A Perfect Spy Paperback – 20 Jan 2000
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'Without doubt his masterpiece . . . a perfect work of fiction' (Sunday Times)
'The best English novel since the war' (Philip Roth) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
'Without doubt his masterpiece ... a perfect work of fiction.' (The Sunday Times)
'Le Carré’s best book, one of the enduring peaks of imaginative literature in our time.' (Los Angeles Times)
'Le Carré’s best book, and one of the finest English novels of the twentieth century.' (Phillip Pullman) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
Concentrating on his signature themes of love and deceit, Le Carre gives us what is perhaps the definitive account of the psychology of betrayal. Following the death of his father, the disturbed and grieving spy Magnus Pym withdraws from the world and begins a series of reflections on his life while his wife and spymasters frantically try to find him. The 'public' action of this search, and the personalities of those conducting it not only provide an effective foil for the intensely personal and sometimes dark nature of Pym's inner search, it also amplifies the moral theme of the book--that there is no clear line between good and bad, and that our best intentions are no guarantee of goodness--especially when there are secrets involved.
Le Carre spent a long time honing his voice for this powerful novel. His writing in the decade or so before this book was published (in 1986) displays the trademark qualities of detail and subtlety that a cold war spy needed, and Le Carre's spare prose mirrors the Machiavellian cold war game his stories centre around. In this work--strongly influenced by the real-life death of his father--he reached the height of his powers. On top of his renowned ability to make highly technical plots gripping, Le Carre adds a new quality--the wistful--and it works as well as in anything by Graham Greene--another gimlet-eyed writer who had connections with the spying trade. Le Carre packs more feeling into this work than in all his other novels put together and the effect is both disturbing and intensely moving. Pym is sententious and elegant in his reveries, and his Hamlet-like angst stays with us, provoking difficult questions, long after the book is closed.Read more ›
And like Magnus Pym, Le Carre was recruited into MI6 and probably, like Pym, was recruited while studying in Bern, although unlike Pym he left after five years to write novels. However, for anyone who knows a little of Le Carre's life story, an added frisson is added by the questions that inevitably provokes - did Le Carre get up to anything naughty with Eastern Bloc intelligence services? Unlikely, but amusing to ponder.
However, the spy stuff, as beautifully crafted as it always is, is only a backdrop for the real theme of the book - Le Carre's relationship with himself, his father and his country.
Yes, his country; this is as much an elegy for the English upper-middle class as anything else. A melancholy, fatalistic patriotism seeps through every page of the book, as Le Carre writes an elegy for his people - perhaps patriotism isn't quite the write word; he has no feeling for nor interest in the St. George's flag waving, football supporting masses.Read more ›
The story is a kind of autobiography, as Pym sets out to describe his life's journey for his son, aiming - for once - to avoid any duplicity in the telling; in addition, as others have pointed out, it contains many elements from Le Carre's own life - his crooked father, his education in Berne and Oxford, and his career in MI6. If, at the end of this memorable book, we feel we don't understand Pym as well we do the other characters we've met - his wife, his father, his handlers (British and Czech) and his American colleagues, that could be the greatest tribute to Le Carre's powers: to have given such a detailed account of every aspect of his life, and yet to have retained an air of mystery around him.
Rereading this book, I had a mild sense of nostalgia for the era it describes. I was fortunate enough to visit Czechoslovakia not long after it was published, and a couple of years before the Velvet Revolution, after which the country became (amongst other more worthy things) yet another location for Planet Hollywood, Borders and cheap stag weekends.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
The hyperbolic claim that Le Carre’s 1986 behemoth is ‘the best British novel since the war’ struggles to justify itself, as this weighty (and often ponderous) beast of a novel... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Scaroth, Last of the Jagaroth
Le carre's tendency to digress and waffle gets the better of him here. I gave up half way.Published 2 months ago by David Mawson
Classic le Carre..
High brow, tricky to follow.
But that I suppose is what makes a great spy novel?
One word review: Convoluted.
Complex plot leapt about between years and characters. Very interesting but I found it a bit difficult to follow at times. Read morePublished 3 months ago by A C French
Le Carré is a genius almost unrivalled in his chosen genre.Published 4 months ago by Simon Harrison
I can count on one had the number of books I've given up on, but after 100 pages I couldn't take any more. Read morePublished 5 months ago by A Kant