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Smiley's People by John le Carré

Smiley's People (edition 2009)

by John le Carré

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2,714302,175 (4.12)114
Title:Smiley's People
Authors:John le Carré
Info:Sceptre (2009), Paperback, 464 pages
Collections:Your library

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Smiley's People by John le Carré


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Showing 1-5 of 26 (next | show all)
I bought this book at the age of 22 at the Book Trader. The name of the store brings back memories. "Book Trader 170 10th Street North, Naples, FL, 38940, 262-7562, AFTER YOU'VE READ SWAP IT FOR CREDIT". So says the green stamp on the book on the inside of the front cover. Obviously I never swapped it back and the bookstore no longer exists. The store was probably someone's retirement venture. I loved having a used bookstore in Naples. It was hard to get rid of this book because of it's sentimental value. I had hitched rides back from college and from New Orleans and I needed cheap books to read. So I would pick-up copies of Le Carre, Dostoyevsky's "The Idiot", Walker Percy's "The Movie Goer" and dream myself into them like they were the deliriums of a fever. At one time that is how I read. Reading Le Carre's Karla Trilogy could certainly feel like a fever. But start with "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy." It is certainly one of the great spy novels.
  JerryMonaco | Oct 11, 2014 |
What is so exhilarating and fulfilling about reading le Carré is the sense of genuine intelligence at play, both in the characters and in the author. There are different ways of trying to convey great cleverness in a literary character: one approach is to give them superhuman deductive skills à la Sherlock Holmes, you know – I perceive, sir, that you have recently returned from a hunting excursion in Wiltshire and that your wife's tennis partner owns a dachshund called Gerald — But my dear fellow, how could you possibly?! — Quite elementary; the leaf that adheres to your left boot-sole is unmistakably from a holm oak, one of the rarest English trees, a fine specimen of which grows outside Wiltshire's best-frequented hunting lodge; you may perhaps have glanced at my recent monograph on the subject in the Evening Post which proved so useful in the recent unpleasantness concerning the Prince-Bishop of Montenegro…

And so on. Don't get me wrong, I love this stuff – but it's a game, it's amusing, it's manifestly nonsense. The thrill of what le Carré does in the Karla trilogy – and I don't believe anyone does it better – is of a completely different order. You believe it: the leaps of intuition are logical and motivated, and just slightly out of your reach, so that you constantly feel both flattered to be keeping up and somewhat awestruck at how they always make the connections a bit faster than you do. It's rather like how I feel when I play through top-level chess games, the sense that you can just about follow why they're doing what they're doing; the deceptive conviction, as you watch an unexpected rook sacrifice, that it all makes perfect sense and that you would undoubtedly have thought of the same move yourself.

This is hard to do as a writer. Because writers are often not that smart, even when they're talented. Le Carré writes as though he's smarter than all his readers, and when I read him I'm convinced. The thrills in these books come not from action sequences, but from the plausibility of the dialogue: I was more on edge during Smiley's calm ‘interrogation’ of Toby Esterhase here than I've been in any number of car chase or bomb-defusion scenes. What to say next? How to press them in exactly the right way, without scaring them off?

In a sense this book is composed simply of a number of these intense, magesterially-written duologues stacked together, a stichomythic layer-cake: Smiley and Lacon, Smiley and Mikhel, Smiley and Esterhase, Smiley and Connie, Smiley and Grigoriev, Smiley and Alexandra…and always, at the end, the prospect of somehow reaching the the endgame conversation, between Smiley and Karla. (It would be quiet and undramatic, and fascinating.) But then again, the whole trilogy is that conversation being played out.

These dialogues are stitched together with a prose style that is economical and unclichéd. The plot is thick and chewy and le Carré does not cheat with his exposition. Perhaps overall [book:The Honourable Schoolboy|18990] was my favourite – I just love the oblique portrayal of foreign reporting – but this is a stupendous end to a brilliant trilogy. A lot of books are clever – ‘oh that's clever,’ you might say after a literary trick or a narrative sleight-of-hand. These books are intelligent. That's rare enough in fiction as it is, and the fact that it comes in so-called genre fiction just shows how distracting such ghettos can be. ( )
1 vote Widsith | Jul 23, 2014 |
A very mixed bag. The hyper-reality that the young man experiences while making the drop is written very well. The sodden emotionalism is poor. Karla is finally captured because of his "love" for a daughter with whom he has barely ever interacted. Emotions and principles are arbitrary counters in this well-written let-down. The two principle women, Ann and Connie, are preposterous and irritating. ( )
  themulhern | Jul 1, 2014 |
Much better than the Honourable Schoolboy, but let down by the ending and Karla's weakness which doesn't seem that comprimising. ( )
  BrianHostad | Sep 19, 2013 |
While more satisfying than [b:The Honourable Schoolboy|18990|The Honourable Schoolboy|John le Carré|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1167175744s/18990.jpg|79986], it just didn't quite hold the same engagement that the first of the Karla trilogy garnered from me. The ethical questions are fascinating and the ending is heartbreakingly ambiguous - but the book as a whole felt somewhat underwritten, less-than-full. It was a fitting ending for Smiley's story with Karla but at the same time it was frustratingly empty. For the ethics, it shows the master for what he is... but it isn't the most engaging or exciting of novels, even when the tension ratchets up.

Modest ramblings continue here: http://wp.me/pGVzJ-jm ( )
  drewsof | Jul 9, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 26 (next | show all)
In "Smiley's People," Smiley works both worlds, is both detective and agent at risk. I won"t disclose the oblique, slow-moving plot, except to say that a trail of murder and camouflage leads Smiley to Hamburg and Paris and Berne, and that the stakes are especially high for him, since his old archenemy, the daunting mastermind in charge of the Thirteenth Directorate of Russian Intelligence, appears to have made an uncharacteristic slip. Smiley's boss in London jokingly refers to Holmes and Moriarty at Reichenbach Falls, but even Smiley himself hears "the drum-beat of his own past, summoning him to one last effort to externalise and resolve the conflict he had lived by." That's a touch too literary, sounding more like le Carré's problem than Smiley's, and Smiley's next image catches a little more of the case: "It was just possible, against all the odds, that he had been given, in late age, a chance to return to the rained-out contests of his life and play them after all."
added by John_Vaughan | editNY Times, Michael Wood (Jul 20, 1980)

» Add other authors (17 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
John le Carréprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Davidson, FrederickNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
González Trejo, HoracioTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Laing, TimIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Soellner, HeddaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Soellner, RolfTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For my sons, Simon, Stephen, Timothy and Nicholas,
with love

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Two seemingly unconnected events heralded the summons of Mr George Smiley from his dubious retirement.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0743455800, Paperback)

John le Carre's classic novels deftly navigate readers through the intricate shadow worlds of international espionage with unsurpassed skill and knowledge and have earned him -- and his hero, British Secret Service agent George Smiley -- unprecedented worldwide acclaim.

Rounding off his astonishing vision of a clandestine world, master storyteller le Carre perfects his art in "Smiley's People."

In London at dead of night, George Smiley, sometime acting Chief of the Circus (aka the British Secret Service), is summoned from his lonely bed by news of the murder of an ex-agent. Lured back to active service, Smiley skillfully maneuvers his people -- "the no-men of no-man's land" -- into crisscrossing Paris, London, Germany, and Switzerland as he prepares for his own final, inevitable duel on the Berlin border with his Soviet counterpart and archenemy, Karla.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:35:49 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

George Smiley and Karla, his mortal enemy, have a final confrontation in the Soviet Union.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 17 descriptions

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