Thursday, February 05, 2004

The Spy Who Came In From The Cold

If you read only one spy novel in your entire life time, read this. I am not
exaggerating, it is the best of this genre, written by John Le Carre who was with British Intelligence at the height of coldwar.

The novel is about Alec Leamas, British agent in West Berlin running a network of agents in East Germany. He is a old horse with no hopes of going up the ladder and when he loses his last agent, goes back to Britain. Instead of being put to pasture, he is asked to be part of one last attempt in bringing down the chief of Abteilung (East German Secret police).

It is a sinister plot, making everyone believe that Leamas has become a drunkard, and making the enemy to lure him to defect. To this effect Leamas is really fired from the job, becomes a drunkard and spends some time in prison. As expected he is contacted by Germans and goes to Berlin. Anything more will spoil the interest in the story.

It is a maze of plots and subplots laid skillfully to lead the reader up the wrong path. George Smiley's (supposed to have retired from British Intelligence) character is hardly mentioned in the story, but at every scene you can sense his presence. By the time you reach the final chapter, you are literally at the seat's edge. After reading the book I thought if Smiley was the master of the plot, then why did he let Leamas lose agents? Then the cynicism of the whole story struck, sacrificing individuals for the greater good (?).


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