Saturday, 29 March 2014

call for the dead

ON Tuesday I finished Call For The Dead by John le Carre, which I thought was rather good. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is generally thought of as the 'first' Smiley novel - and of course it was the first serialised with Alec Guinness - but there were earlier ones. This is le Carre's first novel, and has George Smiley as the central character in a spy thriller/detective story. I liked it a lot; I had also liked The Spy Who Came In From The Cold, when I read it ages ago and which was also a relatively short book; I found Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy a bit of a plod, when I read it a lot later, and when I trudged through The Honourable Schoolboy I resolved to read no further. But I think I will continue to look out the earlier ones on the strength of this one (which I picked up second hand in a nice old green Penguin crime edition).

Two quotes:

Smiley wanted to ask him how Fennan himself had felt, but Fennan was talking again. He had shared nothing with them [his fellow 1930s Oxford undergraduate Communists], he had come to realize that. They were not men, but children, who dreamed of freedom-fires, gipsy music, and one world tomorrow, who rode on white horses across the Bay of Biscay or with a child's pleasure bought beer for starving elves from Wales; children who had no power to resist the Eastern sun, and obediently turned their tousled heads towards it. They loved each other and believed they loved mankind, they fought each other and believed they fought the world.
- p70

'Was she a communist?'
'I don't think she liked labels. I think she wanted to help build one society which could live without conflict. Peace is a dirty word now, is't it? I think she wanted peace.'
'And Dieter?' asked Guillam.
'God knows what Dieter wanted. Honour, I think, and a socialist world.' Smiley shrugged. 'They dreamed of peace and freedom. Now they're murderers and spies.'
- p156