Perry Whitford's Reviews > Smiley's People

Smiley's People by John le Carré
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Apr 26, 12

Recommended for: Spy fans and historians both.
Read from November 29 to 30, 2011, read count: 1

Despite the title, its Smiley himself that is very much centre stage in this last installment of a masterful trilogy. The pudgy, anonymous super spy is wiping his glasses or signaling his meekness and obsession on virtually every page here, its a virtuoso performance, like Ali, floating like a portly butterfly and stinging like a bee.

Through disreputable East European agents the (again) retired Smiley spots an opportunity to close his account with Karla, but he has no brief and has to work outside of the British institutions that have defined and restrained him throughout his career.
Smiley is a wonderfully flawed character, a Poirot without the vanities, a Holmes without the excesses, and no where does Le Carre clarify that more concertedly than here, giving us smiley the strategist, the field man, the interrogator, the cuckold - and the spy catcher supreme.

Was it really like this, the Cold War? This is so much more intoxicating than Fleming's flat, fantasist nonsense. In the 1970s the Russians are still there, its the British that no longer are, which is something that these books reflect so acutely. In post-World War II Britain maybe an ex-spy novelist was in the best place to define the status of my dwindling nationhood as it looks outwood, personified in the mild, brilliant, deferent, decaying George Smiley.

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