Saturday 3 December 2011

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

John le Carré
My favourite author, ever, is John Le Carré. I've typed out pages of his better sentences, just to feel the power wrought by a right combination of words.

He has a website (hard to believe, but true), set up by his publishers (one assumes). On it you can find some comments by the man himself.
Let me tell you a few things about myself. Not much, but enough. In the old days it was convenient to bill me as a spy turned writer. I was nothing of the kind. I am a writer who, when I was very young, spent a few ineffectual but extremely formative years in British Intelligence.
I never knew my mother till I was 21. I act like a gent but I am wonderfully badly born. My father was a confidence trickster and a gaol bird. Read A Perfect Spy.
I hate the telephone. I can’t type. I ply my trade by hand. I live on a Cornish cliff and hate cities. Three days and nights in a city are about my maximum. I don’t see many people. I write and walk and swim and drink.
Apart from spying, I have in my time sold bathtowels, got divorced, washed elephants, run away from school, decimated a flock of Welsh sheep with a twenty-five pound shell because I was too stupid to understand the gunnery officer’s instructions, taught children in a special school.
I have four sons and thirteen grandchildren. It is forty years since I hung up my cloak and dagger. I wrote my first three books while I was a spook; I wrote the next eighteen after I was at large.
A good writer is an expert on nothing except himself. And on that subject, if he is wise, he holds his tongue. Some of you may wonder why I am reluctant to submit to interviews on television and radio and in the press. The answer is that nothing that I write is authentic. It is the stuff of dreams, not reality. Yet I am treated by the media as though I wrote espionage handbooks.
And to a point I am flattered that my fabulations are taken so seriously. Yet I also despise myself in the fake role of guru, since it bears no relation to who I am or what I do. Artists, in my experience, have very little centre. They fake. They are not the real thing. They are spies. I am no exception.
Thank you for your interest, your support, and kind words. Happily, I am deeply engrossed in a new novel. Sadly, this means that I can no longer devote the time and care necessary to responding to enquiries on this website. Please accept my sincere apologies, and address any professional problems you may have to my agents, Messrs Curtis Brown. With best wishes, John le Carré.
I endorse his advice to read A Perfect Spy. A great book. And Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, and The Honourable Schoolboy, and Smiley's People. In my opinion, The Honourable Schoolboy is the best, but it wouldn't make any sense without Tinker, Tailor.

I loved the Alec Guinness version of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (1979), but am looking forward to the Gary Oldman version, due for release in January 2012.

Meanwhile, here's the trailer.

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1 comment:

Kathy said...

"A good writer is an expert on nothing except himself. And on that subject, if he is wise, he holds his tongue."
Mr Le Carre comes across as sardonic, wise, and very very intelligent. I wish more writers held the view that talking about themselves is unwise.