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Old 24th Dec 2008, 9:55   #1
Ang
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Default Book 57: THE SPY WHO CAME IN FROM THE COLD by John Le Carré

In the interests of completeness, I am starting this thread although I gave up on the book after about 100 pages. I found it had no human warmth whatsoever and was too detailed for my taste. I think it is the latter that put me off though, as I'm sure I've read and enjoyed books lacking in warmth in the past! (I have probably read and enjoyed this book in the past, though I don't remember it! I used to love spy thrillers.)

I see Beth gave it , yet there are some previous readers in Palimplists with . What did people like about it?
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Old 26th Dec 2008, 20:41   #2
Lizzy Siddal
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Default Re: Book 57: THE SPY WHO CAME IN FROM THE COLD - John Le Carré

I rate this . It's a while since I read it but I loved the very things you hate! Le Carre's nihilism oozes from every sentence in this classic Cold War spy thriller which deservedly won the CWA Dagger of Daggers a couple of years ago.

And now that the Berlin Wall is no more, the uselessness of the sacrifices made during the Cold War is underlined. Of course, readers in 1962, the year after the overnight appearance of the Berlin Wall, came to the novel with a completely different worldview.
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Old 31st Dec 2008, 15:54   #3
Beth
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Default Re: Book 57: THE SPY WHO CAME IN FROM THE COLD - John Le Carré

I think I would have enjoyed it more if I'd understood a bit more about the workings of the East German and British spy networks. In fact, there was a word used so frequently in the novel, and which I can't remember . It could have been 'Abteilung' and I didn't understand what it was referring to. I enjoyed the novel for the first half, and was hopeful of learning more about Alec, especially his feelings for Liz and his inner workings. But the emotional impact of the story, revealed late, seemed too tangled in the twists and turns and trying to figure out what was happening. I could use help with this one. M., Lizzy, Help!
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Old 6th Jan 2009, 21:08   #4
lurgee
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Default Re: Book 57: THE SPY WHO CAME IN FROM THE COLD - John Le Carré

I read TSWCIFTC a few years ago. It was the first Le Carre I'd read and it impressed me. It is a fairly simple narrative and there aren't any big surprises or twists, though it might have seemed more formally startling to a 1960s mainstream audience. The callousness of the controllers on either side impressed me. When Leamas fianlly encounters a controlling agent on the EWastern Bloc side he describes him as "The man for whom the means and the end were the same" - someone utterly ruithless and without compunction or hesitation in the pursuit of his goal. The moral hear t of the novel is Leamas's realisation that Smiley et al are equally without scruple:

Quote:
“There's only one law in this game," Leamas retorted. "Mundt is their man; he gives them what they need. That's easy enough to understand, isn't it? Leninism--the expediency of temporary alliances ..."
(The above courtesy of Wikipedia - my memory isn't that good.)

The implication - not made clear, but certainly there - is that the Western powers are as bad as the Soviet bloc and the distinction we like to see between them and the Soviets is false.

It's a very belak little book. I like the straightforward way it is written and the unrelentling grimness. Unleke many, Le Carre seems to be getting better and angrier as he ages. I wouldn't be surprised to see his work out last that of Graham Greene.
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Old 7th Jan 2009, 1:25   #5
Beth
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Default Re: Book 57: THE SPY WHO CAME IN FROM THE COLD - John Le Carré

Quote:
Originally Posted by lurgee View Post
It is a fairly simple narrative and there aren't any big surprises or twists, though it might have seemed more formally startling to a 1960s mainstream audience.
Argh, one man's straight narrative is another's Berlin wall

Quote:
Originally Posted by lurgee View Post
The moral heart of the novel is Leamas's realisation that Smiley et al are equally without scruple...

The implication - not made clear, but certainly there - is that the Western powers are as bad as the Soviet bloc and the distinction we like to see between them and the Soviets is false.
...and see, this is what I didn't get until right at the very end. I didn't suspect, even after the visits Smiley et al made to Liz. Trapped in the Western bloc of thought, aye was. Brainwashed!
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Old 21st Mar 2011, 15:05   #6
ono no komachi
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Default Re: Book 57: THE SPY WHO CAME IN FROM THE COLD by John Le Carré

I've just finished The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, and enjoyed it, and yet I'm leaning towards a rather than a rating for it, perhaps for the bleakness that permeates it; and yet that bleakness does serve to highlight the few moments of humanity and emotion. I even found the scene where Leamas punches the shopkeeper, explicitly staged as it was, something of a relief from the grinding greyness of his existence at that point.

Maybe my laziness as a reader meant I didn't appreciate the writing as well as I should have. There's a subtle (or maybe obvious to those less dimwitted than I) contrast between those like Leamas and Smiley, who it seems do relate to those who work for them as human beings, with regard for their professional and person qualities; as compared to their Lords and Masters, who seem removed from any semblance of human feeling. There's an eloquent sentence about Control's social skills, something like 'he observed social niceties whilst at the same time seeming to find them ridiculous', and I saw this as an illustration that Control relates to those beneath him simply as pieces in the game - any courtesy he shows is not out of consideration of them as people, it's simply observation of form.

As it's so plot-focused, maybe I raced through it a little too quickly to appreciate the finer subtleties. Oddly, despite the lukewarm rating, I think it's one I may return to in the future.
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Old 21st Mar 2011, 22:11   #7
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Default Re: Book 57: THE SPY WHO CAME IN FROM THE COLD by John Le Carré

The later Smiley books tend to be less bleak, but none are a laugh a minute.

See here.
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