Our kind of spy


John Le Carré reading from Our Kind of Traitor. Still from a video by BBC Audio Books.

(Click image to see and hear John Le Carré read a 4 minute extract from Our Kind of Traitor, published today.)

John Le Carré is simply Britain’s greatest living author. No one else comes anywhere near him in his masterly use of language. Le Carré holds up a moral mirror and shows us the difference between how we would like to be perceived and how we really are.

In Our Kind of Traitor Le Carré sets his characters on a stage where the Rusian Mafia call the shots and senior members of the British establishment turn a blind eye. Le Carré’s books have been called morally ambiguous. They are not; they are deeply moral. It’s just that the game is rather dirty and some of our key players do not seem to be playing a straight bat.

Reviews of Our kind of traitor

In Our Kind of Traitor, Smiley and Karla’s creator merges his old world with his new. Obliquely at first, then at an accelerating pace, the novel concocts a plot that roots Russian mafiosi – hand-in-glove with top-level British protectors – in the Soviet soil of the gulag, the nomenklatura and of a deep state (both in Moscow and in London) that changes its skin but never its soul. (Read the review.)

Boyd Tonkin, The Independent

His characters are often their voices as much as they are their physical selves, revealed not by what they say but how they say it. And in his hands, language has become a barometer of decay. (Read the review.)

James Naughtie, Daily Telegraph

Language is central, as so often in le Carré’s post-1990 work, and he lays on a feast of voices. Dima and Hector’s long, often funny speeches are particularly striking, but he also excels in creating a distinct vocal identity for minor figures such as the supergrass’s teenage daughter or his camp English lawyer.

John Dugdale, The Sunday Times

Another, less tangible violence is evoked in this long and elegantly paced plot – the violence of the international dealer, the politician, the fixer and the man of influence who moves in and out of government… The corrupt who move in the elegant circles of corporate tennis hospitality, the studied magnificence of the Swiss hotel de luxe, mobile phone in hand and secret influence deployed offstage... (Read the review.)

Ian Campbell, The Scotsman

More about John Le Carré

(The BBC interview has Le Carré quoting Charlemagne. To possess another language is to possess another soul.)

More about the Russian Mafia


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