Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John Le Carre
New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 1974. First American Edition. Stated. Hardcover. 355 pages ; 22 cm. $7.95 dust jacket with a few tears around the corners edge. Lean to spine. Owner name on flyleaf. Foxing to front and rear endpapers. Pages are unmarked. Binding is firm.
JOHN LE CARRE'S incomparable gift for conveying the shadowed and labyrinthine world of international espionage is once more brilliantly demonstrated in this, his first novel of spying and suspense since A Small Town in Germany.
LONDON. It has become evident beyond all question that somewhere at the very highest levels of British Intelligence there stands a double agent—a "mole" implanted deep in its fabric, perhaps decades ago, by Moscow Centre. And it is evident as well that he can only be one of five men—brilliant, complicated men, proven in action, men who have worked closely together through the years, respecting each other, depending on each other, despite abrasive clashes of temperament and painful differences of caste and sensibility, despite the central imperative of their profession to trust no one...
It is George Smiley, one of the five, perhaps the most brilliant and complicated of them all, who is tapped to dig out the mole and destroy him. "You'll take the job, clean the stables?" The man from Whitehall says to him. "Go backwards, go forwards, do whatever is necessary?" And so Smiley embarks on his blind night walk, retracing path after path into his own past—its aliases, covers, sleights of hand-burrowing into the dust of unresolved episodes, among them the "mad" twilight of his old chief, Control; the two Czech bullets in Jim Prideaux's back; the dissensions that have torn apart the Circus (as Intelligence Headquarters is ambivalently called); the vagaries of his own so beautiful, so well-connected wife...
Little by little a mirror-house of illusion gives way, a mirage is dissipated. Almost casually, as the novel moves towards its climactic revelation, le Carre tosses up a total vision of a secret world—a world (to use its own fraternal language) of lamplighters and hoods, scalp-hunters and pavement artists, a world where men are turned, burned, or bought for stock: a world of moles, legmen, listeners, and watchers. The characters, like the theme, are not imposed on us, but are discovered, almost by chance, at the centre of an extraordinary skein which is unravelled for the reader with a careful delicacy—a skein which Smiley plays out a little, tugs in a little, until suddenly we are close at his heels, longing to hurry him through the tangle in search of the last clever, hidden knot.
And in Smiley himself we meet the rarest breed of literary hero, one for whom, from the start, the reader feels personally responsible. Reluctantly in harness, by turns compassionate and ruthless, a vague patriot, scornful of isms and estranged from institutional thought, a master of the black arts of deceit yet, in love, the incurable victim of self-deception-George Smiley is a loner with a profound sense of membership in mankind. His perilous journey into truth becomes our own.
JOHN LE CARRE was born in 1931. After attending the universities of Berne and of Oxford, he taught at Eton and spent five years in the British Foreign Service. The Spy Who Came In from the Cold, his third book, secured him a worldwide reputation. He divides his time between England and the Continent.
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