John le Carré: The Biography
John le Carré: The Biography
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John le Carré is still at the top more than half a century after The Spy Who Came in from the Cold became a worldwide bestseller. Written with exclusive access to le Carré, his personal archives, and many of the people closest to him, Adam Sisman's definitive biography is a highly readable, fascinating portrait of the life, times and espionage career that inspired a literary master.
Always secretive about his background and Secret Service career (blocking one biography from publication in the 1990s, then choosing a biographer who abandoned the project), John le Carré (David Cornwell) has finally given his blessing to Adam Sisman, who has delivered a biography that reads like a novel. From his bleak childhood--the departure of his mother when he was five was followed by "sixteen hugless years" in the dubious care of his father, a serial-seducer and con-man--through recruitment by both MI5 and MI6, his years as an agent for British Intelligence during the Cold War, to his emergence as the master of the espionage novel, le Carré has repeatedly quarried his life for his fiction. His acute psychological renderings of undercover operations and the moral ambiguities of the Cold War and our present-day politics lend his novels a level of credibility that is unmistakable. Sisman's great biography uncovers for us the remarkable story of an enigmatic writer whose commercial success has sometimes overshadowed appreciation for his extraordinary abilities.
Arthur Schnitzler’s novella Dream Story, which he had wanted to film ever since first reading it in 1968. Would David be interested in adapting it for the screen? After reading the book David spent a day with Kubrick outlining his ideas: he wanted to set the story in an inhibited, priest-ridden, walled city such as Wells and play upon the hypocrisies of a small community and its sexual obsessions. Kubrick listened and then politely declined; he had already decided to set the story in New York.
school holidays, so that he would have to marry her; then she would take all his money (two shillings a week), thereby holding him back from a fulfilling career. He hid the cheque, told nobody and awaited the holidays with dread. Back at Thorpeness he contrived to avoid Judy for the first week, until he met her coming out of church. To his eyes she looked about twenty. ‘Did you get my cheque?’ she asked. ‘Well, don’t try to cash it, or it’ll bounce. Mickie got me first.’ David saw Mickie for
protested at the ‘injustice’ of David’s complaints. ‘For the last few years you have been angry, and in that time your anger has fuelled two great novels, and some excellent journalism,’ Hunter suggested. ‘But recently you have turned it on your agent and that is not appropriate.’ Perhaps unwisely, he tried to force the issue of the American rights at the very moment when David had announced that he wanted to ‘keep my head down and get to the end of what I believe will be a big novel’. Hunter had
could safely refresh himself between speaking engagements, indeed sometimes offering a nip to his chauffeur – ‘Have one on me, Nutty.’ David’s role was to persuade the voters of Yarmouth that Ronnie was a loving and abstemious father, with frugal Christian habits, who had done his bit for the country during the war and who was now ready to serve the folk of this remote East Anglian constituency. Bellowing through a loudspeaker mounted on the roof of a van, he cruised the streets of Yarmouth,
entertaining, even delightful, company. One of them, the history master William Gladstone, commented on David’s skill in depicting their colleagues, observing that while some beaks were easily caricatured – the fat ones or the tall, cadaverous ones, for example – others were not: nevertheless David could capture the essence of a personality in a simple sketch, perhaps by drawing the person concerned in the act of a sudden, sardonic glance. One of those whom David at first thought ‘awfully nice’