Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Anyone remember "The Spy who Came In From the Cold??" the "Little Drummer Girl"? "Russia House" ?? The finest Cold War spy-thrillers ever written, by an ex-spymaster from British intelligence who knew exactly what he was talking about.

Well, he's back!! - with a new book, and a lot to say.

The novelist who came in from the Cold War,

Globe and Mail, January 6, 2004

By Alan Freeman
Jan 8, 2004, 10:39

He's made a career spinning tales of East-West espionage. But as John le Carré's newest novel reflects a brave new world of U.S. 'hyperpower' -- and his fears about where it is leading us

He speaks slowly and calmly. He has the soft accent and intonation of an Oxford graduate and onetime teacher at Eton, and uses the language of a master wordsmith. But John le Carré is a very angry man.

At 72, David John Moore Cornwell is probably the world's best-known spy writer, though his novels have a literary quality few others can match. Since writing his first novel more than 40 years ago as a young diplomat and intelligence officer in Germany, le Carré has published 19 titles, including such classics of the genre as The Spy Who Came in from the Cold and The Russia House.

His latest book, Absolute Friends, combines le Carré's fascination with the Cold War and his current bête noire: a burning conviction that the war against terror unleashed by the United States is a threat to world peace as great as the evil it's supposed to be fighting.

The novel tells the story of a Briton named Ted Mundy and a German called Sasha, the son of a Lutheran pastor with a shady Nazi past, who become "absolute friends" in the near-revolutionary ferment of West Berlin in the late 1960s.

They end up as double agents for the British during the Cold War and resume their friendship years after the fall of the Berlin Wall when they resume their lives as spooks in the run-up to the war in Iraq, ending up as victims of what le Carré calls the "neoconservative junta" that now rules Washington.

The novel goes back to a familiar theme and old territory: Germany during the Cold War. And his descriptions of people and places are as evocative as ever. But le Carré denies suffering from a case of what contemporary Germans call Ostalgie, nostalgia for the old East Germany.

"I'm much more interested in the organic procession of history. I'm not wishing for the good old days of the Cold War," says the author. "The reverse: What I find extremely upsetting is the speed with which the one hyperpower has recreated an atmosphere of terror."

His views on the Iraq war are peppered throughout the novel, which was completed in June of 2003. "The war on Iraq was illegitimate . . . It was a criminal and moral conspiracy. No provocation, no link with al-Qaeda, no weapons of Armageddon. Tales of complicity and Osama were self-serving bullshit. It was an old colonial war dressed up as a crusade for Western life and liberty, and it was launched by a clique of war-hungry Judeo-Christian geopolitical fantasists who hijacked the media and exploited America's post-9/11 psychopathy."


For a novelist who long eschewed interviews, le Carré can't stop talking about Bush, Blair and the war on terror. "I don't like the term 'war on terror' because it presupposes that you turn an ideological, religious war into a territorial conflict."He blames the wave of terror in the Middle East "first and foremost on the creation of the state of Israel and the unceasing conflict that's arisen there. If we could solve the Palestine-Israel problem, we'd be halfway to solving a whole lot of other problems. If you believe, as I do, that Israel must survive, that Jews deserve a homeland, it is now at least possible to say that they're going about it the wrong way. But already, that makes me an anti-Semite. . . . When I wrote The Little Drummer Girl," his 1983 novel that focused on the Israeli-Palestinian situation, he notes, "I received the most disgusting letters from American-Jewish organizations. None was from Israel."


Le Carré believes the world is suffering from three forms of fundamentalism. He doesn't talk much about Islamic fundamentalism, saving his harshest criticism for the alliance between Christian evangelism and what he calls Zionist fundamentalism. "Doesn't anybody ever talk about Zionist fundamentalism, those American-Jewish settlers in the settlements? You hear the same racist junk and the same bloodthirsty talk and the same indifference to life and death."

Le Carré bristles at suggestions he may be anti-Israel or anti-Semitic. "I'm not even an anti-Zionist. . . . I want Israel to survive. And I think that every step that [Israeli Prime Minister Ariel] Sharon has taken compounds the situation."

When it's recalled to him that Bush and Sharon were both elected and can be replaced by voters, while the likes of Saddam Hussein rule as despots for decades, le Carré shoots back: "Do you suppose that Bush was legally elected? Do you suppose that it is democratic to dismantle rights in America that the forefathers of the present politicians fought for bitterly? Do you suppose we're offering a democratic example through Guantanamo? Do you think it democratic to lie, persistently and deliberately, to a population that has elected, or not elected, you?

"So don't please fall into the trap of believing this is a battle between the civilized and the uncivilized world. That's the first colonial misconception. This is a battle between hyperpower and non-hyperpower. It's a battle between majorities and minorities. Never was there such an unequal war fought on such spurious grounds in my memory, except possibly if we go back to Suez."

I have always had ENORMOUS respect for Le Carre'... during the Cold War no-one could have accused him of being a "lefty" - his basic attitude was simply and honestly declared: that the West, although far from perfect, was the "lesser evil" compared to the police-state system established in the Soviet Union, so his "honest spy" Smiley had no option but to hold his nose and get on with his covert job.. But that was then and this is now: the "excuses" of the Cold War are no longer valid, the lies are blatant and transparent, the self-serving brutalities of the US/UK are clear for all to see... so Le Carre' too has decided the time has come to speak out!

So pleased to discover the great Le Carre' too is "one of us"......

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