Jan 10, 08
Read in October, 2007
Oft billed as the "anti-Ian Flemming," John Le Carre inverts all the typical trappings of the spy-thriller: in place of the handsome, gadget-happy g-man we're given a sacked, middle-aged cuckold whose attention to detail and intellectual virtuosity quietly derail Moscow Central's invisible vise-grip on the Circus.
Note that "quietly," as the tension here is all cerebral, the violence and spectacle off-stage, and the stakes themselves, though no less dire than the fate of the world, are entirely ideological.
The Cold War assurance of mutual destruction provides the British imagination with a field of conflict perfectly tailored to the restriction of overt or "hot" action (Smiley's also impotent), which is then carefully sublimated through elaborately mannered, gentlemanly games of intelligence and subterfuge.
Himself a former blown secret agent for MI6, Le Carre writes with all the authority and flare one would expect from a once genuine article, though without all the lurid technical gun-fetishism of a Tom Clancy or Ian Flemming. A great deal of the prose is composed of contextually self-evident turns of phrase that seems to have bucked a number of readers at this site--while not jargon, this writing style suggests a world behind the world more interested in demonstrating, rather than explaining, itself.