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A Private Spy: The Letters of John le Carré 1945-2020

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As he saw it, the escapist glamour of Ian Fleming’s Bond novels only bolstered the communist image of the West as a playground of thrill-seeking hedonists trying to fill the void with empty sex and alcohol. His mounting excitement is palpable on the page, as his letters became more erotic and more explicit. Intoxicated by the erotic tableau of political intrigue and an emotionally distant man, she takes the job. If we ever doubted that the world had altered after the Cold War, a couple of days in Moscow would put us out of our misery.

While Susan was sitting on his lap, he told her about seeing young boys with guns who had danced in a circle around Yasser Arafat, leader of the Palestinian Liberation Organization. The joy to me is how much of you is there …” For all his enthusing, it was clear to Susan that he felt awkward about recommending her to his publisher. Through Westerby’s eyes, we see how “a flow of air-force personnel was drifting in and out of the camp, blacks and whites, in scowling segregated groups … The mood was sullen, defeated, and innately violent.As the government’s national archive for England, Wales and the United Kingdom, The National Archives hold over 1,000 years of the nation’s records for everyone to discover and use.

So I beg you to believe me when I tell you that I share your respect for the qualities and sufferings of women, whose company and talents I indeed greatly prefer to those of men. Beginning with his 1940s childhood, it includes accounts of his National Service and his time at Oxford, and his days teaching the 'chinless, pointy-nosed gooseberry-eyed British lords' at Eton. But his sympathy never blinded him to the reality that all people have, in the end, a choice to make.But I never got my clothes back—so I am writing to you in a state of nature,” he joked, attaching a naughty illustration of himself. For my money, I would ask you to play Corkoran tomorrow but we are dealing with minds that function on other planes, so they will probably give it to Dicky Attenborough. It was extraordinary to be in each other’s company at last, after more than a year of corresponding. The clothes I wore, the food I ate and the books I read were bought with the money this had provided.

The correspondence that makes up “A Private Spy” is capacious in theme, but a steady through line is work.

In any case, David Cornwell’s career as a spy ended the year after his breakthrough novel was published: Philby, it is widely believed, blew his cover. In these letters, le Carre reveals himself to be a consummate correspondent as well as a master novelist.

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