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’. The Berlin Wall is down, the Cold War is over, but the world’s second oldest profession is very much alive. Smiley accepts an invitation to dine with the eager young men and women of the Circus’ latest intake; and over coffee and brandy, by flickering firelight, he beguilingly offers them his personal thoughts on espionage past, present and future. In doing so, he prompts one of his former Circus colleagues into a searching examination of his own eventful secret life. Starring the award-winning Simon Russell Beale as Smiley, and with a distinguished cast including Patrick Malahide as Ned, this engrossing dramatisation brings le Carré’s masterful novel vividly to life. 'A radio triumph... Simon Russell Beale’s pitch-perfect master spy' - Financial Times.
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.