The enduring novel by one of our greatest storytellers.
George Smiley, small, podgy and at best middle-aged, is one of the meek who do not inherit the earth. Yet he is also a senior British Intelligence officer, as devastating as he is self-effacing.
In Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy we meet him in short-lived retirement, deserted by his beautiful wife, wrestling with idleness and disillusionment. And haunted by the secret fear that one day, out of a past so complex that he himself could not remember all the enemies he might have made, one of them would find him and demand a reckoning.
At the dead of night, in the house of a member of the Cabinet Office, a mission is put to George Smiley. ‘You’ll take the job, clean the stables? Go backwards, go forwards, do whatever is necessary?’ As Smiley retraces path after path into his own past there is no longer any difference between the two: forwards or backwards, George Smiley has embarked on a blind night walk with God knows how many bodies at the end.
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is a world of hoods and lamplighters, scalphunters and pavement artists, where men are turned, burned or bought for stock; a world of moles, legmen, listeners and watchers. And George Smiley is one of le Carré’s most memorable heroes: a troubled man and superb professional of infinite compassion.