Cruel 2020 has claimed one more of our best in its dying days. John le Carré, the writer extraordinaire of espionage novels and a great humanist, died yesterday at the age of 89, of pneumonia at the Royal Cornwall Hospital.
His longtime agent Jonny Geller described him as “an undisputed giant of English literature. He defined the cold war era and fearlessly spoke truth to power in the decades that followed … I have lost a mentor, an inspiration and most importantly, a friend. We will not see his like again.”
David John Moore Cornwell, better known by his pen name John le Carré, Cornwell was born on 19 October 1931 in Poole, Dorset, England. During the 1950s and 1960s, he worked for both the Security Service (MI5) and the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6).
Following the success of his 3rd novel, he left MI6 to become a full-time author. His books include The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (1963), The Looking Glass War (1965), Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (1974), Smiley's People (1979), The Little Drummer Girl (1983), The Night Manager (1993), The Tailor of Panama (1996), The Constant Gardener (2001), A Most Wanted Man (2008) and Our Kind of Traitor (2010), all of which have been adapted for film or television.
His literary career spanned six decades; he was 88 when his 25th novel, Agent Running in the Field, was released last year.
Check out his wiki page for more info — en.wikipedia.org/…, although I presume most of you have read and enjoyed his books and watched his film adaptations.
Here are some notable tributes and obituaries.
Some tidbits of info.
- David Cornwell used the pseudonym "John le Carré" (le Carré is French for "the square") — because Foreign Office officers were forbidden to publish in their own names.
- In 1964, David’s career as an intelligence officer came to an end as the result of the betrayal of British agents' covers to the KGB by Kim Philby, the infamous British double agent (one of the Cambridge Five). He left the service to work as a full-time novelist.
- 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.
- The decision to learn a foreign language is to me an act of friendship. It is indeed a holding out of the hand. It’s not just a route to negotiation. It’s also to get to know you better, to draw closer to you and your culture, your social manners and your way of thinking. And the decision to teach a foreign language is an act of commitment, generosity and mediation.
- America has entered one of its periods of historical madness, but this is the worst I can remember: worse than McCarthyism, worse than the Bay of Pigs and in the long term potentially more disastrous than the Vietnam War and beyond anything Osama bin Laden could have hoped for in his nastiest dreams. (after 9/11).
- Our power knows no limits, yet we cannot find food for a starving child, or a home for a refugee. Our knowledge is without measure and we build the weapons that will destroy us. We live on the edge of ourselves, terrified of the darkness within. We have harmed, corrupted and ruined, we have made mistakes and deceived
- One day somebody will explain to me why it is that, at a time when science has never been wiser, or the truth more stark, or human knowledge more available, populists and liars are in such pressing demand
- Politicians love chaos. Don't ever think otherwise. It gives them authority, and it gives them power. It gives them profile. The idea that they'll fix it for you.
- I think the greatest single enemy is the misuse of information, the perversion of truth in the hands of terribly skillful people.
- By repetition, each lie becomes an irreversible fact upon which other lies are constructed.
- As our Governments spin, lie and lose their credibility, the electorate simply shrugs and looks the other way.
- All men are born free: just not for long
- The fact that you can only do a little is no excuse for doing nothing.
The full mini-series from 1979 starring Alec Guinness -
Trailer of “The spy who came in from the cold” starring Richard Burton.
The world has lost a literary giant and a great humanist, whose insights illuminated the world of espionage, politics, our penchant for war and the frailty of human beings to lies and manipulation.
What are your memories of John le Carré? How many of his books do you remember? Did his writings influence you and your life in any way? Which of his books is your favorite?