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The Secret Pilgrim by John Le Carré

The Secret Pilgrim (1991)

by John le Carré

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The Secret Pilgrim is a novel told in the format of a collection of stories told by an ageing spy to students. I found the main character Ned a little hard to connect with and didn't really enjoy it that much. ( )
  HenriMoreaux | Feb 21, 2017 |
Solid le Carré spy thriller focused on reminiscing about interrogations. ( )
  kale.dyer | Aug 11, 2016 |
"" ( )
  rouzejp | Sep 2, 2015 |
It becomes apparent to the reader pretty quickly that this is really a set of short stories masquerading as a novel glued together by little introduction via George Smiley – thereby allowing this to be erroneously considered a Smiley novel. This creates disappointment from the start and I found myself less and less engaged as I think what I like in le Carré’s novels is the build-up whereas these stories tend to be the opposite. That is, the introduction by Smiley and Ned lets the reader know as often as not what the outcome will be.

Still, things got better in the antepenultimate chapter, the longest in the book allowing plot and ideas to develop alongside each other and then in the last couple of chapters le Carré offers quite a few thoughts for the reader to ponder on – such as ‘There’s no such thing as retirement, really. Sometimes there’s knowing too much, and not being able to do much about it, but that’s just age, I’m sure’. I also find le Carré quite prescient for 1991, talking of global warming and the uncertainty of how Russia would develop and how corrupt capitalism can be. ( )
  evening | Feb 13, 2015 |
Superb. A treatise on the meaning of life and retirement. "Some interrogations are not interrogations at all, but communions between damaged souls". George Smiley is featured in the retelling of Ned's life in the Circus after the betrayal of Bill Haydon. Delightfully done and elegantly told. ( )
  mstruck | Aug 18, 2014 |
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There is a valedictory tone in this book that is not wholly caused by Ned's approaching retirement. The cold war is over, the old enemies have been replaced by glasnost and perestroika, and for Mr. le Carré himself it must have been a bizarre experience to see the raw material of his art disintegrate over the last few years. But the spies, we can be sure, will never be made redundant. At the end of the novel, decent, honorable Ned encounters a particularly nasty specimen of the new antagonists -- an utterly cynical and amoral British millionaire entrepreneur and arms dealer, and a knight, to boot. He is a perfect embodiment of the so-called market forces dogma of the Thatcher years in its most brutish form. "Now we had defeated Communism, we were going to have to set about defeating capitalism," Ned reflects. One senses a new foe emerging, new battles for the Circus to fight.
added by John_Vaughan | editNY Times, William Boyd (Jul 20, 1991)
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For Alec Guinness with affection and thanks
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Let me confess to you at once that if I had not, on the spur of the moment, picked up the pen and scribbled a note to George Smiley inviting him to address my passing-out class on the closing evening of their entry course-and had Smiley not, against all my expectations, consented-I would not be making so free to you with my heart.
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Book description
It's the story of the cuff links that makes this my single favorite Le Carre book.
Nothing is as it was. Old enemies embrace. The dark staging grounds of the Cold War - whose shadows barely obscured the endless games of espionage - are flooded with filth; the rules are rewritten, the stakes changed, teh future unfathomable. John Le Carre has seized this momentous turning point in history to give us the most disturbing experience we have yet had of the frail and brutal world of spydom.
the man called Ned speaks to us. All his adult life he has been in British Intelligence - the Circus - a loyal, shrewd, wily officer of the Cold War. Now, approaching the end of his career, he revisits his own past - an intricate weave of suspicion, danger boredom and exhilaration that is the essence of espionage and of his own sentimental education.

He invites us on a tour of his three decades in the Circus, burrowing deep into the twilight world where he ran spies - "Joes" - from Poland, Estonia, Hungary, men and women to whom he gave his most profound love and hate. Along the way we meed a host of splendid new characters and reacquaint ourselves with the legendary old knights of the Circus and the notorious traitor, Bill Haydon.
telling the story of hos own life's secret pilgrimage, Ned illuminates the brave pastg and the even braver present of George Smiley - reluctant keeper of the flame - who combines within himself the ideal and the reality of the Circus. Smiely, Ned's mentor and hero, now gives back to him the "dangerous edge" of memory which empowers him to frame the questions that have haunted him - and the world - for thirty years, and that haunt us still.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0394588428, Hardcover)

Ned is the Secret Pilgrim, a loyal soldier of the Cold War, who has been in British Intelligence all his adult life. Now, just as retirement is within his grasp, he is forced by the explosions of change to revisit his secret years and face the questions that have haunted him for thirty years.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:12:34 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

The Cold War is over. The rules of the spying game have changed. But to train new spies for this uncertain future, one must first show them the past. Enter the man called Ned, the loyal and shrewd veteran of the Circus. With the inspiration of his inscrutable mentor George Smiley, Ned thrills all as he recounts forty exhilarating years of Cold War espionage across Europe and the Far East .… (more)

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Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 014119636X, 0241962196

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