Tuesday 24 April 2018

Declan Lynch: Smiley, last of the great intellectuals

Unlike Le Carre's hero, our corporate leaders are dull, boring and stupid, writes Declan Lynch

AT some sort of a sale of work, I picked up this old hardback edition of The Spy Who Came in From the Cold, by John Le Carre. In the style of the early Sixties, the front cover features an endorsement by the publisher Victor Gollancz: "This is, in our view, a novel of the first order -- a terrible novel of great actuality and high political import. It is also immensely thrilling."

He's been around a long time, has Le Carre. He was writing about espionage back in the days when "a terrible novel" was a good one. And he is back in business in a big way with the movie version of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, which is not just a superb entertainment, it seems to have struck a major chord in the public consciousness. And a few minor ones, no doubt.

I won't tell you what happens -- indeed, to a certain extent I can't tell you what happens, because it's too complicated. But I can offer a view as to what it all means, this buzz about the Cold War and the men who ran it, these men who are forever in the mind's eye strolling in some forest in the depths of winter, receiving a little box of microfilm from an enemy agent who is going over to the other side, or wanting at least to give that impression.

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