In the end, it’s the threat of Moscow Centre that will motivate Nat towards his final, desperate and most audacious covert operation, closing with 15 perfect lines about Nat’s “exfiltration”. A previous version of this book review incorrectly identified the fictional character Nat as having devoted nearly half a century to his career; at 47, he's actually nearly half a century old. Not only is Nat displeased with the rung to which he's been demoted at work, not only does he loathe the class hijinks represented by the various higher-ups he must entreat as part of the assignment he is finally given, but he has a beloved wife, Prudence, who's a powerful human rights attorney working on taking down Big Pharma. © 2020 Guardian News & Media Limited or its affiliated companies. We can compare and contrast the motives, manner and means of his spies’ acts of betrayal at the height of the Cold War with those of their counterparts in the days of, say, the War on Terror, observing what has changed while bearing in mind Bill Haydon’s observation (in Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy) that a nation’s secret services are an “expression of its subconscious”. Not so much gang warfare, more mild embarrassment on teacher’s nights. TheAtlantic.com Copyright (c) 2020 by The Atlantic Monthly Group. His second language, and third (Madame Galina taught him to "speak Russian with a French intonation, French with a Russian intonation, and such German as I have with a mixture of both.". We Insist: A Timeline Of Protest Music In 2020, John Le Carré Fears For The Future In 'Agent Running In The Field', Novelist John Le Carré Reflects On His Own 'Legacy' Of Spying. Le Carré also includes a never-ending heatwave, in order to drop global warming into the story. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters@theatlantic.com. At 88, novelist John le Carré continues to turn out books that writers of any younger age would kill to publish. As always, it is a sheer pleasure to read le Carré’s muscular prose. You need to be a subscriber to join the conversation. Nat (né Anatoly) is a sardonic, patrician, chippy veteran spy of dual English-Russian heritage – in sharp contrast to the narrator of le Carré’s last novel, Peter (né Pierre) Guillam, who was a sardonic, patrician, chippy veteran spy of dual English-French heritage. It's lying wait to unleash your ambush, while the shuttle describes its leisurely arc." Our storyteller in this first-person narrative is Nat. The book is not really classifiable as a thriller – it hardly reaches the level of what the parental guidance ratings call “mild peril” – and might best be regarded as a satirical jeu 
d’esprit; but although a minor work, it is probably his most tonally consistent and wholly successful novel for some time. His readers will know from his first line that they are in the presence of a great enchanter. Yes, in-between times, the author spends too much time apologising for winning the Cold War, and yes, he mentions ethnicity too often and yes, he keeps on irritating the reader saying “yes” before stating the self-evident. In Agent Running in the Field, he’s a cipher, who seems to exist only to play weekly badminton bouts with Nat and then subject him to imaginative rants in the pub afterward. All Rights Tell me it isn’t true. As for the Brexit Trump axis, only one side of the story is described. Readers following the brisk plot may or may not guess where their protagonist's loyalty truly lies. One of those he looks up is Arkady, formerly a double agent, now a gangster-oligarch. We are among the broken statues of old empires. A change of rail gauge means a change of train. If it is more politically nuanced than some of his books, in other ways it’s identikit le Carré. Too much Guardian and Channel Four News before bedtime for you, Mr le Carré sir. Le Carré now dislikes Christianity so much that he writes of ‘Petersburg’ rather than ‘Saint Petersburg’. However, Nat's been played before. If you are disappointed, it is because he has set his bar high, we expect better from him. His dedication to his career has made him a “de facto absentee husband and father”, to his wife, human rights lawyer Prue, and disaffected 19-year-old daughter Steff, and now he’s back in London he needs to make things right with them. We were all a bit baffled. We want to hear what you think about this article. Nat, an over-the-hill British spook, plus his semi-detached wife, Prue, is coming to terms with being put out to grass at 47. Yes. But nor do they allow a young, fiercely talented woman to simply do her job. Why does everyone have to be a White Russian with a bit of German blood via a non-conformist granny in a Gallic hinterland? He has little of the typical spy novelist’s interest in technology, but when Nat talks about making “constructive adjustments” to a target’s computer, a phrase that ought to seem too vague somehow bursts with confidence, conveying not so much that le Carré is ignorant of technical detail as that he finds it beneath his dignity to take notice of it, and you ought to feel the same. Labour no better. Whatever the psychological reasons behind this, sticking to one subject has enabled le Carré’s large body of work to serve as a guide to the shifting mores of Britain over the six decades of his writing career. Le Carré himself has mischievously replied that “Sir Richard and his notional colleagues are going to be mad as bed-bugs” when they read his latest novel. Interior Chinatown by Charles Yu review: who gets to be an American? Le Carré seems to have lived his literary life backwards, starting with gritty realistic Cold War thrillers (deep in detailed tradecraft) and ending with a dollop of impulsive schoolboy politics. One might guess that le Carré, the old radical, is more sympathetic to Ed’s passionate convictions than Nat’s compromises and fence-sitting, but it transpires that Ed is dangerously naive, and, whether by accident or design, this ends up as a novel you can safely give as a Christmas present to any centrist dads of your acquaintance.

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