A Perfect Spy
That's not to say that it's a better spy novel than Tinker Tailor or The Spy Who Came in From the Cold; it's not. If spycraft is what you crave, it's here, but it definitely takes a back seat to everything else. In A Perfect Spy, Le Carre's writing rises easily to the level of the 20th Century's greatest authors.
After the death of his father, Magnus Pym, debo...more
The narrative time from the first action of the novel to its last may be something less than a month, but the lives it recounts cover some sixty complicated years. As the "perfect spy" ironically and compulsively, angrily and lovingly, pens a series of biograp...more
Magnus Pym, intelligence agent for the British, has gone to London after the news of his father Rick's death. He is supposed to return to Vienna, where he and his wife Mary are currently stationed, but instead he sends his luggage on ho...more
One of le Carré's non-Smiley novels, A Perfect Spy is far more about the psychological pressures which create a secret agent than about the mechanics of spying itself. It is part of le Carré's move away from writing genre thrillers that really began with Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.
Magnus Pym is quite a senior operational officer, who has been running networks of British spies in Czechoslovakia for many years. After the death of his father Ric...more
The story revolves around the life and times of Britis...more
I read A Perfect Spy (originally published in 1986) a half-dozen times in my teens and twenties but never considered Pym a traitor until I read it again in my forties.
What changed? Well certainly not the text. More likely, I grew from attempting to be a cosmopolitan to being an ardent patriot.
We are patriots because we are afraid to be cosmopolitan, cosmopolitan because we are afraid to be patriots.No doubt turning forty and having a third-dozen children changes one's focus.
I remember taking A P...more
The subtlety and nuance of the characterisation by Le Carre here is something to marvel at; 600 pages and you could pull an example of his mastery from any paragraph on any page, the pitch is that perfect throughout. The protagonist, Magnus Pym, is an incredible creation, utterly empty and containing multitudes at the same time. The supporting cast are just as memorable, realer than life. Rick Pym, Magnus's con-man...more
Some people - my agent for one - rate this le Carre's best book. It is certainly his most personal, in particular, the resemblance between Rick Pym and le Carre's own father has been commented on many times. I loved it. I admire in particular his skill at holding interest, keeping up the pace with a book that is really a reflection on the past - Magnus looking back. The structure cleverly keeps the present and past in parallel - and, somehow, le Carre is able to shift the narrative element that...more
There were a few halting times when I had trouble following the origins of the protagonist's (not hero, precisely) story. Much of the prime meat of his story was rushed in the final 75 pages or so. But the languag...more
When you have read about the book, and s...more
My question at the end was this: how did he become who he was? First thoug...more
As with Le Carre’s...more
I won't give away too much of the plot besides what is in the blurb -- Magnus Pym is a missing spy, presumed defected.The plotline alternates between his Firm pursuers/longtime friends, and Pym himself, who is writing a biographical novel about his upbringing with his con-man father. In this way we have 2 converging plotlines: Pym's, which starts as a child and works toward present-day; and the pursuers, s...more