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’. It is 1962: the height of the Cold War and only months after the building of the Berlin Wall. Alec Leamas is a hard-working, hard-drinking British intelligence officer whose East Berlin network is in tatters. His agents are either on the run or dead, victims of the ruthlessly efficient East German counter-intelligence officer Hans-Dieter Mundt. Leamas is recalled to London where, to his surprise, instead of being washed up and consigned to a desk he's offered a chance to have his revenge by becoming a pawn in a brilliantly-conceived plot to destroy Mundt. But in order to do so he has to stay out in the cold a little longer... Starring the award-winning Simon Russell Beale as Smiley, and with a distinguished cast including Brian Cox as Alec Leamas, this tense, compelling dramatisation perfectly captures the atmosphere of le Carré's taut, intricate thriller.
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.