Books: The Secret Pilgrim by John Le Carré

It isn't so much a novel as a collection of anecdotal stories told not by George Smiley (though this is, I think, the last "Smiley novel") but by some guy named Ned, also of the Service, having come up after Smiley. The frame story involves Ned being an instructor at the spy training facility (never mind all the cute names; that's what it is) and asking Smiley to come speak at a function. After the official festivities are concluded, Smiley takes up a post in the library and students poke and prod him with questions. But instead of getting Smiley's stories, we get Ned's reminiscences.

As with any collection of stories, some here are better and more interesting/entertaining than others. I cannot like Ned's infidelity—or rather, I could forgive it if he were sorry, but instead he rhapsodizes about some young Bulgarian girl he fucked like an animal, so as a character he lost quite a bit of my sympathy there. But I very much liked the tale of Frewin, which came near the end of the book, and there were a few others (Smiley and the cuff links, which was utterly predictable but still good, for example).

And I kind of wanted to know what happened to Ben. I mean, we get some hint, but he was a potentially interesting character of which I feel I didn't quite see enough.

The book winds down with Smiley more or less lecturing against big government and the need to keep an eye on the ozone layer (the book is from 1990), and then Ned's last pre-retirement outing wherein he is lectured by a nasty capitalist who sees no problem with selling guns to third-world countries because if they are going to kill each other they'll do it no matter what, and he might as well make some money from it.

In other words, it gets a bit preachy and casts a kind of shadow of disappointment over the state of the world.

As I said, I think this is the last Smiley novel? Seems like every time I think I've read them all I discover there's another one . . . But I recently consulted a list and it appears I am finally done. Not a bad group of books overall. And now if they make any more movies I'll be appropriately prepared.

1 comment:

Trisha F said...

Wow, I haven't read a single one yet! They're definitely on my list though.