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His younger half-brother, Rupert Cornwell , is a former Washington bureau chief for the newspaper The Independent. When his father died in , Cornwell paid for a memorial funeral service but did not attend it.

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From to , he studied foreign languages at the University of Bern in Switzerland. In , he joined the Intelligence Corps of the British Army garrisoned in Austria, working as a German language interrogator of people who crossed the Iron Curtain to the West. In , he returned to England to study at Lincoln College , Oxford , where he worked covertly for the British Security Service, MI5 , spying on far-left groups for information about possible Soviet agents.

When his father was declared bankrupt in , Cornwell left Oxford to teach at Millfield Preparatory School ; [8] however, a year later he returned to Oxford, and graduated in with a first class degree in modern languages. He ran agents, conducted interrogations, tapped telephone lines and effected break-ins.

Cornwell has identified Lord Clanmorris as one of two models for George Smiley , the spymaster of the Circus , the other being Vivian H. The friendship continued after Green's move to Lincoln College, where he tutored Cornwell. In , Cornwell transferred to MI6 , the foreign-intelligence service, and worked under the cover of Second Secretary at the British Embassy at Bonn ; he was later transferred to Hamburg as a political consul. In , The Times ranked him 22nd on its list of "The 50 greatest British writers since ".

In , he won the Goethe Medal , a yearly prize given by the Goethe Institute. Both feature a retired spy, George Smiley , investigating a death: first, the apparent suicide of a suspected communist; second, a murder at a boy's public school. Although Call for the Dead evolves into an espionage story, Smiley's motives are more personal than political. Much of the conflict is internal, rather than external and visible.

A departure from the use of the Cold War as a backdrop in this era is the spy novel The Little Drummer Girl , which is set against the Israeli—Palestinian conflict. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy , The Honourable Schoolboy , and Smiley's People The Karla trilogy brought Smiley back as the central figure in a sprawling espionage saga depicting his efforts first to root out a mole in the Circus and then entrap his Soviet rival and counterpart, code named Karla.

The spy novels of John le Carré: balancing ethics and politics

The trilogy was originally meant to be a long-running series that would find Smiley dispatching agents after Karla all around the world. A Perfect Spy , which chronicles the boyhood moral education of Magnus Pym and how it leads to his becoming a spy, is the author's most autobiographical espionage novel, reflecting the boy's very close relationship with his con-man father.

Biographer Lynndianne Beene describes the novelist's own father, Ronnie Cornwell, as "an epic con man of little education, immense charm, extravagant tastes, but no social values". His first completely post-Cold War novel, The Night Manager , deals with drug and arms smuggling in the murky world of Latin America drug lords, shady Caribbean banking entities, and western officials who look the other way. He records a number of incidents in his autobiographical The Pigeon Tunnel. Stories from My Life from his period as a diplomat; including escorting six visiting German parliamentarians to a London brothel [30] and translating at a meeting between a senior German politician and Harold Macmillan.

I think of all things that were happening across Europe in the s, in Spain, in Japan, obviously in Germany. Fascism is up and running in Poland and Hungary. Two of Cornwell's sons, Simon and Stephen, founded the production company The Ink Factory in to produce adaptations of his works, as well as other productions.

The library hosted a public display of these and other items to mark World Book Day in March The conversation involved several topics: his writing career generally and processes adopted for writing specifically about his latest book, Our Kind of Traitor , involving Russia and its current global influences, financial and political ; his SIS career, discussing why — both personally and more generally — one did such a job then, as compared to now; and how the earlier fight against communism had now moved to the hugely negative effects of certain aspects of excessive capitalism.

During the interview he said that it would be his last UK television interview. While reticent about his exact reasons, those he was willing to cite were that of slight self-loathing which he considered most people feel , a distaste for showing off he felt that writing necessarily involved a lot of this anyway and an unwillingness to breach what he felt was the necessarily solitary nature of the writer's work.

He was also wary of wasting writing time and dissipating his talent in social success, having seen this happen to many talented writers, to what he felt was the detriment of their later work. He told the interviewer, Amy Goodman , "This is the last book about which I intend to give interviews. That isn't because I'm in any sense retiring. I've found that, actually, I've said everything I really want to say, outside my books. I would just like—I'm in wonderful shape. I'm entering my eightieth year.

I just want to devote myself entirely to writing and not to this particular art form of conversation. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. British novelist and spy. Alison Sharp m. Valerie Eustace m. Retrieved 28 May The Independent. Archived from the original on 10 September British novelist and spy. Alison Sharp m. Valerie Eustace m. Retrieved 28 May The Independent. Archived from the original on 10 September Retrieved 2 February Retrieved 4 March The Daily Telegraph.

Retrieved 5 April The Observer. The New Yorker. Retrieved 4 August Retrieved 3 September Paris Review. Summer Times Literary Supplement. Eden, Richard ed. The Guardian. University of Bath. Retrieved 18 February University of Oxford. Archived from the original on 26 April Retrieved 26 July The Times.


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London: Times Newspapers. Retrieved 24 July London Review of Books. Forward to The Looking Glass War. British Council. Archived from the original on 4 June Introduction to Smiley's People. Penguin Books Reprint edition. Archived from the original on 18 July Channel 4 News. The Pigeon Tunnel. Stories from My Life.


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  6. The Economist. Retrieved 30 October The Sunday Times. Archived from the original on 4 December Retrieved 8 February The Library of Congress. The Future of the NHS. Peril is imminent. An Iraqi terrorist mastermind named Saladin has begun to carry out attacks across Europe the Allon novels. The agency is galvanized. Along with the father or mentor, the mole is the key function of the spy story. The mole offers the spy story its mise en abyme: their every act is at once real and false, an embodied double negative; they threaten at every moment to double or triple themselves.

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    One only finds Philby, Burgess, Maclean, or Ames after they have done their work. What the spy does is reconstruct the damage that has been done and stop the bleeding. The open secret of so many spy novels is how little can happen within them, aside from the constant succession of interrogations, a type scene that is retrospective. The spy novel gives us the drama of research files gathered, traces read , a forward momentum that is also a backward pull. But the irreversibility of time hangs over the espionage operation.

    Cause and effect do not ramify outward, in horizontal networks; they move from big, those cold brains in a small room, to little, in a vertical cascade. Nothing less, and also nothing more complicated, than the need to maintain US hegemony over China. The great realist novel diffuses, the spy novel concentrates. And that cause has a momentum that can be resisted, but not reversed. The successful espionage operation disables a terrorist plot, disrupts an infiltration, fends off disaster for another day.

    No wonder the spy is so often a closet pedant, like Smiley or Allon in love with the past, conservative in temperament if not always in politics.

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    The spy despairs. The big picture is there to be seen, but for agency men, it offers no consolation. If the British became identified with spy fiction in the 20th century, it is not because, as some have it, of a native tendency toward deception and secrecy. A postulate, then: the spy novel, that peculiar 20th-century genre with roots as far back as early 19th-century reaction, has as its ideological dominant a pessimistic, fatalistic nationalism.

    Instead of rapid change, the glacial melt of national power. Kim must choose, although he manages for the most part to keep deferring his choice. The later spy novel, on the other hand, merges the two.

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    The traditional spy is both actor and contemplative, and when they are drawn into action it is unwillingly. The ethos of this historical condition, in Western terms, is a muted stoicism, and the spy novel, of all our narrative genres, might be our best guide to it. The Victorians had the novel of religious doubt; we have the spy novel, our story of forlorn service to a vanishing ideal. The agency may in fact be the villain in most postwar spy stories: it tries to eliminate Jason Bourne, it traduces its employees like Milo Weaver or David Morgan, it cannot be trusted by George Smiley.

    But one hates most where one has loved.