A Most Wanted Man is a thriller/espionage novel by John le Carré published in September 2008 by Hodder & Stoughton in the United Kingdom and in October 2008 by Scribner in the United States.
David John Moore Cornwell (born 19 October 1931), better known by the pen name John le Carré (/l??kære?/), is a British author of espionage novels. During the 1950s and 1960s, he worked for both the Security Service (MI5) and the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6). His third novel, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (1963), became an international best-seller and remains one of his best-known works. Following the success of this novel, he left MI6 to become a full-time author. Several of his books have been adapted for film and television, including The Constant Gardener, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and The Night Manager. In 2011, he was awarded the Goethe Medal.
In 1998, he was awarded an Honorary Degree (Doctor of Letters) from the University of Bath.In 2008 he was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Bern. In 2012, he was awarded the Degree of Doctor of Letters, honoris causa, by Oxford University.
In 1964, le Carré won the Somerset Maugham Award (established to enable British writers younger than 35 to enrich their writing by spending time abroad).
In 2008, The Times ranked him 22nd on its list of "The 50 greatest British writers since 1945".
In 2011, he won the Goethe Medal, a yearly prize given by the Goethe Institute.
He won the Olof Palme Prize in 2020.02.15.
Call for the Dead (1961), ISBN 0-143-12257-6
A Murder of Quality (1962), ISBN 0-141-19637-8
The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (1963), ISBN 0-143-12475-7
The Looking Glass War (1965), ISBN 0-143-12259-2
A Small Town in Germany (1968), ISBN 0-143-12260-6
The Naïve and Sentimental Lover (1971), ISBN 0-143-11975-3
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (1974), ISBN 0-143-12093-X
The Honourable Schoolboy (1977), ISBN 0-143-11973-7
Smiley's People (1979), ISBN 0-340-99439-8
The Little Drummer Girl (1983), ISBN 0-143-11974-5
A Perfect Spy (1986), ISBN 0-143-11976-1
The Russia House (1989), ISBN 0-743-46466-4
The Secret Pilgrim (1990), ISBN 0-345-50442-9
The Night Manager (1993), ISBN 0-345-38576-4
Our Game (Hodder & Stoughton 1995), ISBN 0-345-40000-3
The Tailor of Panama (1996), ISBN 0-345-42043-8
Single & Single (1999), ISBN 0-743-45806-0
The Constant Gardener (2001), ISBN 0-743-28720-7
Absolute Friends (2003), ISBN 0-670-04489-X
The Mission Song (2006), ISBN 0-340-92199-4
A Most Wanted Man (2008), ISBN 1-416-59609-7
Our Kind of Traitor (2010), ISBN 0-143-11972-9
A Delicate Truth (2013), ISBN 0-143-12531-1
A Legacy of Spies (Penguin 2017), ISBN 978-0-735-22511-4
Agent Running in the Field (Viking 2019), ISBN 1984878875
The Good Soldier (1991), collected in Granta 35: The Unbearable Peace
The United States Has Gone Mad (2003), collected in Not One More Death(2006)ISBN 1-844-67116-X
Afterword (2014), an essay on Kim Philby, published in A Spy Among Friends by Ben Macintyre
The Pigeon Tunnel: Stories from My Life (2016)
"Dare I Weep, Dare I Mourn?" (1967), in Saturday Evening Post, 28 January 1967
"What Ritual is Being Observed Tonight?" (1968), in Saturday Evening Post, 2 November 1968
"The Writer and The Horse" (1968), in The Savile Club Centenary Magazine and later The Argosy (and The Saturday Review under the title "A Writer and a Gentleman")
"The King Who Never Spoke" (2009), in Ox-Tales: Fire, 2 July 2009
The Incongruous Spy (1964), containing Call for the Dead and A Murder of Quality
The Quest for Karla (1982), containing Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, The Honourable Schoolboy and Smiley's People (republished in 1995 as Smiley Versus Karla in the UK; and John Le Carré: Three Complete Novels in the U.S.), ISBN 0-394-52848-4
End of the Line (1970), broadcast 29 June 1970
A Murder of Quality (1991)
The Tailor of Panama (2001), with John Boorman and Andrew Davies
The Tailor of Panama (2001)
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011)
A Most Wanted Man (2014)
The Night Manager (2016)
Our Kind of Traitor (2016)
The Little Drummer Girl (2018)
The Little Drummer Girl (1984), as David Cornwell
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011), as John le Carré
Our Kind of Traitor (2016)
The Night Manager (2016), as David Cornwell
After many years of working with various producers who made film adaptations of his novels, two of Cornwell's sons, Simon and Stephen, founded the production company Ink Factory in 2010. This was to produce adaptations of his works as well as other film productions. The Ink Factory has produced the films A Most Wanted Man and Our Kind of Traitor, and the TV series The Night Manager and The Little Drummer Girl.
The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (1965), directed by Martin Ritt, with Richard Burton as the protagonist, Alec Leamas
The Deadly Affair (1966), an adaptation of Call for the Dead, directed by Sidney Lumet, with James Mason as Charles Dobbs (George Smiley in the novel)
The Looking Glass War (1969), directed by Frank Pierson, with Anthony Hopkins as Avery, Christopher Jones as Leiser, and Sir Ralph Richardson as LeClerc
The Little Drummer Girl (1984), directed by George Roy Hill, with Diane Keaton as Charlie
The Russia House (1990), directed by Fred Schepisi, with Sean Connery as Barley Blair
The Tailor of Panama (2001), directed by John Boorman, with Pierce Brosnan as Andy Osnard, a disgraced spy, and Geoffrey Rush as the emigre English tailor Harry Pendel
The Constant Gardener (2005), directed by Fernando Meirelles, with Ralph Fiennes as Justin Quayle, set in the slums in Kibera and Loiyangalani, Kenya; the poverty so affected the film crew that they established the Constant Gardener Trust to provide basic education to those areas (John le Carré is a patron of the charity)
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011), directed by Tomas Alfredson and starring Gary Oldman as George Smiley
A Most Wanted Man (2014), directed by Anton Corbijn and starring Philip Seymour Hoffman
Our Kind of Traitor (2016), directed by Susanna White and starring Ewan McGregor
The Russia House (1994), BBC Radio 4, featuring Tom Baker as Barley Blair
The Complete Smiley (2009–2010) BBC Radio 4, an eight-part radio-play series, based on the novels featuring George Smiley, commencing with Call for the Dead, broadcast on 23 May 2009, with Simon Russell Beale as George Smiley, and concluding with The Secret Pilgrim in June 2010
A Delicate Truth (May 2013), BBC Radio 4's Book at Bedtime, recorded by Damian Lewis
Abridged excerpts from The Pigeon Tunnel, broadcast as BBC Radio 4's Book of the Week, commencing on 12 September 2016
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (1979), BBC seven-part television series, with Alec Guinness as George Smiley
Smiley's People (1982), BBC television series, with Alec Guinness as George Smiley
A Perfect Spy (1987), BBC television adaptation directed by Peter Smith, with Peter Egan as Magnus Pym and Ray McAnally as Rick
A Murder of Quality (1991), Thames Television adaptation directed by Gavin Millar, with Denholm Elliott as George Smiley and Joss Ackland as Terence Fielding
The Night Manager (2016), BBC and AMC series, adapted by screenwriter David Farr and directed by Susanne Bier, with Tom Hiddleston as Jonathan Pine and Hugh Laurie as Richard Onslow Roper
The Little Drummer Girl (2018), BBC and AMC series, directed by Park Chan-wook, with Michael Shannon as Martin Kurtz, Alexander Skarsgård as Gadi Becker and Florence Pugh as Charlie Ross
In 2010, le Carré donated his literary archive to the Bodleian Library, Oxford. The initial 85 boxes of material deposited included handwritten drafts of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and The Constant Gardener. The library hosted a public display of these and other items to mark World Book Day in March 2011.
Awards and honours
1963, British Crime Writers Association Gold Dagger for The Spy Who Came in from the Cold
1964, Somerset Maugham Award for The Spy Who Came in from the Cold
1965, Mystery Writers of America Edgar Award for The Spy Who Came in from the Cold
1977, British Crime Writers Association Gold Dagger for The Honourable Schoolboy
1977, James Tait Black Memorial Prize Fiction Award for The Honourable Schoolboy
1983, Japan Adventure Fiction Association Prize for The Little Drummer Girl
1984, Honorary Fellow Lincoln College, Oxford
1984, Mystery Writers of America Edgar Grand Master
1988, British Crime Writers Association Diamond Dagger Lifetime Achievement Award
1988, The Malaparte Prize, Italy
1990, Honorary degree, University of Exeter
1990, Helmerich Award of the Tulsa Library Trust.
1991, Nikos Kazantzakis prize
1996, Honorary degree, University of St. Andrews
1997, Honorary degree, University of Southampton
1998, Honorary degree, University of Bath
2005, British Crime Writers Association Dagger of Daggers for The Spy Who Came in from the Cold
2005, Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters, France
2008, Honorary doctorate, University of Bern
2011, Goethe Medal of the Goethe Institute
2012, Honorary doctorate, University of Oxford
2019, Olof Palme Prize
A young Chechen ex-prisoner arrives illegally in Germany, practically uneducated and destitute, but with a claim to a fortune held in a private bank. This novel, set in Hamburg where the author was once a British agent and consul, is based on the contemporary themes of the international war on terror, money laundering, and the conflicting interests of different officers and agents and laymen who are affected.
The novel provides an extended, if oblique, critique of the American policy under President George W. Bush of extraordinary rendition. The novel's events and characters were inspired by the real-life story of Murat Kurnaz, a Turkish citizen and legal resident of Germany who, after being arrested in Pakistan in 2001, was detained and claims to have been tortured in American military detention camps, first at Kandahar in Afghanistan and then at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, before being released in 2006.
A nine-minute short film detailing the themes of the book was released on 22 July 2008, produced by Simon Channing-Williams, producer of the film version of Le Carré's 19th novel, The Constant Gardener.
A feature film adaptation was announced in June 2011 in Germany, with Anton Corbijn as director. Australian screenwriter Andrew Bovell adapted the novel for the screen. The film was granted US$1.3 million (€900,000) in production subsidies from Hamburg's regional film board, the FFHSH and the city was the primary production location. Malte Grunert's recently launched Hamburg- and Berlin-based Amusement Park Films produced the film. The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival on 19 January2014, before release in the United States on 25 July, and the United Kingdom on 5 September.
For much of his career John le Carré has been pigeonholed as a practitioner of genre fiction. But whereas the spy novel has traditionally induced an appealing but limited frisson of fear in the reader, presenting a threat to the moral and political establishment which is then resolved by the triumph of the hero and the state whose interests he represents, Le Carré has never dealt in comfort or certainty. His novels depict a bleak world in which the clarity of ideology, morality, patriotism, professional duty and personal loyalty dissolves into a fog in which his characters flounder, groping for some sort of basis on which to live and act. In this respect his work feels closer to postwar existentialism or the central European absurdist tradition than the kinetic action thrillers or puzzle-solving whodunits with which it is often shelved.
With the end of the cold war there were those who wondered whether Le Carré would survive the collapse of the binary opposition which gave his fictional grey area its compelling atmosphere. From the 1990s onwards, in novels such as The Constant Gardener, he turned his attention to the new nexus of corporate and state power, the decentralised network of interests which have gone on to define the 21st century global order. Now, as the contours of the post-9/11 state of emergency become clear, he has published his 21st novel, A Most Wanted Man, which deals with the war on terror and its attendant abuses. It opens as a Turkish immigrant couple in Hamburg reluctantly take in a young Russian vagrant, a devout Muslim called Issa, who says he is from Chechnya. Issa's presence in Germany is a mystery. He has been smuggled across the border, bears the psychological and physical scars of torture, and is carrying a large sum of money. Is he a militant? A refugee? Is his unworldly persona in fact an elaborate cover for something more sinister? Drawn into his orbit are several recognisable Le Carré types. Annabel Richter is a young and idealistic immigration lawyer who takes Issa on as a client, hoping to prevent his deportation. Gunther Bachmann is an experienced intelligence agent, who sees the boy as a thread which he can pull to unravel a complex skein of jihadi finance. Tommy Brue is the ageing Scottish head of a small private bank, an old-fashioned operation which has a number of financial skeletons in its closet.
The fact that these people feel immediately familiar to his fans is both Le Carré's strength and his weakness. Bachmann the spy is sketched in a few paragraphs, which are both rich in incidental detail ("[he] had by the age of 30 run away to sea, trekked the Hindu Kush, been imprisoned in Colombia, and written a thousand-page unpublishable novel") and somehow perfunctory. Brue and Richter are more interesting, affording the author an opportunity to pick at scabs of class and status to get at the wounds beneath. Richter is the daughter of a senior diplomat, and her radicalism seems to be a way of escaping her privileged background. Brue, the nearest thing in the novel to an authorial proxy, is trapped in the ossified world of European old money and falls in modest and distant love with her, taking on her problems, and discovering that "in doing so he had consciously and deliberately entered her danger zone, which he now shared with her. And in consequence, his life had become vivid and precious to him, for which he thanked her from all his heart."
In a recent interview Le Carré was asked if he ever considered defecting. "Well, I wasn't tempted ideologically ... but when you spy intensively and you get closer and closer to the border ... it seems such a small step to jump ... and, you know, find out the rest." Though this has been reported as some sort of tabloid confession ("I was tempted to defect, says spy novelist Le Carré"), it seems primarily interesting as a key to his fiction, whose central concern is the exploration of the metaphorical borderland occupied by the proponents of any polarised conflict. In the cold war, the security establishment was deeply invested in proclaiming the evils of communism. Why? Le Carré offers the wry suggestion that it was prophylactic: they beat the drum for certainty because they understood the perilous ease with which they - in particular, the cold warriors - could slip over to the other side, the small step it would take to find themselves in the communist mirror-world. So the pathological anti-communist becomes, like the swaggering homophobe, a figure of insecurity, protesting loudly and too much. And the ordinary spy, a man perhaps like the young John Cornwell, toiling in his Bonn office, immersed in the minutiae of the system on which he is spying, finds the bureaucratic abstraction of his task leading to a sort of Marxist disillusionment, as evinced in the Communist Manifesto: "All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real conditions of life, and his relations with his kind."
As a key to A Most Wanted Man, Marx's apprehension of the brutal truth of human social relations can usefully stand alongside another famous quotation, EM Forster's statement that "If I had to choose between betraying my country and betraying my friend, I hope that I should have the guts to betray my country." Betrayal and the conflict between different kinds of loyalty form one recurrent theme of Le Carré's fiction. The all-too-human desires of his characters - for loyalty, love and friendship - become terrible vulnerabilities when exposed to the "real conditions of life", the inhumanity of the realpolitik that governs the secret world.
In A Most Wanted Man, such vulnerabilities are ruthlessly exploited. The novel's centre, the damaged young man known as Issa (whose name, significantly, is an analogue of Jesus), becomes a kind of blank screen for the hopes, fears and desires of the banker, the lawyer and the spy. At times his plight makes him genuinely poignant. At others he is little more than a cipher, a faint echo of Prince Myshkin in The Idiot, a "monk with coal-dark eyes" who speaks in a wildly uneven linguistic register, sometimes childlike, sometimes incongruously using words such as "malodorous". Issa is another incarnation of a familiar Le Carré type, the loose cannon, someone whose psychological precariousness and social disconnection make them disruptive of the established order - and useful to the puppeteers of the human soul who run the intelligence services. Some of Le Carré's agents are people for whom this is an active talent - Jerry Westerby in The Honourable Schoolboy, Leamas in The Spy Who Came In From The Cold. Others, such as the actress Charlie in The Little Drummer Girl, are mere pawns in the intelligence game. Here Issa's passive unworldliness is a trait that destabilises the very worldly people who are drawn to him, inducing a sort of sentimental nobility that opens them up to tragedy.
As ever, Le Carré is particularly good at portraying the quiet ruthlessness of intelligence organisations, and the terror of the moment when an unsuspecting person drops through the trapdoor that separates the everyday world from the secret one. He understands the ecstasy of confession ("there was a certain relief, even pleasure, in becoming a child again, in handing the big decisions of her life to people older and wiser than herself") and the subtleties of the relationship between interrogator and subject. The exploitation of human weakness both fascinates and disgusts him, and he is able to weave the familiar elements of his fictional universe into a plot that unwinds satisfyingly and with a certain sickening inevitability. A Most Wanted Man is an uneven book, but despite its flaws it stands as one of the most sophisticated fictional responses to the war on terror yet published, a humane novel which takes on the world's latest binarism and exposes troubling shades of grey.
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