Simon Mcleish's Reviews > A Most Wanted Man

A Most Wanted Man by John le Carré
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really liked it
bookshelves: owned

Originally published on my blog here in August 2009.

Issa is, or claims to be, many contradictory people. A beggar sleeping on the Hamburg streets with thousands of euros in the purse around his neck. A Chechen imprisoned and tortured by the Russians, but with a KGB officer father. A devout Muslim, who doesn't seem to know the difference between Sunni and Shi'ite, or how to show proper reverence to a copy of the Koran. Son of an important (if shady) customer of a small bank in Hamburg to make contact with the current head of Brue Frères, but not to claim the fortune which is his inheritance. An illegal immigrant, wanted by the Swedish police, who makes himself conspicuous to the German intelligence services on arrival in the country rather than lying low, with the result that he is immediately suspected of being a terrorist.

There are two people on his side. Annabel Richter, a young radical lawyer (in the pre-9/11 sense of "radical"), is assigned to Issa's case by Sanctuary, the refugee charity she works for. And Tommy Brue, respectable proprietor of the family bank. Neither entirely trusts Issa, but both feel the need to help him as much as they can.

Le Carré's last three novels (The Constant Gardener, The Mission Song, and this) share a common theme. They all seek to expose something of his view of the institutional immorality of the West's dealings with the rest of the world. Whether or not you agree with him (and to what extent), he makes what he has to say interesting and gripping. And it is sincere: this is a novel byt someone very angry. What angers him here is the American attitude to terrorist suspects. As one of the characters says at the end, Le Carré's point is that "American justice", which the US makes so much of, has become "extraordinary rendition".

I personally would still hope that not every institution is as morally bankrupt as Le Carré portrays them to be. But surely no one can deny that there is something in Le Carré's position, and that the author's anger is shared by many people from outside the privileged Western nations.

Themes which go back further in Le Carré's work are seen here, too. The troubled relationships between father an son, which are important in many of his novels, are seen here in both Brue and Issa's feelings for their dead parents. Issa also exemplifies the author's interest in the untrustworthiness of people's public personas. The tone of world weariness in the prose is common to many, perhaps all, of his novels.

While A Most Wanted Man was enjoyable on its own, I do find that with Le Carré a little goes a long way. If I read several of his novels in quick succession, the depressing tone which is so much a trademark becomes tiring. So I would tend to rate his novels higher when I read them sporadically.
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Reading Progress

Started Reading
August 30, 2009 – Finished Reading
March 12, 2013 – Shelved
March 12, 2013 – Shelved as: owned

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