John Le Carr S Classic Novels Deftly Navigate Readers Through The Intricate Shadow Worlds Of International Espionage With Unsurpassed Skill And Knowledge, And Have Earned Him Unprecedented Worldwide Acclaim THE LOOKING GLASS WAR Once Upon A Time The Distinction Had Been Clear The Circus Handled All Things Political While The Department Dealt With Matters Military But Over The Years, Power Shifted And The Circus Elbowed The Department Out Now, Suddenly, The Department Has A Job On Its Hands Evidence Suggests Soviet Missiles Are Being Positioned Close To The German Border Vital Film Is Missing And A Courier Is Dead Lacking Active Agents, But Possessed Of An Outdated Mandate To Proceed, The Department Has To Find An Old Hand To Prove Its Mettle Fred Leiser, German Speaking Pole Turned Englishman Once A Qualified Radio Operator, Now Involved In The Motor Trade Must Be Called Back To The Colors And Sent East While the Smiley trilogy is rightly feted as one of the greatest Fiction trilogies of the 20th Century, this Novel is my personal favourite of Le Carre s formidable and rather intimidating catalogue Strictly meant for lovers of serious Fiction,this is easily the bleakest book that I have ever read in my life I remember taking a shower at midnight after I was done with it to cleanse myself A hard, bitter,relentlessly cynical and disturbingly realistic peek at the sordid workings of an Espionage network Le Carre begins in his customary languid style, setting the tone and mood before the plot begins to tighten almost imperceptibly culminating in a claustrophobic and an almost schizophrenic climax that leaves you numb, stunned and pondering over the astonishing capacity of the human mind to weave webs around itself A small piece of seemingly important information comes into the hands of The Department , an almost defunct Brit Espionage network that is gasping for breath and hanging on by the skin of its teeth The Circus Le Carre buffs will be familiar with the term starts to flex its muscles and what ensues is a painstakingly precise Espionage procedural and an intense struggle for establishing individual identity which will inevitably be brushed aside with ruthless efficiency keeping the larger interests in mind Le Carre admitted that this was his most realistic,nihilistic and hard hitting book and suggested that the stiflingly bleak tone may have been too much for even most hardened readers He was damn right Do not pay heed to to the average ratings here and follow the herd With all due respect,they don t count for cow crap IMO.Likely to be enjoyed and savoured by discerning,mature readers who can separate the wheat from the chaff. I cannot recall the exact age I was when I read this minimalist piece perfectly executed by the talented le Carr , but whatever is was and around 15 years old sounds about right it served as effective an eye opener to reality as a set of clamps fixed upon what were previously orbs dreaming away behind sealed lids At that time, my fictional intake was comprised of a not inconsiderable proportion of espionage thrillers the sprawling series by Ian Fleming and Robert Ludlum primarily, but sprinkled in were a few of Pendleton s Mack Bolan and textualizations of the Man From U.N.C.L.E. franchise These were all, or less, well written and entertaining enough to have sufficed at that age, and while the exoticness of the locales, the menacingly debonair airs of the various protagonists, their victories over impossible odds, the cunning double and triple crosses put into effect by jousting opponents, were all at a level ramped up sufficiently to telegraph their fictionality, the covert world of spies and secret agents was given a sense of inherent power and importance, competence and peril, technological marvels and physical derring do, that grafted their way onto its existence in the real world This was all there at a subdued level, carried out in a less explosive manner but the stakes were high, the operators were top notch professionals, and the agencies that employed them were sophisticated and ultra competent, with their shadowy, subterranean tendrils spread dexterously about an unsuspecting world Indeed, even today, decades after this world of ghosts and specters was delineated in modes and means far closer to the actual truth of things by such as le Carr , it is the preferred form for its treatment, whether on paper, television set, or cinematic screen larger than life, physically perfect specimens perform acts of death defying acrobatics and stunt work while exhibiting a feral and unerring lethality, all in an effort to avert the apocalyptic outcomes of the fiendishly clever, logically precise, and temporally taut plots of whatever respective villainous mind has set out to assert their will upon the world they would rule.So it was that The Looking Glass War, this thin, unprepossessing book with its somewhat tacky, boxy red cover, struck me quite forcefully with the banality, the absurdity, the futility, and the morbidity that permeated nigh everything and everyone involved with one centrally important exception in its elegantly precise unwinding Here was an intelligence agency euphemized as The Department peopled by creaking, ossified civil servants, pining nostalgically for the brief snatches of glory they had worked back in the old days of the Second World War and desperate to proclaim their collective relevance in the face of blatant Yankee superiority, rival institution triumphant supersession, and Warsaw Pact opacity A lucky bit of informational unearthing details of an alleged transfer of Soviet nuclear missiles to a secret East German military installation seems to have given this British death bed unit an opportunity to set their mark in confusing and confounding times sparked these moribund fossils into energetic planning and plotting, in which a previously successful wartime operative, a Polish patriot named Leiser currently residing in England as a newly married citizen, is brought out of mothballs and set through training procedures deemed sufficient to allow him to infiltrate the heavily guarded East German border and become their Johnny on the Spot missile spotter Alas, the acquired information appears to have been compromised right from the start, and Departmental cockups and bollixing unfold with enough depressing regularity to lead the reader to suspect the ailing, rusty intelligence agency running things of being a front for Ringling Brothers In the face of accumulated failure including the misfortune that forced Leiser to kill an East German border guard George Smiley, a young turk serving a liason role between the agent running anachronism and the freshly scrubbed, newly minted Circus operating in the Big Time from London, convinces the former to pull the plug on the botched operation Unfortunately, this news doesn t get through to the game but desperate Leiser, whose very transmissions allow the East Germans to pinpoint his location and bring their soldiers to bear on him with force Worst of all The missiles, in all likelihood, were never actually intended for that particular East German destination to begin with It was all part of the cynical and ultimately pointless game within a game within a game that comprises the grim theatre of espionage in a world bifurcated between two ideologically opposed nuclear powers.Whatever illusions are carried into this book by the reader will be hard pressed to survive through to the end This is a bleakly cynical, unrelentingly depressing tale, the textual equivalent of a fortnight of drizzling rain, sullen cloud blankets, and empty, tipped over gin bottles Le Carr works quickly, almost effortlessly here, not without compassion, but never glossing things up to any degree it s a spartan operation, the authorial blade gleaming with the wickedly sharp edges brought to bear upon this rotten object he intends to give form The entirety of the Department s operation, while not without a few strained traces of important endeavor and heroic effort especially on the part of the doomed from the outset Leiser , is primarily conducted with an earnest energy not quite sufficient to overcome the creaking lethargy of redundancy and the ridiculousness of this agency s esteem reclaiming theatrics As anyone who has read such as Tim Weiner s Legacy of Ashes knows, well meaning but compromised and ignorant operators like Frank Wisner ran several assets on fatal missions into communist Europe, unaware that his opponents knew about the agent s whereabouts than he did and in The Looking Glass War le Carr has crafted herein a British cadre equivalent to Wisner well intentioned but riddled with the failures gestated within by their wounded pride, their deflated egos, and their inability to admit their own limitations and outdatedness Of course, it is Leiser who will pay the ultimate price for their incompetent hubris, leaving them the comparative benefaction of a retirement to their clubs, their culpability routinely assuaged by another round of drinks and further retreat into the glory days when the lads had the rotten old Nazis on the run As le Carr saw it, espionage was just another realm of government bureaucracy, subject to all the absurd laws of such and tending to be populated by the usual proportion of time servers, power seekers, ego strokers, and lifeline cutters, while perhaps prone than most to overreach, the corrupting influence of money, and the despair engendered by their competition s comparative advantages There is nothing here that speaks of glamor or steeliness but I ll be damned if it didn t make an impression to outlast that of all the thrill rides. Do you know what love is I ll tell you it is whatever you can still betray If there is something like a literary model of a spy most of us would probably indicate on James Bond Fast cars, beautiful women, shootings and all that false glamour And after hard working day martini shaken not stirred or conversely Obviously But not in LeCarre s world Disillusioned, tired and cynical men in the world where goal is indistinct, praise doubtful, morality ambiguous and victory deceptive This is a spy s reality andThe looking glass war fits into that trend of realistic spy novel perfectly John le Carr is depicturing a hopeless, grey world reality in which man is just a pawn in the other s game and the declarations and agreements are easily broken There is no place for na ve idealistsThe looking glass war is devoid of unexpected twists and turns, daring chases, thrilling fight scenes The plot is focused on rivalry between two intelligence units and planned action in South Germany Playing hare and hounds and searching for suit candidate to a dangerous task are in the centre of the book and almost from the start you feel it is not going to end well.This is a study of a morbid ambition and envy, ignoble betrayal and mediocrity in the intelligence community But, most of all this it is a story about loneliness of a spy In the name of what LeCarre seems to ask Novel is bleakly dark and depressing, an atmosphere claustrophobic, additionaly enhanced by picture of ugly surroundings and gloomy weather.And after reading you need something much stronger than martini to soothe that overwhelming feeling of despair and anger. Man, this is one depressing book As the author states in the intro, this book is a cynical look at the intelligence spy world and is almost a parody of LeCarre s first big hit, The Spy Who Came in From the Cold.With subtle and a few not so subtle hints of the ridiculous attempts by past their prime and out of touch military intelligence officers to recover their relavancy and stage one last mission, the book is a slowly building tragedy You know it is not going to end well nearly from the start In contrast to most spy novels, these guys just don t quite have it all together, although they present a confident front.As with most of his early books, he combines cynicism of the cold war, a critic of 1960 s British class issues, and discussion of human nature to create real, compelling characters and, in this case, realistic situation that slowly unfolds as a farce instead of a triumph. Compared with its predecessor The Spy Who Came In from the Cold , The Looking Glass War George Smiley 4 was a relative flop, especially in Britain In John le Carr s introduction, written in 1991, he addresses this After the success of The Spy Who Came In from the Cold I felt I had earned the right to experiment with the fragile possibilities of the spy story than those I had explored till now For the truth was, that the realities of spying as I had known them on the ground had been far removed from the fiendishly clever conspiracy that had entrapped my hero and heroine in The Spy I was eager to find a way of illustrating the muddle and futility that were so much closer to life Indeed, I felt I had to for while The Spy Who Came In from the Cold had been heralded as the book that ripped the mask off the spy business, my private view was that it had glamourised the spy business to Kingdom Come.So this time, I thought, I ll tell it the hard way This time, cost what it will, I ll describe a Secret Service that is really not very good at all that is eking out its wartime glory that is feeding itself on Little England fantasies is isolated, directionless, over protected and destined ultimately to destroy itself.With my expectations suitably managed, and having loved the previous three Smiley novels, I conclude this is another excellent John le Carr novel As in The Spy Who Came In from the Cold , George Smiley only has a bit part in this book, however his perceptiveness and awareness help the reader to understand what is happening In essence, The Looking Glass War is a tale of haplessness The Department is a small, increasingly irrelevant legacy of WW2, populated by deluded staff, which makes the novel painful to read Avery, the only young person, cuts a particularly tragic figure Amateurism, tragedy and stupidity permeate the entire novel John le Carr lays bare snobbery, vanity, a sense of denial and delusion, repressed emotions, faded dreams, and incompetence It s palpable, and often hard to read, but remains grimly compelling throughout It s exactly what he set out to write a truthful novel that captured the internal politics, the little Englander mentality, and the complacency of the mid 60s UK intelligence service 4 5 There is a valuable lesson in this book when an author uses a novel s introduction to suggest it may be his worst, believe him Of the four books I ve written by John le Carr , The Looking Glass War is clearly the worst le Carr seems to have issues carrying his stories when the plot is not singularly focused, when he is trying to make a negative point about some aspect of British culture We saw this when le Carr tackled the prep school system in A Murder of Quality, and this time the author tries to express his disgust with the disorganization and second rate stature of the British Intelligence system The Looking Glass War is divided into three primary sections Taylor s Run, Avery s Run, and Leiser s Run Taylor s Run and Leiser s Run are each divided into three subsections Prelude, Take Off, and Homecoming After Taylor s Run, this novel does not again get remotely interesting until the Take Off Section of Leiser s Run, the sixth of the seven total sections Everything in between is a meandering tale of British Intelligence infighting and inferiority complex.The characters are not at all compelling le Carr spends a lot of time whining about the characters wives they are all annoying and undermining Every single one of the married men is brought down in some way by his wife The men are all intelligence officers, but their wives all demand to know the job secrets, and the men always tell them.George Smiley, of course, is not married His wife left him in the first novel, so he and Adrian Haldane, another unmarried man, are the only ones able to maintain a level head It is clear that even than women, le Carr hates marriage And his love for Smiley is so over the top He goes out of his way to show how much in love he is with the character he created.The other big takeaway from The Looking Glass War is one I m not certain le Carr intended Leiser is a British immigrant from Poland Years earlier than the events of this novel, Leiser worked as a spy during World War II As he s thrust back into action, we readers get to see intimate details of his interactions with very important British men he s meeting for the first time The way le Carr writes both Leiser s feelings and those of the British officers during their interactions, I can see that the author is a believer in British superiority Leiser is not and can never be a true Briton he s a Pole He is less than them They know it He knows it And no one ever needs to voice it because it is a given And, in the world of the characters and the author, it is just.No, I did not like this book But I have completed all four novels that precede the Karla trilogy My hope is that the singular focus of a case that spans three novels will take le Carr s writing back to what he does best We ll see how it goes. , Bell ,. Have you ever wanted to be a spy I didn t not until I started reading John Le Carr s George Smiley series this year I do remember when us four siblings played spy along with other games all over the acres of our farm and buildings, but I was a bit of a failure back then I wanted to have everyone get along I wanted to be the good guy who brought all the other fighters yes, I have an older brother together in peace and harmony So in the end, I became a double spy Great My brothers were annoyed and my sister couldn t figure me out Ha Well, Linda Hunt look out there s a new Spy Guy um make that Spy Gal in town I have enjoyed being an armchair spy reading this series and in this 4th book, there are conflicts arising between two factions of the spy game in London One faction is supposed to be working the political end and one faction is supposed to be working the military end But what does one do when these two areas start to overlap Who gets to be the hero and save the day And how Sometimes sideways psychology works You go to the overall head of both departments who has a habit of saying no to everything You plead like crazy for your Plan C as if it is Plan A and he says no, then asks for an alternative So, you casually toss off your Plan A as if it is of no consequence, and he adopts it like it was his idea in the first place.That is roughly how this intriguing spy story begins And George Smiley Although he will never win any beauty contests, he has a mind like a steel trap and he can make things happen in his quiet, unassuming way For the most part, though, his role seems to be mopping up the messes after the fact.Maybe I don t really want to be a spy after all but it is interesting and informative to read John Carr s stories anyway. For me a difficult book to rate, on one hand I enjoyed it although I came to have a marked contempt for some of the major characters I felt the novel was a study in human nature and trying to hold on to the glory of past exploits A clandestine world made up of an old boys club who are happy to throw the lamb to the wolves..all in the name of glory, I found this to be a bleak and quite dour story, not for the faint of heart Well written as you would expect but I thought that is was character driven These books are becoming an aquired taste.
John le Carr , the pseudonym of David John Moore Cornwell born 19 October 1931 in Poole, Dorset, England , is an English author of espionage novels Le Carr has resided in St Buryan, Cornwall, Great Britain, for than 40 years, where he owns a mile of cliff close to Land s End.See also
- 288 pages
- The Looking Glass War
- John le Carré
- 21 April 2019 John le Carré