Friday, May 20, 2011

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, by John le Carré


(hb; 1974: third novel in the George Smiley series; first novel in the Karla trilogy)

From the inside flap:

"London. It has become evident beyond all question that somewhere at the very highest levels of British Intelligence there stands a double agent -- a 'mole' implanted deep in its fabric, perhaps decades ago, by Moscow Centre. And it is evident as well that he can be one of five men -- brilliant, complicated men, proven in action, men who have worked closely together through the years, respecting each other, depending on each other, despite abrasive clashes of temperament and painful differences of caste and sensibility, despite the central imperative of their profession to trust no one. . .

"It is George Smiley, one of the five, perhaps the most brilliant and complicated of them all, who is tapped to dig out the mole and destroy him. 'You'll take the job, clean the stables?' the man from Whitehall says to him. 'Go backwards, go forwards, do whatever is necessary?' And so Smiley embarks on his blind night walk, retracing path after path into his own past -- its aliases, covers, sleights of hand -- burrowing into the dust of unresolved episodes, among them the 'mad' twilight of his old chief, Control; the two Czech bullets in Jim Prideaux's back; the dissensions that have torn apart the Circus (as Intelligence Headquarters is ambivalently called); the vagaries of his own so beautiful, so well-connected wife. . ."

Review:

The shooting of a 'Circus' agent, Jim Prideaux, in Czechoslavakia exposes the existence of a high-level Russian mole inside the British agency. As he did with the murders of the previous Smiley novels, George Smiley must sift through varied and often duplicitous personalities, recorded and current conversations, and secret paperwork spanning four decades to unearth who that agent is.

And he must do it without official government approval, without alarming the mole, or his Russian controller, Karla.

Tinker is an improvement over A Murder of Quality in that le Carré's material this time out is less ponderous (i.e., not set in a stuffy English school), with larger ramifications if Smiley, reeling from multiple personal betrayals, fails.

Excellent read, worth checking out: a great set-up for the next Smiley novel, The Honourable Schoolboy.

#

The resulting television mini-series, bearing the same title, aired in England on September 10, 1979. It first aired stateside on September 29, 1980.

Alec Guinness played George Smiley. Michael Jayston played Peter Guillam. Anthony Bate played Sir Oliver Lacon. George Sewell played Mendel. Ian Richardson played Bill Haydon.

Bernard Hepton played Toby Esterhase. Hywel Bennett played Ricki Tarr. Terence Rigby played Roy Bland. Ian Bannen played Jim Prideaux. Michael Aldridge played Percy Alleline.

Alec Sabin played Fawn. Alexander Knox played Control. Duncan Jones played Roach. Daniel Beecher played Spikely.

An uncredited Patrick Stewart played Karla (aka "Gastman").

John Irvin directed the seven-episode mini-series, from a screenplay by Arthur Hopcraft.

#

A theatrical remake of the 1979 mini-series is scheduled for stateside release on November 18, 2011.

Gary Oldman played George Smiley. Mark Strong played Jim Prideaux. Tom Hardy played Ricki Tarr. Benedict Cumberbatch played Peter Guillam. Kathy Burke played Connie Sachs. David Dencik played Esterhase.

Katrina Vasilieva played Ann Smiley.

Colin Firth is listed in the film credits, but there's no character name attached to his role. Such is the case for Ciarán Hinds, also.

The film was directed by Tomas Alfredson, from a script by Bridget O'Connor and Peter Straughan.

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