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Absolute Friends

3.59  ·  Rating details ·  4,961 Ratings  ·  419 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 December 2003)
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Kenneth I would pass on "Absolute Friends". I rate it as "average".
Go with" Tinker, Tailor, "The Spy Who Came in From the Cold", or the more modern"Mission…more
I would pass on "Absolute Friends". I rate it as "average".
Go with" Tinker, Tailor, "The Spy Who Came in From the Cold", or the more modern"Mission Song". You have "Constant Gardener"- acclaimed as one of his very best post cold war novels.(less)
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Joni Dee
Apr 13, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you follow my reviews you know by now that i'm a le Carré fanatic ... In Absolute Friends Le Carré returns to the same formula that has worked in so many of his books, with one distinctive above all - a perfect spy. In this excellent spy thriller, we learn about the relationship between Ted and Sasha (operator-agent as well as friends) through their years old relationship as students, through their cordial correspondence, and at the end through current events.

Le Carré is demonstrating the Ame
Dec 05, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
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
Susan Emmet
May 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 31, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction

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
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Feb 19, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
May 23, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Yvann S
May 18, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
"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
Jan 16, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Aug 25, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
David Highton
Aug 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Another demonstration of how good a writer John Le Carre is - a narrative which spans forty years from the late Sixties onwards. The novel features Ted, a Pakistan-born Englishman who moves though a minor public school and a year at Oxford to join with student anarchist Sasha during a gap year in Berlin. In a later phase, Cold War espionage provides their continued relationship, and after a gap of 15 years they meet up again in a confusing alliance against US imperialism.
David Lowther
Aug 05, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Absolute Friends is one of Le Carré's best 21st. Century novels. Spanning a life time from the blood soaked streets of India and Pakistan after partition to the freezing Cold War before settling into the horrors of the war against terror, the narrative follows the fortunes and misfortunes of one Ted Mundy, Oxford drop-out, 60s anarchist, unqualified schoolteacher, British Council guide and spy. Mundy is a man you can't help liking, for all his shortcomings, yet you feel throughout that it won't ...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
Oct 01, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 01, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Absolutely heartbreaking. Le Carre at his best--on a par with The Honourable Schoolboy, Little Drummer Girl, and Perfect Spy. Set in Berlin of the '60s, East Germany just before the fall of the Wall, and in the unified Germany just after the invasion of Iraq. Ted Mundy and Sasha, the friends of the title, find out that the rules of the game, post-Cold War, have irrevocably changed.
Dexter Meyers
Jun 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
John LeCarre could absolutely be my friend
Feb 17, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's no secret that John le Carré is a master storyteller that manages to use measured yet laser-focused writing to describe story lines that would be treated in a much more hyperbolic manner by other authors. He continually manages to make the exciting mundane, and by doing so to make the mundane even more exciting and believable. This wasn't my favorite of his novels, but it was completely gripping and fascinating as it covered different territories and times than others of his that I have rea ...more
Aug 28, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I rate this novel as "average" considering the body of work accomplished by this master.
The story friend of the rekindled friendship between the two main characters held my interest, but the whiny politics of the two was rather grating.
I found the end came crashing down hard, but I wasn't complaining as that meant that the book was over.
Edwin Lang

Absolute Friends is an espionage tale of two friends, Sasha, charismatic and impressionable, and Mundy a phlegmatic and an uprooted not-quite-complete Englishman. I did not find the story too well told, with much of it superficially about their friendship during post-War and the Cold War years ending abruptly and inconclusively after 200 or so pages with the fall of the Berlin Wall. Absolute Friends lacked the thrill that one associates with spies, and throughout there is a feeling that Mundy an
Jun 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
For those unfamiliar with Le Carre, do not expect a happy ending!! He has a bleak view of the worlds of politics, espionage and internationl relations. Having said that, Le Carre is a master of characterisation and a highly skilled practitioner of plot. "Absolute Friends" is one of his best novels in terms of both.

The book revolves around two characters, Ted Mundy, a rather bumbling, apparently shambolic Britisher who, in the course of the book, becomes an long term, highly effective spy, and Sa
Gerald Sinstadt
John Le Carré didn't invent the espionage novel - Eric Ambler was not least among his predecessors - but he undeniably lifted it to a new intelligent level. From The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, he went on to develop an engaging series of variations on the theme.

By 2016, with Berlin wall log ago demolished and the cold war behind us, it might be thought that the genre was played out. Absolute Friends is evidence that, in the hands of the master, much remains possible.

Edward Mundy, the son of a
Mar 12, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 10, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 16, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2010
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
May 03, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Nick Duretta
May 13, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 05, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
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
Jul 22, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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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
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“There will be no war, but in the pursuit of principle no stone will be left standing. ” 17 likes
“With people you see in them what you already know.” 8 likes
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