Wednesday, August 25, 2010


Some weeks ago I ceased to be an audio book virgin, thanks to Donna Moore.
This audio version of The Looking Glass War was read by the author John le Carre, and this added enormously to the enjoyment of the experience as his characters came over as he intended, and not interpreted by a third party.
This was particularly noticeable when he gave Johnson, the radio operator a more working class accent, compared with the upper class tones of administrators Haldane and Leclerc. George Smiley, who plays a minor role in this book, is portrayed as similar to the quiet inoffensive classless civil servant made famous by Sir Alec Guinness in his TV recreation of Smiley in the novels Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, and Smiley's People.

This brilliantly downbeat novel involves the rivalry between the Department, effectively mothballed since the war without agents or resources, and the Circus. When the Department has a chance to mount an operation the chance of reclaiming former glory cannot be missed.......
I bought a paperback copy of The Looking Glass War as I enjoyed the audio book so much, and noted the former glory theme in the quotations chosen to start each of the three parts, the "runs" , by Taylor, and then by Avery to Finland, and finally by Leiser into East Germany.

The three quotations are a strange choice for any book written in 1964, unless you are thinking about former and lost glories :

'A fool lies here who tried to hustle the East.' Rudyard Kipling

'There are some things that no one has a right to ask of any white man.'
John Buchan, Mr Standfast

'To turn as swimmers onto the cleanness leaping
Glad from a world grown old and cold and weary' Rupert Brooke, 1914

I will get round to reading the paperback of The Looking Glass War in the future.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Norman - Oh, that is a good thing that you were able to hear the book narrated by the author. I agree that when one can do that, one often gets a real sense of what the author intended. And of course, Le Carre is a master of the spy thriller...

7:39 AM  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

I agree Margot and Le Carre spent five years in the Foreign Service working in for MI6 at one stage. He was probably writing about people he knew. i don't think you can beat Le Carre and Eric Ambler for creating the atmosphere of their periods in spy novels.

2:17 PM  

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