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A Small Town in Germany by John Le Carré

A Small Town in Germany (original 1968; edition 2011)

by John Le Carré

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1,203186,658 (3.63)22
Title:A Small Town in Germany
Authors:John Le Carré
Info:Penguin (2011), Kindle Edition, 326 pages
Collections:Your library, Read, E-books
Tags:2012-12, Crime Fiction

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A Small Town in Germany by John le Carré (1968)

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English (14)  Dutch (2)  Spanish (1)  Danish (1)  All languages (18)
Showing 1-5 of 14 (next | show all)
Great writing. Okay plot. Wonderful ending. Not what one would expect. This is a good book and a fun read if you like le Carré. ( )
  TJWilson | May 27, 2014 |
An odd spy tale in Bonn, Germany, that revolves around a character who is spoken of but never revealed.

Most of the action takes place in the British embassy in Bonn. ( )
  br77rino | Jan 3, 2014 |
Interesting look inside the British diplomatic community in Germany in the post-British-Empire world. It's clear that le Carre really really hated it! ( )
  Netherto | Oct 17, 2013 |
So I will now join the hundreds of people who rave about Le Carre and his wonderfully literate and yet suspenseful and well-plotted spy novels. This is the antidote to Tom Clancy and his ilk's warmongering, or to the mindless cool of James Bond and his many worsening sequels. When I say that this is a good book, I do not mean that it is a likeable story about likeable people. The protagonist-spy is thoroughly unpleasant, a suspicious, misogynistic pragmatist. He describes himself: "I'm the abortionist. You don't want me, but you've got to have me. A neat job with no aftermath--that's what you're paying for." The object of his search doesn't seem any less of a sneaky, manipulative bastard. Of course there are surprises in the end, but the point of this book, for once, isn't to root for the good guys, but simply to realize (as much of the world probably could by 1968) how useless the whole Cold War thing was, and how none of these hijinks get us much closer to justice. ( )
  louistb | Jul 5, 2013 |
Initially I felt a bit out of my depth as there were a lot of references to the political situation and I wasn’t sure how much of this was the actual situation in around 1968, how much was made up and how much more a contemporary would have put together. I gather now it’s a mixture of what was happening and what Le Carré was creating.

Anyway, it wasn’t an easy start of a book which in a way seemed to be a bit too formulaic for me at times with the reviled Alan Turner interviewing one person and then another to uncover more about Leo Harting and his motivations. I couldn’t share Turner’s ‘dawning of excitement’, for example, when Meadowes starts telling him about the ‘fascination of files’. Altogether there seemed to be a bit too much background description although sometimes it was quite arrestingly surrealistic such as when Turner is waiting to see what happens on the Thursday when Leo usually turns up at a meeting place and he thinks ‘one day, when the world is free, clouds will detonate as they collide and God’s angels will fall down dazed for the whole world to look at’. I’m still not sure, though, what prompted this thought nor what it tells us about Turner, the atheist.

At times, too, in complete contrast to the stylistic originality Le Carré could offer were the sort of clichés that are de rigueur in a spy story. So, to put Hazel Bradfield in her place and to get her to talk, ‘Turner hit her very hard across the mouth so that her head jerked back against the pillar with a snap. Opening his door he walked round the car, pulled her out and hit her again with his open hand’.

I think Turner, though, is an interesting character although once again I think my uncertainty about how to respond to him is partly the result of almost half a century passing between his creation and my coming across him. Le Carré is calling up the sort of class distinctions so prevalent in England perhaps a decade or more earlier but hanging on in the diplomatic postings, hence Turner being seen as someone incapable of manners and sensitivity. No doubt Le Carré wants us to condemn the diplomats for such pigeon-holing but at the same time he doesn’t do anything to endear the reader to his protagonist. Perhaps the author is just wanting to suggest the jiggery-pokery of such a world (to use an informal word that was probably in currency at the time).

In the last third of the book, though, it does seem as if Turner stands for a moral approach to life but I did find myself confused by the ending. I always seemed to be catching up on what was going on but in the end I don’t think I did catch up. We’re meant to feel critical of Karfeld for what he’d done during the war yet I found myself sympathetic to a lot of what he said in his Mark Antony like speech. After that, though, it seemed as if he had unleashed all the uglinesses the Germans had been criticised for . . . ( )
  evening | Mar 9, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 14 (next | show all)
The final explanation is unexpected -- but, when it comes, is immediately convincing. "A Small Town in Germany" is an exciting, compulsively readable and brilliantly plotted novel. Le Carré has shown once more that he can write this kind of book better than anyone else around -- and he has done so without repeating himself.
added by John_Vaughan | editNY Times, Richard Boston (Jul 20, 1968)
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Canonical title
Original title
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Original publication date
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
Way over there in a
Small town in Germany
There lived a shoemaker:
Schumann was his name.
Ich bin ein Musikant,
Ich bin fur das Vaterland,
I have a big bass drum
And this is how I play!

-A drinking song sung in British military messes in Occupied Germany, with obscene variations, to the tune of the "Marche Militaire."
First words
Ten minutes to midnight: a pious Friday evening in May and a fine river mist lying in the market square.
Mezzanotte meno dieci: un pio venerdì di maggio e una bella nebbia fluviale stagnante nella piazza del mercato. Bonn era una città balcanica, sporca e segreta, rigata con i fili dei tram. Bonn era una casa buia in cui qualcuno aveva esalato l'ultimo respiro, una casa dai neri drappeggi cattolici, sorvegliata da poliziotti. Le loro giubbe di cuoio luccicavano alla luce dei lampioni. Si sarebbe detto che tutti tranne loro avessero udito l'allarme e fossero fuggiti. Ora un'automobile, ora un pedone passavano rapidamente, e subito seguiva il silenzio come una scia. Un tram sferragliò, ma lontano. Nella drogheria, su una piramide di barattoli, il cartello scritto a mano annunciava l'emergenza: "Fate subito le provviste!" Tra le briciole, maialetti di marzapane, simili a topolini senza pelo, proclamavano il dimenticato giorno del santo.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0743431715, Paperback)

John le Carré's classic novels deftly navigate readers through the intricate shadow worlds of international espionage with unsurpassed skill and knowledge, and have earned him unprecedented worldwide acclaim.

A man is missing. Harting, refugee background, a Junior Something in the British Embassy in Bonn. Gone with him are forty-three files, all of them Confidential or above.

It is vital that the Germans do not learn that Harting is missing, nor that there's been a leak. With radical students and neo-Nazis rioting and critical negotiations under way in Brussels, the timing could not be worse -- and that's probably not an accident.

Alan Turner, London's security officer, is sent to Bonn to find the missing man and files as Germany's past, present, and future threaten to collide in a nightmare of violence.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:50:28 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

West Germany, a simmering cauldron of radical protests, has produced a new danger to Britain: Karfeld, menacing leader of the opposition. At the same time Leo Harting, a Second Secretary in the British Embassy, has gone missing - along with more than forty Confidential embassy files. Alan Turner of the Foreign Office must travel to Bonn to recover them, facing riots, Nazi secrets and the delicate machinations of an unstable Europe in the throes of the Cold War. As Turner gets closer to the truth of Harting's disappearance, he will discover that the face of International relations - and the attentions of the British Ministry itself - is uglier that he could possibly have imagined.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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