Sat on their park bench
Like bookends.
A newspaper blown through the grass
Falls on the 'round toes
On the high shoes
Of the old friends.
Paul Simon Old Friends

The song "Old Friends" was released at the end of the Sixties around the time when the two main characters in John Le Carré's 2003 novel Absolute Friends first meet in West Berlin.The two young student idealists-Ted who is a Pakistan-born son of a British expat and Sasha who is the son of a German Lutheran minister who escaped th
Martin Boyle
Le Carré's more recent works maintain all of the dark suspense of his cold-war thrillers, but do seem to be much more politically aware. The relationship between friends and foes becomes ever finer, no one is above suspicion. Lines are blurred in a world where my enemy's enemy is so important.

And in Absolute Friends, in his usual smooth writing, you meet a bunch of wasters and see the absolute friendship grow from its starting point in anti-establishment West Berlin. The bonds grow stronger, the

I enjoyed the writing, as it was a pleasure to listen to. The characters and the way they were presented were interesting. I was glad to read a reviewer on Amazon who wrote: " It is also a mini-study of political Germany of the same period. The achievement of this book is something I have never seen from an English-language writer before: true grasp of Germany's political culture, its language and people (I am German myself)."

I was disappointed in the end of the story because I did not understa
Sometimes as you look upon some art and ponder, you begin to really see the piece. As you stare and think, you see a depth and the absolute brilliance of the artist.
Absolute Friends is not like that.

I kept looking for meaning and a reason to continue. Alas, the only reason for rejoicing is that I had completed it. Convinced that I had missed it, I reread the beginning, ending and major portions of the middle. The only thing I missed was time reading another book.

To its defense, there was just e
John LeCarre is one of the best writers of espionage thrillers out there, although his reputation was made in the 1970s and 80s with the Cold War motif. In Absolute Friends, LeCarre seeks to shore up his creditials in the post-Cold War world, and for the most part he does well. This is a great work of modern espionage drama.

Starting in the 1960s in West Germany among the idealistic youth movement of the time, two friends, Mundy and Sasha, a British and a German student, exchange ideas and becom
Rakesh Mehra
As usual, a riveting read from the master. However, just a few background details seem not so well researched.
- A fat Madrasi ayah wouldn’t know Punjabi, especially if she came “up North with independence” and would definitely not know English rhymes. She would also be a rarity, since there was virtually no migration of Muslims from Madras (now the state of Tamil Nadu) to Pakistan at the time of the country’s partition in 1947 - and one assumes she was Muslim since she taught Koran to Ted.
- Rani
I felt this was an impressive novel. This feels like quite a step up from your typical spy novel. le Carre has a wonderful cadence to his prose and ability to pack a lot into a sentence. I found his use of shifts in time -flashbacks, etc. to be a little disconcerting but of course they serve a purpose. Most of the novel is written in a breezy and delightful thoroughly British style. The characters are well fleshed out and believable. However as the novel proceeds, the tone gets less breezy and a ...more
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Espionage Aficion...: Le Carre's "Absolute Friends" 4 15 Jan 22, 2015 06:05PM  
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John le Carré, the pseudonym of David John Moore Cornwell (born 19 October 1931 in Poole, Dorset, England), is an English author of espionage novels. Le Carré has resided in St Buryan, Cornwall, Great Britain, for more than 40 years, where he owns a mile of cliff close to Land's End.

See also: John le Carré - Wikipedia
More about John le Carré...
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