Has spymaster Smiley f inally gone senile?
I THINK John le Carré is one of our best modern novelists, who happens to write about spies. But, let’s put this politely, his greatest works were those he wrote some years back. I’m a little baffled by the praise for his latest, A Legacy Of Spies.
Could it be because of this passage, in which the great spymaster George Smiley starts raving about Europe. ‘What was it all for… I’m a Euro- pean… If I had a mission – if I was ever aware of one beyond our business with the enemy, it was to Europe. If I was heartless, I was heartless for Europe. If I had an unattainable ideal, it was of leading Europe out of her darkness towards a new age of reason. I have it still.’
Pah! Le Carré certainly never liked the USA much, but his keenness to turn his characters into passionate Remainers is a bit new. Smiley first appears in Call For The Dead, a 1961 novel long predating our ‘European’ entanglement. It describes Smiley’s early years as a lonely secret agent in 1930s Germany, thus ‘Smiley was a sentimental man and the long exile strengthened his deep love of England’.
Maybe the Europhilia is something to do with senility. By my calculation, Smiley, who was first hired by MI6 in 1928, must now be 110.