A Private Spy: The Letters of John le Carré 1945-2020

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A Private Spy: The Letters of John le Carré 1945-2020

A Private Spy: The Letters of John le Carré 1945-2020

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We are experiencing delays with deliveries to many countries, but in most cases local services have now resumed. The latter suggested to le Carré that the two men collaborate on a script together, “perhaps a musical. The letters to his mentor and Smiley prototype Vivian Green are more revealing, as are his scornful asides on Kim Philby.

Later, though, he takes in his surroundings with the eyes of a spy and the insight of a novelist: “This is how they tried to win, Jerry thought: from inside sound-proof rooms, through smoked glass, using machines at arm’s length. The New Yorker may earn a portion of sales from products that are purchased through our site as part of our Affiliate Partnerships with retailers. In his early letters he seemed to have been probing the boundaries of their relations, testing the limits of what was acceptable. There are beautiful and moving letters to le Carre's stepmother about his relationship with his fraudster father.

She had been delighted by the progressive views he expressed, especially his disparagement of empire. When he came back to England, he told her, “the ghosts were waiting for me a bit—too much past that won’t go away, so many sins, all that. The most revealing letter, though, might be le Carré’s gently discouraging reply, in 1988, to a ten-year-old boy who wanted advice on how to become a spy.

This irony recurs in his letters: Le Carré repeatedly offers withering indictments of the powers he served, but he never seems to cast them aside.This enthralling collection letters - written to readers, publishers, film-makers and actors, politicians and public figures - reveals the playfully intelligent and unfailingly eloquent man behind the penname. He enclosed a more “affectionate” portrait by his older brother Tony, an unpublished essay titled “My Brother’s Father and Mine,” in which Ronnie is described as “a picaresque, charming, maddening man. When everyone is out for themselves and keeping secrets from one another, it becomes impossible to spot the traitor. His letters are full of admiration for people whose work meant putting themselves in harm’s way to serve others, such as Janet Lee Stevens, an American journalist who covered the lives of Palestinian refugees living in Lebanon. The clothes I wore, the food I ate and the books I read were bought with the money this had provided.

To le Carré, the real tragedy was the wreckage of human lives all around: “The problem of the Cold War is that, as Auden once wrote, we haunt a ruined century. It is accepted by you that Daunt Books has no control over additional charges in relation to customs clearance. Yet it wasn’t all bad, or not as bad as the time le Carré had spent at school: “There is astonishing liberalism in many ways—not the least of these being the number of boys who are so terribly bad at games that Sherborne would have had a fit, and whose lives remain unimpaired by this handicap. His father, Ronnie Cornwell, was an inveterate con man, in and out of money and trouble with the law.

In the autumn of 1993, author David John Moore Cornwell, known to the world by his pen name, John le Carré, received a fan letter from a reader in Los Angeles, who had been prompted to read The Night Manager after seeing him talking about it on television.

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