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John le Carré: The Spy Who Came in From the Cold

Discussion in 'Crime Fiction, Thrillers, & Mysteries' started by JGL, Apr 8, 2013.

  1. JGL

    JGL Member

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    I know it's a classic, but I hadn't gotten around to it until a couple of days ago. I had the luck to get gifted Call for the Dead as a Christmas present too, so the events of that book which impacted Spy I had fresh in my mind. Overall, I'd say it was excellent. That moment you have when you realize you're experiencing something incredible for the first time? That happened. I haven't dug into the Karla Triology yet. I suppose I'm worried it won't be as good coming right off something as good Spy.
     
  2. Meadow337

    Meadow337 Former Moderator

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    Gosh it has been many years since I read this. *makes mental note to seek it out and reread*. Actually gosh I somehow have missed three other of his books which were adapted into brilliant movies namely 'The Russia House', 'The Constant Gardener' and 'The Tailor of Panama'. My library is lacking!!
     
  3. pontalba

    pontalba Well-Known Member

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    There was a recent remake of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. The original series that was made years ago with Alec Guinness was absolutely fantastic. That covers much of the Karla series.
    From the reviews I read the remake was not as complete.....well, in a couple of hours it couldn't be, of course. Watch the Guinness version if you are able.
     
  4. JGL

    JGL Member

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    Actually, it was seeing the film that sort spurred me into Le Care. Previously it had only been on the to-do list, but then I stumbled across the movie and I enjoyed it, particularly Gary Oldman's performance as George Smiley. Overall, I thought it was above average, but I haven't read the book. I'll see if I can find the Guinness version on Netflix. I know Amazon has The Spy Who Came in From the Cold. I love Richard Burton, too. I'll have to talk the girlfriend into watching it with me.

    Edit: Grammar. I need to proof read a little better. I could have really used it with that first post. It could have been far more concise too.
     
  5. Meadow337

    Meadow337 Former Moderator

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    The thing with Le Carrè is that his writing is just brilliant, so unless you have some kind of disagreement with the topic of, or the opinions in the book, you can be sure that the prose itself will be good.
     
  6. pontalba

    pontalba Well-Known Member

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    Absolutely! I haven't read all of his work.....yet. But I have read enough to know it's worth.
     
  7. janebbooks

    janebbooks Member

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    Sorry, pontalba. The Karla trilogy has not been completely covered. Here's the score of TV/Film for the trilogy. THE HONORABLE SCHOOLBOY - 0; TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY - 2; SMILEY"S PEOPLE - 1. The Anglo-French film company that produced the 2011 film of TINKER, TAILOR with Gary Oldman...is considering doing the first of the trilogy.
    Jane
     
  8. pontalba

    pontalba Well-Known Member

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    Thanks janebbooks.....granted I do get those mixed up, but I posted above that TTSS covered part of the Karla books. Is that correct? As mentioned somewhere, I haven't read all of the books yet. Must rectify. :)

    Plus it's great to hear that more will be filmed!
     
  9. Peder

    Peder Well-Known Member

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    Welcome to the band of LeCarré admirers! I read them all a long time ago, as they came out more or less. I never knew there was a trilogy, because there are so many more having to do with Smiley and the ColdWar/Berlin settings for the stories. To me the ending of the Karla trilogy was the capstone of a lot of good reading, much more than just that contained in the trilogy. So I'm almost inclined to suggest holding the Trilogy off for last. And don't worry whether the others will be as good as Spy. If Spy was fantastic -- and it was, as the breakthrough into a new conception of the espionage game -- then the rest are absolutely sublimely enormously better than Spy. At least, in my opinion. Looking back on Spy, it now looks elementary to me.

    A propos reading in sequence, does anyone have a reading sequence for all the Smiley/Berlin stories -- not a publication sequence but a sequence which moves the story along in more or less chronological order (ending with Karla)? Maybe that's a dumb question, but I read them out of order and have always been confused. About their sequence, that is, but never about their excellence.
     
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  10. janebbooks

    janebbooks Member

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    Yes, TTSS was well covered in the six hour television miniseries (1979/80) starring Alec Guiness. Altho the 2011 film was only two hours long...it covered the part of hunting for the mole among four suspects in Circus (MI-6)...not all the operations in the book. Someone commented the other day that Oldman's award-nominated performance was a homage to Guiness...and that is very plausible. I liked the ending of the 2011 film...with Smiley "sitting on the throne" of Circus as its leader. Julio Ingleisus sings "La Mer"...a snappy caberet song as we view the remaining "in good standing" Circus agents.
    (I am reminding of a Henry V at the end of a local performance of the play wearing a bright red suit...)

    Jane
     
  11. janebbooks

    janebbooks Member

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    Here are the order of George Smiley books per STOP YOU'RE KILLING ME.
    Apparently the Karla trilogy does not end the Smiley chronicle. And I thought THE HONOURABLE SCHOOLBOY was the first of the Karla...it's the second re SYKM.

    George Smiley, a British Intelligence agent and scholar, based in London, England:

    Call for the Dead1 (1961)
    APA: The Deadly Affair (1966)
    Finalist 1961 Gold Dagger Award
    A Murder of Quality1 (1962)
    Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy2 (1974)
    Finalist 1974 Gold Dagger Award
    The Honourable Schoolboy2 (1977)
    1977 Gold Dagger Award
    Smiley’s People2 (1980)
    The Secret Pilgrim (1991)
    1. Included in The Incongruous Spy: Two Novels of Suspense (1964) [omnibus]
    2. Included in The Quest for Karla (1982) [omnibus]
     
  12. janebbooks

    janebbooks Member

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    Peder, You will note that the above Le Carre books are London based featuring George Smiley.

    Perhaps when you talk about Berlin books...you are thinking of THE SPY WHO CAME IN FROM THE COLD.

    Here's the Amazon description of that book....

    It would be an international crime to reveal too much of the jeweled clockwork plot of Le Carré's first masterpiece, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold. But we are at liberty to disclose that Graham Greene called it the "finest spy story ever written," and that the taut tale concerns Alec Leamas, a British agent in early Cold War Berlin. Leamas is responsible for keeping the double agents under his care undercover and alive, but East Germans start killing them, so he gets called back to London by Control, his spy master. Yet instead of giving Leamas the boot, Control gives him a scary assignment: play the part of a disgraced agent, a sodden failure everybody whispers about. Control sends him back out into the cold--deep into Communist territory to checkmate the bad-guy spies on the other side. The political chessboard is black and white, but in human terms the vicinity of the Berlin Wall is a moral no-man's land, a gray abyss patrolled by pawns.
    Le Carré beats most spy writers for two reasons. First, he knows what he's talking about, since he raced around working for British Intelligence while the Wall went up. He's familiar with spycraft's fascinations, but also with the fact that it leaves ideals shaken and emotions stirred. Second, his literary tone has deep autobiographical roots. Spying is about betrayal, and Le Carré was abandoned by his mother and betrayed by his father, a notorious con man. (They figure heavily in his novels Single & Single and A Perfect Spy.) In a world of lies, Le Carré writes the bitter truth: it's every man for himself. And may the best mask win. --Tim Appelo
     
  13. Peder

    Peder Well-Known Member

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    Um, yes. That is the book I thought this thread was about and the book I thought I was referring to. Maybe I was more confused than I thought I was. I don't follow. But no matter. I've enjoyed the books I've read.
     
  14. JGL

    JGL Member

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    I agree. I was pleasantly surprised at how good the prose was. Often, when I read things written in the 50's and 60's, I find the writing itself to be long winded and wordy. Don't get me wrong, I'm all about using the right word in exactly the right place, but there is something to be said for conciseness. Often, when I'm reading older works, I get the impression the writer thought he was being paid by the word.

    On the same note, another older writer who I recently read was Fredrick Forysthe. The Day of the Jackal and The Odyessa File were both awesome. I wouldn't say either was as good as Spy, but I really enjoyed them. Particuarly the writing. That whole straight telegraphic newswire, I really dug it.


    It was. It just went south to the film industry quickly, largely because of how awesome it seems the flicks are. Thanks for the welcome, and the question pertaining to the order. I may just suck it up and grab the The Quest for Karla.
     
  15. Meadow337

    Meadow337 Former Moderator

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    I think there was just a different style of writing. If you think the 50's and 60's stuff is wordy don't try reading anything earlier. It seems as though as we become more advanced we use fewer words. I think I read something somewhere on that very topic actually.

    It's sad I think.
     
  16. JGL

    JGL Member

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    Too late. I majored in Literature for undergrad.

    I don't dislike it all the time, and I'll be the first to admit that wordy prose can be beautiful and elegant. The Great Gatsby, for instance, is without a doubt my favorite American novel. Simultaneously, some of Hemmingway's work can be awkward when he doesn't pull off the minimalist style. I guess what I was trying to say was that sometimes I get the feeling the writer was paid by the word, and I hate it when that suspicion starts to creep in.

    If you could find the thread or article, I'd be very interested in reading it. Prose development is fascinating. I'm inclined to agree that as the english language develops it does appear to be simplifying, both in terms of vocabulary and syntax. Still, there are some gems out there. Jonathan Safran Foer's work comes to mind as an example of someone who writes well without going minimalist. That guy has some energy.
     
  17. Meadow337

    Meadow337 Former Moderator

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    I didn't find the article I read. It was ages ago. I have a good memory for odd facts and things I have read, but not WHERE I read them!

    I did find this list of 'lost words' though:

    http://phrontistery.info/clw.html
     
  18. Peder

    Peder Well-Known Member

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    Early on, some stories were indeed published in installments in the newspapers of their time, paid by the word so to speak.

    Separately, if you enjoy mysteries you may someday find your way to Wilkie Collins, the supposed father of the craft, and to the claimed earliest mysteries written -- Woman in White, and The Moonstone. Their style might absolutely drive you up the wall, as they did me.

    You've been warned. :D
     
  19. pontalba

    pontalba Well-Known Member

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    I can well imagine that Oldman would be excellent, and I'm not surprised he emulated Guinness. I suppose I'll end up seeing the new version, if only for that. And of course comparison's sake.

    Just as an aside...Oldman was fantastic in Romeo is Bleeding. I think that's the correct title.
     
  20. JGL

    JGL Member

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    Leon: The Professional too. Off the top of my head, I can't remember a performance of his I didn't like. He's one of the best character actors out there.

    ...and I was proud of myself earlier for using the word autodidactic correctly. That's an incredible link. It wasted entirely too much of my day.

    I have no idea why I didn't make this connection. I knew novels were serialized back in the day, but for some reason it never occurred to me to make that jump.

    On a different note, thanks for the consistent responses guys. I'm relatively new around here. It's good to find a community of like minded readers.
     

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