A posthumous novel by John Le Carré, “The Spy Who Loved Books” is a daring spy novel and a meditation on political and family legacies.
It is the universe of the master of the spy novel, John Le Carré, that Sophie Creuz invites us to rediscover with the posthumous novel “The spy who loved books”. A novel that Her Majesty’s former spy may have deemed too critical of her former spy bosses to publish during her lifetime. But as we learn from an afterword written by one of his sons, also a writer, he did not want this novel to remain in a drawer.
John Le Carré is the author of the bestseller “The Spy who came in from the cold”. He himself was recruited at the university and exercised briefly during the Cold War, before being unmasked by a double agent who caused the death of many foreigners, working for the British services. His last novels returned to this case of conscience, in particular in “The legacy of spies”.
And this “Spy who loved books” also reopens the old file of a sleeper agent who seems to have forgotten to be a cold civil servant, without qualms, insensitive to collateral and above all human damage, operations of geopolitics.
In the past, the secret services undoubtedly tinkered, but had at their head cultivated people, sometimes idealistic. Today “the circus” as John Le Carré calls it, is run by overeducated, arrogant, rude, and rushed forty-somethings who deal with difficult cases behind a screen.
Now, the spy in question here loves books. Et unlike reports and tweets, he finds all human complexity in literature. He venerates the work of WE Sebald, a Bavarian author born in 1944, exiled in England where he was a teacher. Because our spy knows how difficult family loyalties can be when they overlap heavy political legacies and historical indignities.
What we read here is therefore not a simple investigation by the secret services into one of their own, but the sensitive portrait of a sincere British civil servant, who wonders whether the financial interests and connections between Intelligence and political politics at short term, added to the unpreparedness and the lack of culture and greatness of the establishment of his country, were worth putting lives in danger.
John le Carré died in 2020 at the age of 89 but he had all his head, his heart and his verve. With him – and this is what made him a great author – the spy novel is doubled, you have understood, by a mediation on love, on parenthood, on self-construction, on the lie, on friendship, but also in the background on the dilapidation of the public service, the devotion of low wage earners, often emigrants, more useful to the Nation and its population than Downing Street pretends.
Under piquant dialogues, portraits brushed with passion, the secrets are revealed with tact and delicacy.
John Le Carré praises everything in which he believed, and in which his character also believes, and takes charge, to repair as best he can, at his level, the consequences of British strategy in the Middle East, in Iraq more specifically.
Although the novel takes place by the sea, in Norfolk, where a former trader from the City, disgusted by his profession – after having made his fortune there – opens a tiny bookstore, without knowing anything about it, and sees an old gentleman enter of a rare courtesy – our old spy – who offers his help to make it the sanctuary of the nectar of world literature. Is it a cover or a passion devoid of any other interest, we let you find out.
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“The Spy Who Loved Books”, a daring spy novel from the master of the genre, a meditation on political and family legacies
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