George Smiley is one of the most brilliantly realised characters in British fiction. Bespectacled, tubby, eternally middle-aged and deceptively ordinary, he has a mind like a steel trap and is said to possess ‘the cunning of Satan and the conscience of a virgin’. Smiley, now head of the Circus, must rebuild trust in the shattered organisation. He is also determined to destroy his nemesis, Karla, and his spy networks. He recruits Jerry Westerby, occasional spy, occasional news reporter, full-time romantic - the Honourable Schoolboy of the title - and despatches him to the Far East, where, amidst the corruption and decay of former colonies, a new battle is about to begin... Starring the award-winning Simon Russell Beale as Smiley, and with a star cast including Hugh Bonneville, Maggie Steed and Anna Chancellor, this gripping dramatisation perfectly captures the atmosphere of le Carré’s intricate, intriguing novel, the second in the Karla trilogy.
His death this week marked the end of a career which produced internationally acclaimed novels in every decade from the 1960s onwards. Le Carré’s work was enjoyed by readers and critics alike and adapted multiple times for film and television, making him one of the most celebrated and influential authors of modern times. But where to start if you’re new to this work? Here is our starter for ten.
Alongside Alexander Skarsgård and Michael Shannon, Florence Pugh stars in The Little Drummer Girl, the latest adaptation of John le Carré’s thrilling novel of espionage and betrayal. Here she reads le Carré’s description of the character that she herself plays in the BBC series.