The Constant Writer

John le Carre, the master of the spy genre in English literature, continues to provoke readers.

For decades, Alfred Hitchcock received only a nod of appreciation as being little more than the master of suspense in cinema. John le Carre has likewise been seen as little more than the master of the spy genre in English literature. Hitchcock was ultimately, even if belatedly, recognised as one of the greatest directors of cinema. Le Carre, though, is still waiting for recognition as one of the finest writers in English literature in the second half of the 20th century, continuing into the 21st.

In an oeuvre that began more than half a century ago, le Carre (the pen name of David John Moore Cornwell) has used the spy novel for biting comment on western societies, especially Britain and Germany. Unlike in the works of Ian Fleming or Robert Ludlum, the good guys rarely ever win in le Carre’s novels. Even George Smiley, the most well known of le Carre’s spymasters, is, in his moment of ultimate triumph, left to rue his manipulation of a father’s love for his daughter in order to snare his ­Soviet counterpart.

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