Tuesday, 13 October 2009

le Carre – a most wanted man

There are a few fiction writers who have the gift for giving global issues a human face; Graham Greene was one such author and John le Carre is another. Le Carre’s brilliant explorations of the Cold War through the eyes of George Smiley are peerless and I recently watched again the T.V. series based on Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. Alec Guiness is masterful as Smiley and the cast are a roll call of British theatre’s finest, but it is the author’s labyrinthine plot and understated characterisation that make it a work of genius.

I read le Carre’s The Little Drummer Girl in the early 1980s and remember finding myself mirroring the sympathies of the young English actress Charlie, as first she is swayed one way by the arguments of her Israeli intelligence controller Kurtz and then the other by her Palestinian terrorist lover Khalil. Sadly, the film starring Diane Keaton hardly did the Israeli Palestinian conflict or the book justice.

a most wanted man I’ve just finished le Carre’s latest book A Most Wanted Man and was pleased to discover that the master of political intrigue is on his usual great form. The story teases out the ambiguities and contradictions of the ‘war on terror’ through the eyes of a British banker with dubious accounts, a human rights lawyer and her client, a Chechen illegal immigrant. Based in Germany, the plot is beautifully paced, redolent with treachery and a damning indictment of the moral bankruptcy of terrorism and extraordinary rendition. I’m reluctant to give anything away, but the denouement is heartrending and left me seething at the injustice of what may well turn out to be one of the United States most shameful and counterproductive criminal acts of this century.

I’ll be interested to see if the book makes it onto the big screen, but my suspicion is that it will be some time before any film maker will be able to attract the sort of financial backing the story merits. With A Most Wanted Man le Carre has again proved that the subtlety of his pen is more powerful than raging polemic.

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