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Smiley's People (1979)

by John le Carré

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Karla Trilogy (3), George Smiley (7)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
3,925552,408 (4.16)172
Paris, London, Germany, and Switzerland are the settings for a tale of espionage in which a final, conclusive confrontation takes place between George Smiley and his Russian adversary, Karla.

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» See also 172 mentions

English (48)  Danish (2)  Spanish (2)  Swedish (1)  Hebrew (1)  Catalan (1)  All languages (55)
Showing 1-5 of 48 (next | show all)
A slow start, but once Smiley is introduced simply compelling. Rich characters, evocative prose and a wonderful slow-burn plot. ( )
  malcrf | Oct 23, 2021 |
Not a huge spy novel fan but this is a classic, on Boxall's list and it was worth a read. ( )
  auldhouse | Sep 30, 2021 |
In a reading season when I've read a number of intelligence novels — from Jason Matthews to Vince Flynn and, now le Carre — this one stands out for the psychological depth, in characters as well as plot. George Smiley is not heroic in any agent/operative sense of the word, yet those around him — who once worked with him or merely know his legend — they marvel at his tradecraft, his aplomb, his patience ... and they root for him.

As they wait at the wall for Karla’s defection, Peter Guillam says to himself: “Come for George’s sake, he thought; come for mine. Come for all our damn sakes, and be the impossible harvest we have dreamed of for so long.” (367)

And, finally, again with Guillam as he takes Smiley by the arm and they walk away from the final scene: "Come on, old friend," he said. "It's bedtime." (374) ( )
  markburris | Jul 11, 2021 |
Excellent finale to the 'Karla' trilogy, with all the character, plot and atmosphere you want from Le Carré. A huge improvement on the disappointing The Honourable Schoolboy. ( )
  Lirmac | Jul 1, 2021 |
Le Carre completes his tour de force account of the intense and complex game of strategy between the 2 master-spies of the Cold War: George Smiley for the Western Democracies & opposing him 'Karla' for the Communist Eastern bloc. The classically cool yet terrible denouement of their clash is everything we have come to expect from Le Carre, i.e. never overplayed drama or unsavoury rancour just the steady pressurised build-up until one giant of espionage must fall to never rise again.
Le Carre's mastery of storytelling language places him at the forefront of modern day authors: I give 3 quotes to illustrate his literary eloquence for setting a scene:
"For it was a truth known also to Moscow Centre murder teams that even the oldest hands will spend hours worrying about their backs, their flanks, the cars that pass and the cars that don't, the streets they cross and the houses that they enter, Yet still fail, when the moment is upon them, to recognise the danger that greets them face to face."
"To drink she had to lean her whole trunk towards the glass. And as her huge head lurched into the glare of the lamplight, he saw - he knew from too much experience - that she was telling no less than the truth, and her flesh had the leprous whiteness of death."
""By his self-effacement, Toby insists, George held the whole scene 'like a thrush's egg in his hand.'"
Smiley's People can be read without reference to the previous parts of the trilogy although I do advise that is like consuming War & Peace minus the 'war'! ( )
  tommi180744 | May 7, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 48 (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)
The story’s progress is funereal, and there are times when Smiley appears to have lost not his marbles but his memory. Some of the narrative involves Smiley digging to unearth bits of the past that we know already (as in the long, long revelations of a messenger’s activities), and we see him prompting the memory of others with information that he apparently already knows. In a talk with Connie Sachs — we have met her in other books - Smiley induces her to emember things about Karla and the girl. ‘And the child? There was a defector report - what was that about?’ If Smiley knows so much about the defector report, and indeed about most of what Connie has to tell him, what is the point of asking her questions?
added by SnootyBaronet | editThe Guardian, Julian Symons

» Add other authors (10 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Carré, John leprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Davidson, FrederickNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
González Trejo, HoracioTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Laing, TimIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Paolini, Pier FrancescoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Soellner, HeddaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Soellner, RolfTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Taylor, MattCover artistsecondary 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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Paris, London, Germany, and Switzerland are the settings for a tale of espionage in which a final, conclusive confrontation takes place between George Smiley and his Russian adversary, Karla.

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Average: (4.16)
1 4
1.5 1
2 19
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3 94
3.5 32
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