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The Pigeon Tunnel: Stories from My Life

4.05  ·  Rating details ·  4,581 ratings  ·  706 reviews
"Out of the secret world I once knew, I have tried to make a theatre for the larger worlds we inhabit. First comes the imagining, then the search for reality. Then back to the imagining, and to the desk where I'm sitting now."

From his years serving in British Intelligence during the Cold War, to a career as a writer that took him from war-torn Cambodia to Beirut on the cu
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Paperback, 310 pages
Published September 8th 2016 by Viking
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Average rating 4.05  · 
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Will Byrnes
Sep 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I’m a liar…born to lying, bred to it, trained to it by an industry that lies for a living, practiced in it as a novelist. As a maker of fictions, I invent versions of myself, never the real thing, if it exists.

…We all reinvent our pasts…but writers are in a class of their own. Even when they know the truth, it’s never enough for them.
John le Carré spent several years as an intelligence officer, with both MI6 and MI5. When his third novel, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, became an interna
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Jeffrey Keeten
Sep 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: spies, memoirs
”These are true stories told from memory--to which you are entitled to ask, what is truth, and what is memory to a creative writer in what we may delicately call the evening of his life? To the lawyer, truth is facets unadorned. Whether such facts are ever findable is another matter. To the creative writer, fact is raw material, not his taskmaster but his instrument, and his job is to make it sing. Real truth lies, if anywhere, not in facts, but in nuance.”

 photo John20le20Carre_zps4hjkv0an.jpg

I’ve had many discussions over the
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Manuel Antão
Sep 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2016, favorites
If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.


"It strikes me now that everything that happened later in life was the consequence of that one impulsive adolescent decision to get out of England by the fastest available route and embrace the German muse as a substitute mother.”

In "The Pigeon Tunnel: Stories from My Life" by John Le Carré


Schiller’s “Die Deutsche Muse” epitomizes what I call the German Soul (taken from my own copy of the “Schiller Sämmtliche Werke” :

Kein Augustisch
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Trish
These stories are pure enjoyment. David Cornwell makes up for all those years he refused interviews, answering questions we never got to ask. If he doesn’t quite “bare all,” within are things we may have felt strongly about at the time, but now excite us just for the pleasure of hearing a different voice tell us indeed, we may have been right all along.

The written word is fine, but I am going to urge readers to consider the audio of this memoir which is read by the author himself. He is quite g
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Darwin8u
Sep 16, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016
"if you were reporting on human pain, you had a duty to share it"
- John le Carré, quoting a dictum of Graham Greene, in 'The Pigeon Tunnel"

description

First, a disclosure, I was given this book by Viking Books. These types of offers I typically refuse. I don't like feeling under obligation to review or even read a book just because it was given to me. I might do it for friends, but even then, I am VERY picky about what I read. I have thousands of unread books and thousands of others I that are on my radar t
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Diane
This is an absolutely delightful memoir from the great John le Carré.

The author's real name is David Cornwell, and this memoir is a loose collection of stories from his experience, including everything from his research trips to Russia to his interactions with Hollywood. There are also tales of tense interactions with other spies who are angry about his books, and of the awkwardness that has occurred when government officials assume le Carré is a master spy, rather than just a bestselling author
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Emma
Sep 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audible
Considering I've never read a word of le Carre, it might well be thought a surprising choice to read his autobiography. But I am well acquainted with his works from 10 years in bookselling and from watching the excellently done recent BBC production of The Night Manager. Besides, stories from someone who was both writer and spy...who could resist?

In not resisting, I heard (in the Audible version read by the author himself) one of the most interesting set of tales one could ever hope to. I say t
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HBalikov
Jul 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
David Cornwell, writing as John le Carré, is one of the most celebrated authors of espionage novels. This is essentially a memoir and I listened to the audio book, which was read by le Carré.

I understand that there is some controversy about this book. Some say that the author has undercut Adam Sisman who had written a biography (with le Carré’s assistance) less than a year previous to this book. Some say that le Carré deals with “the truth” about events in less than a rigorous manner. He uses t
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Lorna
Jul 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Pigeon Tunnel: Stories from My Life was a delightful, entertaining and very personal memoir written by one of my favorite spy novelists, David Cornwell, best known by his pen name of John le Carre. As you settle in to immerse yourself and listen to one of our greatest raconteurs, it becomes clear that the life of David Cornwell as a British spy for Britain's MI5 and MI6 was just as exciting as the spies in the novels written by le Carre. It is also very interesting to see how his mystery nov ...more
Quirkyreader
Jul 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Even though I still have five more books to go in Le Carre’s back catalogue, I decided to read the memoir. And yes there are spoilers in it. But that is beside the point.

I was able to read about what parts of his life inspired his stories. So while I was reading the memoir I was like this part inspired this and this part inspired that. And it gave me a greater insight to Le Carre’s “shadowy” past.

Now I am anticipating the rest of his novels even more.
John Farebrother
Jul 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I was given this book together with Le Carre's latest novel, the long-awaited sequel to The Spy Who Came In from the Cold. I have been a fan of Le Carre's writing for many years, and the said sequel delivered again. But I am in two minds about the author's autobiographical work - as I feared before opening it, familiarity can engender disappointment, if not contempt. The book certainly explains the genesis of many of his characters, incidents, and dilemmas - but that much was evident anyway. Per ...more
Jay Green
Sep 22, 2016 rated it really liked it
Elegantly recounted meta-capers (i.e. capers about capers, anecdotes about plots, etc.). Would have liked to have seen more beans spilled, but Le Carré is too much of a gentleman for that, suggesting that he still retains something of the ethos that rendered him suitable for recruitment all those years ago. Fun, and a little mischievous, although not sufficiently so for my tastes.
Bettie
BOTW

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b07tzrwc

Episode 1: One time at a party Denis Healey says: 'You're a communist spy, that what you are'. Plus a memorable lunch with Alec Guinness to discuss his character George Smiley.

2/5: Yvette Pierpaoli, a business woman who once worked out of Phnom Penn. We discover how her character and actions went towards creating Tessa in the novel The Constant Gardener.

3/5: At sixteen he was sent by his father Ronnie to Paris, to meet with Count Mario da Bernaschina a
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Christine
Le Carre’s book is more a collection of essays that may or may not be true (at least according to his disclaimer). The essays range from the very personal (about his father) to the funny (about a credit card) to the historic (about Philby). There are stories about the development of his novels for movies – including stories about Burton and Guinness. There is a funny bit about Robert Redford.
But Le Carre’s boo isn’t just name dropping, or to be more exact, it’s not about name dropping at all. I
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Ammar
Sep 11, 2016 rated it really liked it
The pigeon Tunnel by John Le Carre is not a full autobiography or a memoir. This book is a collection of stories that range from his childhood to this age of terror.

There is a full biography by John that was released last year. This book could be a sort of a companion to it.

There are no top secrets here, no scandals or spies. Just vignettes of a long lived life, anecdotes, stories and recollection: some are true and some are hazy.

An enjoyable read that any Le Caree fan would enjoy immensely.
Jean
This autobiography/memoir by John Le Carré is a series of short stories told from memory. He also states in the book the following: “I’m a liar…born to lying, bred to it, trained to it by an industry that lies for a living, practiced in it as a novelist. As a maker of fictions, I invent versions of myself.”

Le Carré tells of being inducted into MI5, as a junior officer in 1956, at the age of 25. He moved to MI6 in 1961 and left the service at age 33. Le Carré tells of friendships with poets, poli
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Steve
Apr 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
About midway through David Cornwell’s (John le Carré) introduction to his fine autobiography The Pigeon Tunnel , the author, now in his 80s, reflects on the nature of memory itself:

These are true stories told from memory – to which you are entitled to ask, what is truth, and what is memory to the creative writer in what we may delicately call the evening of his life? To a lawyer, truth is facts unadorned. Whether such facts are ever findable is another matter. To a creative writer, fact is raw m
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Laura
Sep 15, 2016 rated it liked it
Recommended to Laura by: Bettie
From BBC Radio 4 - Book of the Week:
John le Carre with five recollections from his writing life, abridged by Katrin Williams:

1/5: One time at a party Denis Healey says: 'You're a communist spy, that what you are'. Plus a memorable lunch with Alec Guinness to discuss his character George Smiley.

2/5: There was Yvette Pierpaoli, a business woman who once worked out of Phnom Penn. We discover how her character and actions went towards creating Tessa in the novel The Constant Gardener.

3/5: At sixteen
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Jaksen
Dec 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing
An intricate look into the writing, imagination, and mind of one of the world's great living writers. Of spy novels, and more.

Using his expertise and connections, gained when still a young man, while working in the secret service of Great Britain, le Carre crafted an entire series of novels which are among the finest ever written. Yes, I said it. And he's still working at it. And though he insists he was only a lower-level 'spy' and was never really involved in anything other than utilitarian sp
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Martin
Jun 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Comments based on advanced copy. I've only read The Honorable Schoolboy and just watched the BBC version of The Night Manager. This literary memoir is brilliant. The author's life reads like his fiction and the candor and transperancy is exceptional. I suspect I will be on a LeCarre binge for the immediate future. This is the best 2016 release I've read thus far this year. ...more
Martin
May 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is the first book I've read by Le Carre. A wonderful memoir. I plan on reading more of his books. ...more
Peter Tillman
Abandoned about 1/3 in (p. 111). OK but just not very interesting, to my surprise. Hell with it.

Remember him for his fiction, is my advice.
Phrodrick
Oct 28, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
John Le Carre’s (real name, David Cornwall) The Pigeon Tunnel is a collection of his version of his memories of growing up, becoming a novelist and facing himself at an advanced age. . Up front and with some regularity he makes clear that given his age, 85 at the time of publication, and a lifetime spent in various forms of fiction, the contents are more often a matter of how he remembers events rather than absolute truths. There is always something of a twinkle when he says these things such th ...more
Brandon Petry
Having only read five or six of Le Carre books and being a big fan of the adapted television movies and films I thought I'd be ready for this book. And while I certainly enjoyed it, part of me (the completists/slight OCD part of me) wishes I had read more of his novels before taking part in this autobiography (it's more a loose collection of various memories and stories each chapter reading more like an essay or story).

But the man, at 84 years old, is one hell of a writer. So that even when I wa
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Boadicea
Dec 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Charming & amusing short stories often referencing his longer novels, describing the origins of some of their characters.
I loved the 4 chapters detailing his research into the Israeli -Palestinian conflict but was amazed how exhaustive it was, taking 2 years, but the book which eventuated, The Little Drummer Girl, is superb IMHO. That he had endured the frantic car-chase that Charlie has on the way to her first meeting with The Captain (Tayeh) in Beirut does not surprise me as it was full of sus
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Calzean
This is one entertaining memoir. Full of people, events, places and humour. David Cornwell (John le Carre) tells of his early life where he is a minor spy, his early luck to get published and the many people who want to meet him or he gets to meet due to his books - Yasser Arafat, Margaret Thatcher, various Presidents, Richard Burton, terrorists, murderers, bankers, diplomats and film directors. The book also shows his affinity with German language and people, his frustration with the self-fulfi ...more
Left Coast Justin
Nov 03, 2016 rated it liked it
Pretty much what I expected...a very well-written book about people and what motivates them. Three stars is not intended to suggest that I didn't enjoy this book -- I certainly did -- but it will not stand among his best works, simply given the limitations of telling what he cheerfully admits is half-truth rather than letting his imagination take over.

An average book for Le Carre, a towering achievement compared to other memoirs.
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Liz Fenwick
Jan 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I listened to this book narrated by the author. The narration is brilliant...as if you were lucky enough to be sitting with a master story teller. Each chapter is a exploration...of his past...memories and ultimately what is truth and what is a lie. I love the way he speaks of his characters...how real they are to him. I can’t recommend this audio book highly enough.
Byron
Jul 31, 2020 rated it did not like it
DNF

I hate not finishing a book, but, this was lost on me. Not because I did not understand the content, but because it would have been helpful if I was a fan of his books.
Dayle (the literary llama)
Oct 26, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
RATING: ★★★★☆ / 4 fascinating stars!

REVIEW: I grew up with thrillers, mysteries, and espionage novels. They were, and still are, some of my mother's favorite genres. So it makes perfect sense that I would be interested in a memoir from what of literature's kings of spies. John le Carre's list of titles would probably surprise many. I was certainly unaware of a couple that were popular names to me only through cinematic means, completely unaware that the book it was based on was a le Carre. But p
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6,890 followers
John le Carré, the pseudonym of David John Moore Cornwell (born 19 October 1931 in Poole, Dorset, England), was an English author of espionage novels. Le Carré had resided in St Buryan, Cornwall, Great Britain, for more than 40 years, where he owned a mile of cliff close to Land's End. ...more

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“These are true stories told from memory – to which you are entitled to ask, what is truth, and what is memory to a creative writer in what we may delicately call the evening of his life? To the lawyer, truth is facts unadorned. Whether such facts are ever findable is another matter. To the creative writer, fact is raw material, not his taskmaster but his instrument, and his job is to make it sing. Real truth lies, if anywhere, not in facts, but in nuance.” 3 likes
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