Books

A Legacy of Spies

A contemporary spy novel by John le Carré.

John le Carré

Peter Guillam, staunch colleague and disciple of George Smiley of the British Secret Service, otherwise known as the Circus, is living out his old age on the family farmstead on the south coast of Brittany when a letter from his old service summons him to London. The reason? His Cold War past has come back to claim him. Intelligence operations that were once the toast of secret London, and involved such characters as Alec Leamas, Jim Prideaux, George Smiley and Peter Guillam himself, are to be scrutinized by a generation with no memory of the Cold War and no patience for its justifications.

Interweaving past and present so that each tells its own intense story, John le Carré has spun a single plot as ingenious and thrilling as the two predecessors on which it looks back: The Spy Who Came in from the Cold and Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. In a story resonating with tension, humor and moral ambivalence, le Carré and his narrator Peter Guillam present the reader with a legacy of unforgettable characters, old and new. (From Viking)

From the book

What follows is a truthful account, as best I am able to provide it, of my role in the British deception operation, codenamed Windfall, that was mounted against the East German intelligence Service (Stasi) in the late nineteen fifties and early sixties, and resulted in the death of the best British secret agent I ever worked with, and of the innocent woman for whom he gave his life.

A professional intelligence officer is no more immune to human feelings than the rest of mankind. What matters to him is the extent to which he is able to suppress them, whether in real time or, in my case, fifty years on. Until a couple of months ago, lying in bed at night in the remote farmstead in Brittany that is my home, listening to the honk of cattle and the bickering of hens, I resolutely fought off the accusing voices that from time to time attempted to disrupt my sleep. I was too young, I protested, I was too innocent, too naive, too junior, If you're looking for scalps, I told them, go to those grand masters of deception, George Smiley and his master, Control. It was their refined cunning, I insisted, their devious scholarly intellects, not mine, that delivered the triumph and the anguish that was Windfall. It is only now, having been held to account by the Service to which I devoted the best yars of my life, that I am driven in age and bewilderment to set down, at whatever cost, the light and dark sides of my involvement in the affair.


From A Legacy of Spies by John le Carré ©2017. Published by Viking.

Interviews with John le Carré 

In this interview from 2017, the former British intelligence officer and master of the political thriller talks to Eleanor Wachtel about A Legacy of Spies, his latest novel to feature the iconic character, George Smiley. 1:07:29

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