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Absolute Friends by John le Carre
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Absolute Friends (original 2003; edition 2004)

by John le Carre

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1,928413,546 (3.47)41
Member:charliehungerford
Title:Absolute Friends
Authors:John le Carre
Info:Little, Brown and Company (2004), Hardcover, 672 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:***
Tags:2013

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Absolute Friends by John le Carré (2003)

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English (34)  French (2)  Dutch (1)  Korean (1)  Danish (1)  Spanish (1)  German (1)  All languages (41)
Showing 1-5 of 34 (next | show all)
http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/12233615

I own a copy and bookcrossed a copy

I'm of two minds on this. Mostly, I really loved it. It is powerfully written and the main characters are interesting. They are very real and flawed and so much more interesting because I want them to have something good happen to them, despite all thier flaws. That is where I am mixed. I expected something like the ending but it still left me feeling like I was listening to the news; depressed and helpless. Oh, and bitter. LeCarre is always good at the moral universe inhabited by spies but here he really extends the cynical outlook and makes a much more worldly statement about ulterior motives and double dealings, etc. I agree with him more than I can state but it does make me feel very sad and down when the novel ends. I can't say that is a bad thing but I think I'm going to read something more cheerful next.
  amyem58 | Jul 3, 2014 |
Two completely different characters meet become firm friends, fall out, reappear in each others lives through several decades and they're always in the core of the Cold War spy game. Through that period their personalities are well described and believable. However that does not hold in the post-Soviet era when they are again at opposite ends of the spectrum of political certainties: Somehow, and this is never explained the 2 are selected for their roles of a lifetime to inadvertently justify Neo-con terror in response to Fundamentalist terror that enables the great Pentagon war machine and their greedy side-kicks the Armaments industry and Washington Political power-brokers to have their gory way in Iraq (?). At least I think that was the intended fictional expose within this narrative: Unfortunately the plot is stymied by only the 2 characters really having any productive direction and input: thus, when in the last chapters suddenly an omniscient chap turns up who dupes both into that 'role' he has so little depth of character and background to his remarkable position it is quite incredible to believe the 2 fell for his act. A failure of narrative that in turn makes the end to this story so implausible I guess Le Carre just got tired and wanted it over with. ( )
  tommi180744 | Apr 29, 2014 |
Le Carre books are almost a genre unto themselves these days, and like any genre, they can be a bit hit and miss. Absolute Friends is reasonably good, but it does suffer a little from flab and slight indulgence.

Teddy has come a long way from his activist student days in Berlin, however his friend Sasha is a presence that haunts him through the decades, and he guides Teddy into the ethical morass of intelligence work.

I think Le Carre is often under-rated as a stylist, in part because he's so readable and prolific, but for me the most enjoyable component of Absolute Friends was the prose. Sharp and observant, his writing is also veined with lyricism, and the elegiac, weary tone is just perfect for the story.

In terms of narrative, this is not the cracking pace that some of his other novels are - though the final quarter races by. Covering so many decades via a flashback felt a little meandering at times, and though I was enjoying the characters and their situations, the through-line was hard to trace. I wasn't sure *why* I was reading so much history.

Ultimately that history is a form of characterisation, not just of Teddy and Sasha but the developing - or rather devolving - intelligence community. Absolute Friends marked the first "hard left" turn that Le Carre took and in that context I can see why it was so bracing at the time. Five books later, and the tune is a little familiar, as are the characters, the arc they describe and the conclusion - which was a little too pat and just-so for me.

Though I agree with Le Carre on a political level, I do find his latter novels can lack the subtlety of some of his earlier work, the point is really rammed home and it's a bit of a shame as his characters are so life-like and prose so modulated.

For all that, it's still an enjoyable book. Not the best place to start on Le Carre, but by this stage, I can't imagine there are too many readers who haven't read at least one of this books. ( )
  patrickgarson | Sep 18, 2013 |
The story unfolds somewhat slowly, built around a vivid depiction of the intense and unlikely friendship that develops between Pakistani-born Brit Ted Mundy and German left-wing radical Sasha, who meet in the turbulent environment of student dissent in 1960s West Berlin. The trust that develops between them is hard won and hard tested through their involvement in radical left politics of the 1960s, then cold war intrigue as both come to serve for decades as highly effective double agents working for the downfall of the soviet Eastern bloc and especially the hated Stasi of East Germany, and finally as pawns in a deadly scheme in the 21st century war on terror.

The dramatization of Mundy and Sasha’s relationship is brilliant. Though personal trust is the linchpin of their relationship, this is not simpleminded story that politics is superficial, unworthy of our attention – the province of mere fanatics who ware not to be trusted on any account. Indeed, it is their commitment in different ways to a politics of freedom and human decency that draws them together, and is bound up in their relationship as it evolves.
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**Spoiler alert**

My one misgiving in the novel concerns the paranoid conclusion, in which it turns out that Sasha’s political passions, and Mundy’s commitment to Sasha as hope perhaps for a decent world, are manipulated by agents provocateurs committed to the hegemony of the US corporate state, and gunned down in a sham raid staged to silence European critics and dissenters in of the war on terrorism.

Is such a thing plausible? One would like to think that it is not. But since the novel’s publication some aspects of this kind of plot have been borne out by events – e.g. “terrorists” recruited by US intelligence operatives only to have their plans, which were really only ever the machinations of the US agents who manipulated them, foiled in highly public operations calculated to prove the need and efficacy of US intelligence operations, and the targeted assassination of US citizens deemed by US administration officials to be enemy combatants. Given those developments, and recent revelations of spying, one really does not have terribly firm grounds for dismissing the plot climax as paranoid delusion.

But in the end, the plausibility of the novel’s concluding plot device is far less important than the plausibility of the two main characters commitment to a politics of resistance to injustice and oppression in the face of profound uncertainties, and their related commitment to each other as friends. This is the thread of integrity which le Carre offers in a world in which truth of any kind is virtually impossible to find. ( )
  JFBallenger | Jul 8, 2013 |
Just great! Le Carre is such a great storyteller, such a great creator of characters. Mundy is fantastic, Sasha is better. Also, Le Carre narrates this himself, and does a wonderful job. He does voices, but doesn't over-do them. ( )
  BooksForDinner | Oct 5, 2011 |
Showing 1-5 of 34 (next | show all)
In this book John le Carré, the pro's pro, seems determined to resume his own apprenticeship as a writer, to shuck off the last stubborn vestiges of public-school cleverness. The rant at the end of the book is the proof. He does the most un-English thing imaginable: he loses his head while all about him are keeping theirs.
 
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On the day his destiny returned to claim him, Ted Mundy was sporting a bowler hat and balancing on a soapbox in one of Mad King Ludwig's castles in Bavaria.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0316000647, Hardcover)

This epic tale of loyalty and betrayal spans the lives of two friends from the riot-torn West Berlin of the 1960s to the grimy looking-glass of Cold War Europe to the present day of terrorism and new alliances. This is the novel le Carr fans have been waiting for, a brilliant, ferocious, heartbreaking work for the ages.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:31:19 -0400)

(see all 7 descriptions)

Follows friends and fellow ex-spies, Ted Mundy and Sasha, as they attempt to change their lives and the world in which they live, covering their new escapades in Germany and the ones from their past.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 10 descriptions

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