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The Mission Song

3.36  ·  Rating details ·  4,212 Ratings  ·  496 Reviews
Abandoned by both his Irish father and Congolese mother, Bruno Salvador has long looked for someone to guide his life. He has found it in Mr. Anderson of British Intelligence.Bruno's African upbringing, and fluency in numerous African languages, has made him a top interpreter in London, useful to businesses, hospitals, diplomats-and spies. Working for Anderson in a clandes ...more
Hardcover, 339 pages
Published September 19th 2006 by Little, Brown and Company (first published September 2006)
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Charles Pergiel This has also happened to me, though not with this book. I suspect that while you are constructing the story in your mind, your mind is dragging up…moreThis has also happened to me, though not with this book. I suspect that while you are constructing the story in your mind, your mind is dragging up and / or creating scenes that fit the story. Either that or the CIA has chosen to erase that particular movie from existence. Or maybe some drone in the Google hive mind has taken it upon themselves to eliminate all trace of that movie, and with the fleeting attention span of the public, who would notice except for maybe a few cranks on some book forum.(less)

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Jun 29, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2015
"Luck's just another word for destiny ... either you make your own or you're screwed."
- John le Carré , The Mission Song


My basic take on 'The Mission Song' is similar to Alvy's old joke in Annie Hall:

"um... two elderly women are at a Catskill mountain resort, and one of 'em says, "Boy, the food at this place is really terrible." The other one says, "Yeah, I know; and such small portions."

Well, that's essentially how I feel about this book. Actually, wait no, I don't think 'The Mission Song' was
Nov 15, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: zebras, British secret agents
This is one of le Carré's post-Cold War novels, and the subject is Africa. Like all of his spy thrillers, the tone is seedy, cynical, and heartbreaking, as a decent man has his idealism shattered and sees his best intentions trampled on and turned to shit.

"Salvo" is the son of a British missionary and a Congolese woman. He's grown up in England, and now he's a fully Anglocized African... or so he thinks. He makes a good living as a translator, having a talent for languages and knowing a bunch of
Jul 29, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone
Shelves: novel, africa, espionage
I found this to be one of the most successful of LeCarre's post-Cold War novels. His sense of outrage over conditions in Africa mirrors those of The Constant Gardener. The characters are compelling, and utterly believable.

As I was reading this book, I jotted down a list of phrases that caught my fancy. LeCarre's writing style is one of the best of any modern writer. Rather than review the plot of the novel, I thought I would share some of the language of the book. Here is my list:

"...[he] rakes
Jul 14, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
((الترجمة التي قتلت المترجم))

القصة – الرواية هي العشرون للكاتب الشهير (جون ليكارييه) وبالمناسبة فهو انجليزي بعكس ما قد يشي به اسمه للأذن العربية من وقع موسيقي فرنسي ، الرواية تدور حول أفريقيا الوسطى المظلومة من العالم كله وما يحاك لها من دسائس ومؤامرات تبدأ من أهلها ولا تنتهي في بلاد المؤلف ...
بطل الرواية هو مترجم لطيف ألا أن الترجمة الصادرة من الدار الناشرة للغة العربية قد قتلت المؤلف بعدم وجود قراءة ثانية ، فالقارئ العربي لا يكره شيئا كما يكره أن يقرأ عبارة "هل لديك شيء من الكلتان للبيع ، قال
John Farebrother
Jul 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A slight departure from the usual Le Carré variation on a theme, but nevertheless a chip off the old block. Anyone interested in languages and interpreting, and in the eastern DRC, will find a lot to like about this book (as will any vintage Le Carré aficionado). I fall into all three categories, and so unsurprisingly I have read this book three times, and enjoyed it thoroughly each time. It is extremely well researched, for a context so far off the beaten track for most westerners. But the conc ...more
I'm a fan of Le Carré, particularly the angrily politicised version we've seen in the last few novels, but I wonder how much longer he'll be able to use his "innocent against the corrupt system" structure without it becoming tired and predictable. To be honest, I think it just has; and that's one of the problems with this novel. The narrator/hero is an interpreter and Le Carré gets a lot of mileage out of the idea of truth, and its manipulation, but inevitably the action, or a large chunk of it, ...more
Danielle Lafrance
Aug 20, 2017 rated it liked it
Le narrateur, bavard à l'extrême, sans doute à cause de la vivacité d'expression de son métier d'interprète, raconte ses tribulations d'espion amateur dans un monde hautement habile à déjouer les tractations inattendues et contraires aux enjeux.
Mar 29, 2011 rated it liked it
It's no secret that the state of African politics is corrupt and dirty. Still reeling from decades of colonization by Western nations, riven by tribal loyalties, brutally ruled by an ever-changing assortment of strongman rulers who can temporarily unite a people before collapsing into the ever-familiar patterns of megalomania and constructing their own cult of personality, the continent seems like the nearly perfect place to set a tale of intrigue and betrayal of the sort that John le Carre has ...more
May 27, 2008 rated it really liked it
Aun no descubro cómo es para poner los libros en el Shelf porque este aun lo estoy LEYENDO.
Bueno, descubrí este libro en el aeropuerto de Nairobi en noviembre de 2006 y fue realmente una sensación fuerte. Venía de estar trabajando en la ciudad donde se narra parte de este libro, Bukavu, en la provincia de Sud Kivu en la República Democrática del Congo.
Leandro me había enviado un link cuando estaba allí, porque había descubierto que este señor había estado poco tiempo antes en el mismo hotel dond
Oct 24, 2010 rated it really liked it
Bruno Salvador, the main character and narrative voice of this novel, is a mixed race British citizen born in the Congo, but now living in England. His superior skills as an interpreter bring him to the attention of British Intelligence, who call on him to attend a secret meeting between Congolese warlords and the representatives of European financiers. The meeting unfolds like a stud poker tournament, each player weighing his hand against the cards he can see and the actions of the other player ...more
Dec 04, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Bruno Salvadore, Salvo to his friends, is a man of amazing linguistic capabilities. Speaking a whole slew of African languages, plus several European ones, he is hired to interpret at a secret summit supposedly aimed at bringing peace to war-torn Congo. Unfortunately, he finds out that the men who are supposedly committed to bringing peace are really only in it to make as much money off the chaos of the situation in the Congo as possible. This is not at all a surprise among the more jaded of us. ...more
Apr 18, 2016 rated it liked it
I stole this one off of my husband's shelves. When I finished reading it and told him about the issues I had with the book, he laughed and said, "I guess you haven't read much John le Carré then." So that doesn't bode well for me and any future le Carré reads...

The story started off well for me, but it quickly went south. For one thing, I know next to nothing about the Congo and its various political issues, so I probably missed a lot of the subtleties of the plot. But the biggest issue for me w
Aug 19, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: espionage, africa
A well plotted, engaging, and wonderfully populated thriller that explores the at times self-defeating goals and complexities of African democracies, while underscoring the backhanded practices of Western agencies to undermine individuals, and nations, who stand in their way.

Le Carré's "The Mission Song," seems better crafted, clearer, and more engaging in many ways than the near-perfect "Constant Gardener." This is a brilliant novel of espionage, love, and sacrifice that has something to say, t
Jun 16, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone
Recommended to Geoffrey by: saw on book shelf
Shelves: thrillers
I enjoyed this departure of sorts by the master of English espionage. The central character, Bruno Salvador, displayed incredible naivete in his role as master interpreter for Her Majesty's Government. The story reveals truths about the world of global politics and nations that most may not know, nor want to. In this case, the realities of Africa are brought to light, though not a new subject. Well-done Mr. LeCarre.
Nov 09, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 11, 2017 rated it liked it
THE MISSION SONG. (2006). John LeCarre. ***.
This was a different type of spy novel from LeCarre. The protagonist was an African-born cross of an Irish missionary and a Congolese woman who grew up in a melting pot of languages. By the time he reached adulthood, he was fully familiar with a large number of the basic languages and several dialects of African descent. He is later recruited by British Intelligence to act as a translator/interpreter at an increasing number of sensitive meetings – the
Lisabet Sarai
Jul 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
I've always felt that le Carre was a brilliant writer, often unfairly dismissed as a genre hack. The Mission Song shows off his versatility. Like most of his novels, The Mission Song highlights the moral ambiguities of the modern world. However, the central character Bruno Salvador, a half Irish/half Congolese foundling with a gift for languages, is far more innocent and idealistic than most of le Carre's heroes. Another delicious difference is Bruno's passionate connection with the Congolese nu ...more
Kelly ...
Apr 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mysteries, fiction
I bought this book after reading a review of David Oyelowo's performance. The listener described his narration so beautifully, and raved about it so joyously that I bought the book just to hear his performance. And, I am glad that I ddid. His narration was masterful, full of heart and nuanced. Each voice was distinct and resonant. I absolutely loved this book more than I would have done without his voice. This book is worth listening to just to hear Oyelowo's acting chops.
David Highton
Sep 05, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is at its core a polemic against global corporate exploitation in Africa, in this case the Eastern Congo, and the cynical use of tribal differences to subvert peace and political stability. Written around the naive but determined interpreter, Bruno Salvador, there are also some comic undertones to this story, with Le Carre's writing at its usual high standards. Very well worth a read.
luke dennison
A tale of two halves

I am a great fan if john le carre's and initially I was disappointed. The book started well and I enjoyed the quirkiness of the main character. However, the main bulk of the first half is set in one place with the same characters and takes a long time to set the book up for its finale. This section of the book is fine but didn't engage me enough. However, the final third, really picks up the pace and things slot nicely in to place. Overall, this is worth a read but is by no m
Aug 12, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobooks
The narration by David Oyelowo was fantastic, but the story didn't do much for me.
Aug 20, 2008 rated it it was amazing
In The Mission Song John le Carré re-visits the world of espionage that we associate with his writing. He is a master of the clandestine, the deniable, the re-definable. Bruno Salvador is a freelance linguist. His parentage is complex, his origins confused, but his skills beyond question. By virtue of an upbringing that had many influences, he develops the ability to absorb languages. Having lived in francophone Africa and then England, he is fluent in both English and French plus an encyclopaed ...more
May 25, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: pulp
I picked up this book from a friend's shelf, because I've never read any books by John le Carré and I've always been interested. Unfortunately I was rather disappointed. I should say, however, that at least some of my disappointment was probably a result of incorrect expectations. The rest of the review is a spoiler, so proceed with caution if you want to read this book some day!

(view spoiler)
Mar 01, 2011 rated it it was ok
I found this book frustrating. On the one hand, Carre is taking dead aim with outrage at sub-Saharan African politics, back-room dealings and the general indifference/greed of the remaining global nation-state coterie who appear willing to wait out short breaks in the constant bloodbath to run in and scoop out a chunk of mineral wealth. His quivering outrage is clear. He reiterates it over and over and over, even though the best and brightest part is this almost chess-like philosophical and ling ...more
Oct 25, 2008 rated it liked it
The beginning and the end of this novel are superb. Le Carre at his best, mixing a thriller plot with humor and biting social criticism. The middle is a confusing mess of African characters, causes, and conspiracies—it’s hard to follow and sometimes tedious.
Le Carre creates a marvelous character, Bruno Salvador (“Salvo”) who’s the son of an bog Irish priest who served his whole life in the Congo and a Congolese woman who was sent back to her village after the birth. After his father’s death, by
Prashanth Nuggehalli Srinivas
Dec 04, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Prashanth by: Fahdi Dkhimi
Shelves: fiction
Superb novel, but perhaps needs at least some understanding of global politicking and/or African politics and neo-colonial narratives - at least if the reader is informed a bit on these, s/he will love the book. Intense and like many of le carres, fast-paced. Yet differs from most of his other spy thrillers in the fact that it delves much more into few characters and their personal lives.

It reads almost like a biography of Bruno Salvador, half Congolese boy (other half Irish) who "somehow" ends
Nov 22, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
the book follows a few days of a Congo born son of a missionary and Congolese women. Salvo is a top interpreter who occasionally works for the British governments clandestine services. Just as he is reaches a person cross roads in his life, he falls in love with a women from his homeland while his marriage to an English women is falling apart, he is offered a job to translate for a private entity that is working at arms length for the British government.
John Le Carre is one of my favorites of c
David J.
Oct 30, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Seasoned Le Carré fans only
At one level, this is vintage Le Carré. At another, it falls flat on its face. Le Carré is a great writer, getting on a bit now, and he attempts to do a first-person narrative inside the skin of a mixed-race (Caucasian/African) 28-year-old man. It doesn't work - there are far too many references to things the narrator cannot have been familiar with. My other gripe about this one is that, unusually compared with Le Carré at his peak (anywhere from Tinker, Tailor to The Night Manager), he fails to ...more
Jan 10, 2008 rated it really liked it
John LeCarre is a "popular" writer, but also a very skilled one who makes good writing seem effortless. I find it relaxing to read his books because I have a certain level of trust. I can let my guard down without waiting for the sentence when the writing becomes labored or contrived. I think LeCarre is one of those writers who will be most appreciated as "serious" after he is gone.

Like The Constant Gardener, this is a book about post-colonial influence in Africa and the impulse in outsiders to
Apr 22, 2008 rated it really liked it
This is a thoughtful book by Le Carre, set in England, but about East Africa. A young half black interpretor, raised around Lake Kivu in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, finds himself in the middle of a conference set up between the British secret service and representatives of several African factions who want to overthrow the corrupt government of his former homeland. He savors languages like a gourmet savors flavors. During the conference he listens in electronically ...more
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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...