Intelligence and counter-intelligence, leaks and wiretaps, hackers, a dossier, and a trail of dead Russians: the topic of espionage has been front and center in the news since reports of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Commentary on the various angles and off-shoots of the evolving story can be heard nightly on cable news, given by ex-KGB operatives and former FBI double agents.
This might be a good time to read up on who CIA agents (using pseudonyms) rate as the most realistic spy writer: John le Carré.
An ex-intelligence officer himself, le Carré quit MI6 to write full time after the success of his third novel, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold. As author Robert Lance Snyder says in an interview with Spy Write,
It does make sense … that a career devoted to generating cover stories and fictional scenarios for the sake of expediency should prompt many real-life spooks to become writers. Rare, though, is the intelligence agent who, like Maugham in Ashenden (1928) or Greene in The Confidential Agent (1939) and Our Man in Havana (1958) or of course le Carré, can make something more of the genre—expose its element of imposture and self-betrayal.
Snyder’s John le Carré’s Post–Cold War Fiction frames le Carré’s ten post–Cold War novels as a distinctive subset of his espionage fiction in their response to the momentous changes in geopolitics, particularly the “War on Terror” and transnationalism. In the same interview, Snyder explains his interest in writing this book:
I was annoyed that few if any mainstream scholars seemed to respect the evolving coherence of his ten post-Cold War novels after The Secret Pilgrim (1990), particularly as they address the mired complexities of George W. Bush’s vaunted “War on Terror” in an age of transnationalism, surveillance, and globalization. Given these complexities, with which le Carré wrestles in all of his post-Cold War fiction, my study proposes that he is one of the preeminent ethicists in contemporary literature, given his concern for human rights and social justice.
During this time when spies are in the spotlight instead of the shadows, in addition to the swirling conspiracy theories and fake news, the ways in which deception misleads and ultimately betrays us is especially clear and le Carré is particularly relevant. Espionage in the end, as le Carré has said on more than one occasion, is a metaphor for the ruses by which we deceive ourselves.
Praise for John Le Carré’s Post–Cold War Fiction
“Snyder convincingly makes the case that le Carré’s work is far more significant than mere genre fiction. In this respect Snyder links le Carré’s liberal humanism with that of George Orwell, Aldous Huxley, and Graham Greene.”—Myron Aronoff, Professor Emeritus of Anthropology, Political Science, and Jewish Studies, Rutgers University, author of The Spy Novels of John le Carré: Balancing Ethics and Politics
“Snyder skillfully directs us toward Le Carre’s central revelation: that the various whirlwinds that Western democracies have inherited since the Wall’s fall have been sown by their own arrogance, ignorance, and complacency.”—Cates Baldridge, Middlebury College, author of Graham Greene’s Fictions: The Virtues of Extremity
“Brilliant, insightful, and very, very comprehensive.”—David R. Willingham, publisher, Paradoxa: Studies in World Literary Genres
John Le Carré’s Post–Cold War Fiction
Robert Lance Snyder
Hardcover • ISBN: 978-0-8262-2099-8
$50.00 • 280 pp. • 6 x 9