October 19th – John le Carré

“…we are the sole survivors of a world no one else has ever seen.”

John le Carré

Best-selling spy novelist John le Carré was born David John Moore Cornwell, on October 19th, 1931, in Poole, Dorset, England. His father was in and out of jail for fraud, and his mother left the family when he was five. 

During the 1950s and 1960s worked as a British Agent in the Secret Intelligence Service, both M15 and M16, until his literary career allowed him to quit and write full time. 

In 1954 he married Ann Sharp. They had three sons Simon, Stephen, and Timothy, before their marriage ended in 1971.

Call for the Dead (1961), A Murder of Quality (1962) were his first two published books and featured the spy George Smiley. Le Carrés third novel, The Spy Who Came in From the Cold (1963), was an international best-seller. Graham Greene called the novel the best spy story he had ever read.

He married his second wife, Valerie Jane Eustace, a book editor, in 1972. They had one son, who became a novelist Nick Harkaway.

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, published in 1974, is the first in a trilogy featuring George Smiley. 

A Perfect Spy (1986), which Philip Roth pronounced “the best English novel since the war,” is considered one of the most autobiographical of le Carré’s works. It deals with a double agent who has a con man father, much like le Carré. 

Growing up in a world without women after his mother left him at the age of five, many of his early novels have flat female characters. He attempted to fix this with his 2001 novel, The Constant Gardner, where the main character tries to understand his wife, who was killed. The Constant Gardner was made into a film in 2005 starring Ralph Fiennes and Rachel Weisz.

Near the end of his life, after England voted to leave the European Union, he became an Irish Citizen, 

Over his six-decade career, he wrote twenty-five novels. 

His last novel was Agent Running in the Field, was published in October 2019

Le Carré died on December 12th, 2020, after sustaining a fall at his home. His wife Valerie died just two months later. 

Lesson from le Carré

When he was mad, and saw injustices and deceit, he wrote about it. He explored his world , and the complexities of humans, their relationships and governments, through his work. 

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