Read Smiley's People by John le Carré Online


John le Carre's classic novels deftly navigate readers through the intricate shadow worlds of international espionage with unsurpassed skill and knowledge and have earned him -- and his hero, British Secret Service agent George Smiley -- unprecedented worldwide acclaim.Rounding off his astonishing vision of a clandestine world, master storyteller le Carre perfects his artJohn le Carre's classic novels deftly navigate readers through the intricate shadow worlds of international espionage with unsurpassed skill and knowledge and have earned him -- and his hero, British Secret Service agent George Smiley -- unprecedented worldwide acclaim.Rounding off his astonishing vision of a clandestine world, master storyteller le Carre perfects his art in Smiley's People.In London at dead of night, George Smiley, sometime acting Chief of the Circus (aka the British Secret Service), is summoned from his lonely bed by news of the murder of an ex-agent. Lured back to active service, Smiley skillfully maneuvers his people -- the no-men of no-man's land -- into crisscrossing Paris, London, Germany, and Switzerland as he prepares for his own final, inevitable duel on the Berlin border with his Soviet counterpart and archenemy, Karla....

Title : Smiley's People
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ISBN : 9780743455800
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 397 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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Smiley's People Reviews

  • Warwick
    2019-07-17 13:46

    What is so exhilarating and fulfilling about reading le Carré is the sense of genuine intelligence at play, both in the characters and in the author. There are different ways of trying to convey great cleverness in a literary character: one approach is to give them superhuman deductive skills à la Sherlock Holmes, you know – I perceive, sir, that you have recently returned from a hunting excursion in Wiltshire and that your wife's tennis partner owns a dachshund called Gerald — But my dear fellow, how could you possibly?! — Quite elementary; the leaf that adheres to your left boot-sole is unmistakably from a holm oak, one of the rarest English trees, a fine specimen of which grows outside Wiltshire's best-frequented hunting lodge; you may perhaps have glanced at my recent monograph on the subject in the Evening Post which proved so useful in the recent unpleasantness concerning the Prince-Bishop of Montenegro… And so on. Don't get me wrong, I love this stuff – but it's a game, it's amusing, it's manifestly nonsense. The thrill of what le Carré does in the Karla trilogy – and I don't believe anyone does it better – is of a completely different order. You believe it: the leaps of intuition are logical and motivated, and just slightly out of your reach, so that you constantly feel both flattered to be keeping up and somewhat awestruck at how they always make the connections a bit faster than you do. It's rather like how I feel when I play through top-level chess games, the sense that you can just about follow why they're doing what they're doing; the deceptive conviction, as you watch an unexpected rook sacrifice, that it all makes perfect sense and that you would undoubtedly have thought of the same move yourself.This is hard to do as a writer. Because writers are often not that smart, even when they're talented. Le Carré writes as though he's smarter than all his readers, and when I read him I'm convinced. The thrills in these books come not from action sequences, but from the plausibility of the dialogue: I was more on edge during Smiley's calm ‘interrogation’ of Toby Esterhase here than I've been in any number of car chase or bomb-defusion scenes. What to say next? How to press them in exactly the right way, without scaring them off?In a sense this book is composed simply of a number of these intense, magesterially-written duologues stacked together, a stichomythic layer-cake: Smiley and Lacon, Smiley and Mikhel, Smiley and Esterhase, Smiley and Connie, Smiley and Grigoriev, Smiley and Alexandra…and always, at the end, the prospect of somehow reaching the the endgame conversation, between Smiley and Karla. (It would be quiet and undramatic, and fascinating.) But then again, the whole trilogy is that conversation being played out.These dialogues are stitched together with a prose style that is economical and unclichéd. The plot is thick and chewy and le Carré does not cheat with his exposition. Perhaps overall The Honourable Schoolboy was my favourite – I just love the oblique portrayal of foreign reporting – but this is a stupendous end to a brilliant trilogy. A lot of books are clever – ‘oh that's clever,’ you might say after a literary trick or a narrative sleight-of-hand. These books are intelligent. That's rare enough in fiction as it is, and the fact that it comes in so-called genre fiction just shows how distracting such ghettos can be.

  • Chloe
    2019-07-13 10:34

    Note for completists: This is the third of the Smiley books, preceded by first Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and then by The Honourable Schoolboy. While it is possible to read these books out of order and still enjoy them, the later books are informed by the events that come before and definitely spoil salient plot points of those novels.Life has not been overly kind to George Smiley. Devoted husband to a faithless wife, dedicated servant to a government that does not admit he exists, archnemesis to his Soviet doppelganger, betrayed by his closest friend- Smiley has been through much in his years of service. Smiley's People finds the former spymaster once more cast out of the Circus of British intelligence, yet another sacrifice to the twisting winds of political favoritism. Prematurely aged and tired from a life lived in the shadows, Smiley doesn't quite know how to go about existing without subterfuge.Yet when his old acquaintance Lacon shows up requesting Smiley's help investigating the murder of a friend and former asset, Smiley laboriously pulls himself from his over-stuffed easy chair, smoothes rumpled clothes over his mammoth stomach, puts on his horse blanket of a jacket, and tromps dutifully back into the world of intrigue that is his life. At stake is the opportunity to finally take down Karla, the Soviet spymaster who has bedevilled Smiley for decades in the great and secret chess game they have played against one another. Working unofficially, completely off the books and deniable, Smiley must piece together Karla's plan before more of his friends end up dead on a rainy night.Fortunately, Smiley has built up all the resources he would need over a lifetime of intelligence work. In the spy game, all the fancy gadgets and gizmos in the world will never compare to a solid piece of human intel, and Smiley knows just who to ask to get the information he requires. Visiting retired Circus personnel, from the senile research assistant who helped compile nearly all of the known data on Karla to the disgraced lamplighter Toby Esterhase, who can still muster more than a few surveillance teams if there's the chance for personal glory and a return to the game, Smiley pieces together the bits of story he needs in order to weave a trap of his own and conclusively win in the battle of wills that he and Karla have fought for nearly their whole lives.This is what le Carre excels at: the slow and methodical piecing together of events, some decades old, into a coherent conspiracy that has a very real effect on the present. Field work doesn't play too large of a part in Smiley's methodology. He already has most of the puzzle pieces in his hands, it just takes a careful review for Smiley to uncover the importance of each nugget of knowledge. Some readers deride this as moving too slowly, but to them I recommend the works of Robert Ludlum. Smiley is British, and if Monty Python taught us anything it's that the Brits love their dry subtlety. The reader is left even more in the dark than Smiley himself and half the fun of the book is trying to trace those connections between events and characters and (possibly) beat Smiley to his final showdown with Karla.A fantastic end to this trilogy, Smiley stands out as one of my favorite spies ever (above Valerie Plame but below the Wen Ho Lee). Le Carre proves once again why he is the grandmaster of this genre with this carefully crafted, delicately paced thriller that delivers the perfect conclusion to a rivalry that is far more interesting than any battle between Bond and SPECTRE ever was.

  • Manny
    2019-07-02 13:29

    The conclusion of the trilogy that starts with Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy; but, while that book is about betrayal, this one is about manipulation. The heartbreaking message is that, when you want to manipulate someone, the most effective approach is not to try and exploit their weaknesses. Needless to say, that can work too. But the very best way is to exploit their kindness, their decency, and the things that make them a worthwhile human being. It's been done in many other books too, of course, though rarely as well as le Carré does it here.

  • Abubakar Mehdi
    2019-07-11 11:48

    Smiley’s People is the last book in the “Karla Trilogy”; a series that describes the world of espionage during the Cold War. The story starts with a revelation by a ‘lost-agent’ recently resurfaced that at the very top of Circus (British secret service) there is a KGB agent, a mole spying for the Russians. And he is there for decades. Dangerous, resourceful and one of their own, this double-agent is capable of wrecking havoc if he isn’t caught immediately and off-guard. Here Smiley is called back from Retirement to spy on a spy, to draw a web inside the web and then patiently wait for him to walk into the trap. From the offset the language of the book has marked “British-ness” to it, the slang, the jargon and even the sense of humour. As the story proceeds, the thrill of the game intensifies and one cannot help but admire Le Carré’s mastery. The second book, though not as a charming as the first one, had a very different tone and setting. I found it slightly ‘dragging’ at times, but the writing was so enchanting that one can hardly complain. The third and the final book, pits Smiley and his arch-rival Karla against each other. The story, unlike the first two books, kicks off from a very thrilling start and keeps the reader on edge. Le Carré has a singular talent for story telling, and a keen eye for the details. He registers every flinch of fingers, every shift in tone of voice or demeanour and then describes it so perfectly that the reader can visualize the whole scene. His insights on the thoughts of a mind under extreme duress, the art of interrogation and reading of small signs in one’s body language are worth an entire book in itself. There are some recurring themes present throughout the trilogy. Themes like Betrayal, Sexual frustration, promiscuity and love. There is a general mood of futility to the storyline, a sense of unending trepidation and unrequitedness. Maybe its not unique to just this series but is true for most of his fiction (A most wanted man, our kind of Traitor…) where there are no complete victories. The success is always short of triumph, always incomplete or inadequate. But what really piqued my attention was how painfully all the romantic entanglements concluded, and how pessimistic a view the author takes to such storylines. Ricky Tarr, Smiley, Jerry and Karla, all of these men were hopeless lovers, and love was their downfall. Love, in Le Carré’s fiction proves to be, as Karla called it, “an illusion”. This series is often remarked as the Magnum Opus of John Le Carré. In the tradition of Greene and Chandler, Le Carré’s fiction is a departure from the glint and glamour of Fleming’s Bond series, which gained immense popularity during the cold war period, but which also lacked the grim and nonchalant realities of espionage. Le Carré is the real deal. The dark chocolate; bitter and unsavoury on the first bite but with an intoxicating after-taste that stays with you for a long time.

  • Krissa
    2019-06-24 08:26

    This book changed my life. My dad, sick of hearing me make fun of his spy novel proclivities, bet me $50 that I would love this book. It was a safe bet, too. If I loved it, I owed him nothing other than the smug satisfaction of having been right. If I hated it, he'd give me $50.I loved it. I love the entire trilogy, in fact, but since I read this one first, out of order (tsk tsk dad) it has the special place on my favorites shelf. And even though I now own THREE copies, this edition was my father's, which he then bequeathed to me after I raced through the entire Le Carre canon with incredible enthusiasm. He always meant to inscribe this edition to me, but he passed away before we had the chance. It's perhaps the most treasured book I own because it was his.

  • Bettie☯
    2019-07-16 10:45

    Revisit via filmDescription: John le Carre's classic novels deftly navigate readers through the intricate shadow worlds of international espionage with unsurpassed skill and knowledge and have earned him -- and his hero, British Secret Service agent George Smiley -- unprecedented worldwide acclaim.Rounding off his astonishing vision of a clandestine world, master storyteller le Carre perfects his art in "Smiley's People."In London at dead of night, George Smiley, sometime acting Chief of the Circus (aka the British Secret Service), is summoned from his lonely bed by news of the murder of an ex-agent. Lured back to active service, Smiley skillfully maneuvers his people -- "the no-men of no-man's land" -- into crisscrossing Paris, London, Germany, and Switzerland as he prepares for his own final, inevitable duel on the Berlin border with his Soviet counterpart and archenemy, KarlaTHE KARLA TRILOGY:3* Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy(1974)3* The Honourable Schoolboy(1977)4* Smiley's People (The Karla Trilogy #3) (1979)GEORGE SMILEY:3* Call for the Dead(1961)CR A Murder of Quality3* The Spy Who Came In from the Cold(1963)The Looking Glass War3* Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy(1974)3* The Honourable Schoolboy(1977)4* Smiley's People (The Karla Trilogy #3) (1979)TR The Secret Pilgrim3* The Constant Gardener3* A Delicate Truth5* The Night Manager

  • Greg
    2019-07-20 10:48

    I've been watching Roberto Rossellini's The Age of the Medici this afternoon. Or about the middle two and a half hours of the four hour long 'mini-series'. I've been really enjoying it and surprisingly I haven't gotten too distracted watching it (this is something of a rarity for me in the past two years or so, I can probably using my fingers and toes all of the movies I've been able to make it through since the start of 2009). It's made me wonder though why the thought of watching movies leave me so blah lately. Partly, I think I might have overdosed on movies in my maniacal attempt to watch the entire Criterion Collection, when I would watch up to three movies a day and feel extremely anxious if anything was going to come between me and the times I designated as 'must watch more films' time. Instead I've traded in obsessive movie watching with abnormally large amounts of reading for embarrassingly abnormal amounts of reading, no movies, and a handful of tv shows that I half heartedly try to keep up with.On of the plus sides of almost never watching movies anymore is that the ones I do find myself actually watching probably are more impressive to me than they would be if I were watching a lot of films. Unlike many of my friends, I can't talk intelligently about movies, there are things I like and things I don't like and even though I have somewhat pretentious, or snobbish, or highbrow tastes I can do little to articulate why I like a movie. Part of it is that movies don't inspire my thoughts like books do, another is that I don't think I really get or like the principle language of film. The more literary directors, like Bergman I could probably talk about but it would be using the language of books to say what I like or how I think the film works. That is what I'm enjoying about The Age of the Medici the way that Rossellini is moving the story and ideas along not by action but by words. The film is visually interesting with the lavish depiction of Renaissance Florence, but the narrative moves like a cross between the party goers of James Joyce's "The Dead" and the espionage novels of John Le Carre.Le Carre writes the anthesis spy novel's as compared to someone like Robert Ludlum or what I imagine Ian Fleming's novels to be like. His hero in this trilogy of novels is George Smiley, a person who is the exact opposite of what the movie version of James Bond is. Smiley is a short fat man. He's unremarkable looking. He has a beautiful wife who is always openly sleeping with other men (she has at least 11 regulars she is sleeping with and a second tier group that she can turn to). When Smiley is at his best in working a case the description of him is bored looking and at times other characters aren't sure if Smiley is awake or asleep. With all of these not so appealing traits he is also one of the most effective caseworkers in The Circus (the British Intelligence or Spy business). There is some action that occurs in the Smiley books but it is almost always told in dialog. Rarely does the reader see the big events, rather they are presented them the same way that Smiley receives most of them through briefings, reports conversations and interrogations. Le Carre does a fantastic job at creating a lush espionage world through mundane activities. There are no racing speed boats and high speed car chases through exotic streets, instead there are subtle moves and operations set up to try to out maneuver the Soviet spymaster Karla. In a TV analogy the espionage world of Le Carre in the Smiley novels (of which, I should have mentioned earlier, this is the conclusion to a trilogy) is like "The Wire" or, sort of, "Homicide", as opposed to any of the hour long police procedurals with their fast resolution and instant results (and I guess that makes Smiley sort of a fat, short, white Lester). The slow meticulous unfolding and the little details in both the shows mentioned and the Smiley novels might seem a little labored at points but their end payoff is greater than the 44 minute resolution of "CSI" or say a James Bond film.I wasn't sure where I was going with this review at the start, it was actually going to be a review for Crumley's The Last Good Kiss, but instead Smiley's People seemed a better move to come off of my ramblings about movies with. Sorry I'm too lazy to get the accent over the final E in the authors name.

  • Steve
    2019-07-11 10:39

    The last book of le Carre's Karla series might be the best. I turned to this book after watching the recent -- and excellent -- film adaptation of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (I read the book many years ago). I don't know why it took me so long to finish this series, since I also loved the second book, The Honorable School Boy. Maybe I just didn't want the series to end. In this chapter Smiley finally goes on offense against his nemisis, the Soviet spy master, Karla. But it takes him over half the book to realize that he has the silver bullet. The problem is that to use it is to lose something of himself. There is a cost. A human factor. But Duty and Revenge place Smiley, a good man, on the iron path. As with all le Carre novels, there is meticulous attention to detail, coupled with first rate character development (all of the characters). The atmosphere is heavy, ominious, layered with parnoia. Little scenes, like kids bashing a car by a lake, suggest much more about the moral state of Modern Man. We are living on the edge of an abyss, le Carre seems to suggest, so much so that the one constant, Duty (nod to Conrad), can even betray us. There are passages in Smiley's People that rival the best of Henry James, Joseph Conrad, and Graham Greene. It's Literature that just happens to be genre fiction as well.

  • Michael
    2019-07-01 08:53

    This is my absolute favorite le Carre novel--and in my view the best of the Karla Trilogy. All the cerebral incisiveness of Tinker, Taylor, married to a well-constructed, suspenseful, and active plot. A real crescendo of a novel.

  • Laura
    2019-07-02 07:50

    From IDMb:Called out of retirement to settle the affairs of a friend, Smiley finds his old organization, the Circus, so overwhelmed by political considerations that it doesn't want to know what happened. He begins to follow up the clues of his friends past days, discovering that the clues lead to a high person in the Russian Secret service, and a secret important enough to kill for. Smiley continues to put together the pieces a step ahead or a step behind the Russian killers.A movie was made based on this book and it's available at YouTube, with Alec Guinness, Curd Jürgens, Eileen Atkins.Duration: 360 min. in 6 episodesSome trivia about this series may be found here.

  • foteini_dl
    2019-06-23 11:29

    Ο Carre ξέρει να χτίζει χαρακτήρες. Και -δεδομένου ότι δούλεψε κάποια χρόνια ως πράκτορας των βρετανικών μυστικών υπηρεσιών- έφτιαξε "αληθινούς" χαρακτήρες και οι περιγραφές που δίνει για την περίοδο του Ψυχρού Πολέμου (ποτέ δεν μου άρεσε αυτός ο όρος) είναι ρεαλιστικές. Εδώ βλέπεις ανθρώπους που δεν ξέρουν για ποιον δουλεύουν πραγματικά και ανθρώπους που νιώθουν χαμένοι, παρά τη νίκη τους. Κάπου στο βιβλίο μου έμεινε η φράση "Έχασαν αυτοί που έπρεπε να χάσουν, κέρδισαν όμως αυτοί που δεν έπρεπε να κερδίσουν."Ένα σκοτεινό και απαισιόδοξο βιβλίο. Στα συν του βιβλίου, η πολύ καλή μετάφραση. Δεν είχα ξαναδιαβάσει Carre και στο οπισθόφυλλο λέει ότι -παρά το γεγονός ότι αποτελεί το τελευταίο μέρος μιας τριλογίας- αποτελεί το πιο χαρακτηριστικό του βιβλίο που σε βάζει στον κόσμο του συγγραφέα.Έτσι είναι και σίγουρα θα διαβάσω μελλοντικά και άλλα βιβλία του.

  • Ludmilla
    2019-07-12 14:33

    türünün çok iyi bir örneği. serinin diğer kitaplarını da okumayı düşünüyorum.

  • Jen
    2019-07-06 10:53

    The first thing I have to say is IF YOU HAVEN'T READ THE FIRST TWO BOOKS IN THE TRILOGY, DON'T EVEN THINK ABOUT READING THIS BOOK!Okay, sorry 'bout the all caps, but you cannot possibly read this book in isolation and enjoy it in the way that it was meant to be savored and enjoyed. This is the ultimate book in a trilogy, and all the pieces come together, characters deepen, brief glimpses of characters and places make sense, and the hard work that you've done to get to this point because of le Carre's dense, dense writing finally pays off.This is great stuff. The Smiley trilogy (Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy; The Honourable Schoolboy and this one) require so much work to get through and understand. le Carre does almost all showing and no telling and because of this I spent about 2/3 of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy just wondering what the heck was going on. Once I got to this book, I was throwing the lingo around like the best of those "circus" spies and saying things to my husband like, "I'm not sure if I like the housekeepers or the lamplighters better, but I sure know that Connie Sachs is brilliant!" I think he had to pick up the books just to understand me.So, to the story in this one. A murder in the middle of the night spurs a phone call to retired British secret agent George Smiley. He's grumpy and irascible, but no one works the pavement like him. MI6 promises to deny everything if anyone suspects that they're involved, so George has to go it alone (along with the help of his other retired friends) as he works along the skeins of a very tangled cobweb. Fortunately, the skeins seem to lead to his archnemesis Karla.If you're at all interested in Cold War history, real, gritty spy stories and just amazing dialogue, these are your books. Please read them!

  • Calzean
    2019-07-18 10:44

    This is probably the most fulfilling of the Smiley stories. But it does follow the usual format.Something happens. Smiley is pulled out of retirement. He talks to his old contacts/colleagues. He reads a lot of files. There are lots of words as the story rolls slowly along. Then in the last 20 pages the denouement occurs where the final act is not known till the last page.

  • Michael
    2019-07-13 13:50

    A stunning work, even better than the excellent Tinker, Tailor. Smiley's intelligence is portraid in the cracks in between action. The progress of his investigation is subtle; this isn't anything like a modern spy thriller. No car chases, no galavanting around the world.Although this is a book that's ostensibly about the cold war, its themes still resonate. How far is too far when it comes to pursuing enemies? What really differentiates us? I don't want to say too much, but I can't recommend this book highly enough. My advice: read Tinker, Tailer and this, and skip The Honorable Schoolboy. Could be my favorites of 2011.

  • Dillwynia Peter
    2019-07-16 15:34

    This completes the trilogy (Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy; The Honourable School Boy; Smiley’s People) often known as the Karla Trilogy. Each novel concentrates on a different espionage trait: betrayal, trust and loyalty; and manipulation. This novel is the ultimate manipulation against Smiley’s bete noire. It has become an obsession for him, an unhealthy one that can easily go pear-shaped; for some characters it does.Of the three I enjoyed this one the most. Tinker et al is the most popular, but I found it the most dense; the unloved middle child is despised for its almost lack of action. However, it is more a slow fuse, and after the destruction resulting from the denouement from the conclusion of the 1st novel, I felt it all made sense – you are not going to continue complete normal workings after that Blitz like exposure. And it is going to have an effect – that effect is played out in Honourable School Boy. In this 3rd novel, we have a Circus taking a different tack – one that is controlled by politicians and bureaucrats; surprisingly (!) causing staff to wallow in procedure and policy and not actually any espionage. I did laugh after those scenes and comments; they were quite bitchy. This 3rd seems, to me, to racket along at a great pace. I was surprised how I devoured that 100 pages on a sunny winter’s Saturday afternoon. However, it is still writing in that elegant, languid Le Carre style.What I love about the Circus series of novels (and I have written this before) is the grimy, ORDINARINESS of the espionage. Rather than fabulous locales, exotic women and exciting car chases, we have: bland flats with gasping gas heaters; smart, eccentric characters, but very ordinary Coronation Street like in outward appearance (the scene with Hilary & Connie was delightful): and a hero that puffs for breath when he climbs to the top floor of a London townhouse. Smiley is such a bland man, but it is his intelligence that comes across as attractive. I do believe that he can observe those nuances, compute their meaning and then use it to his advantage. I remember visits in the 70s to Britain and I remember all this relentless grey, even on the sunniest day.Most of the Deadly Sins come into play here, and are manipulated so that Smiley gets what he wants. They are sordid and are treated as such – even the manipulations are sordid.Finally, I started to think – who is manipulating who. I never believed the sudden slip ups Karla makes in his choices of mule and case-man. Was he manipulating Smiley to get what he wanted? Does Smiley think this as well? You don’t truly know, but it is a ponderable. I did feel some pity for Smiley in those last pages. The chase of the hunt is often more exciting than the final capture; and has he been used as a dupe.Le Carre did a fine job in carrying this trilogy to the end, making each book stand alone, but also as a over-arching series. I think they are worthwhile pursuing.

  • Patrick Brown
    2019-06-29 13:32

    A masterpiece and a tour de force of pacing and point of view. What separates Le Carre from his competitors is the depth of humanity he gives his characters. He's so in tune with human nature--the things that drive us and make us who we are--and it shines through in all his people, but most of all in Smiley, of course.If something stands out from this book, its the restraint that Le Carre shows. After all, this is really the culmination of all of Smiley's efforts against Karla, the end of a long and painful war. And yet, in key moments, its not Smiley we're with but Esterhase or Guillam or even Mendel, who doesn't really factor into the action here at all. And when the key moments come, Le Carre draws them out masterfully. I would say that you could read this book without having first read Tinker Tailor, but I think having read that book informed so much about the background here that just the mention of Bill Haydon was sufficient to cast a certain tone over a scene. At any rate, its really a moot point, as you should read both books. To be honest, I couldn't decide which is better, though I enjoyed reading this much more than Tinker Tailor.To close, a favorite passage, from the last third of the book: Mendel, a loping, dourly observant man with a taste for keeping bees, said outright that George was pacing himself before his big fight. Mendel had been in the amateur ring in his time, he had boxed middleweight for the Division, and he claimed to recognise the eve-of-match signs: a sobriety, a clarifying loneliness, and what he called a staring sort of look, which showed that Smiley was "thinking about his hands."

  • Scotchneat
    2019-07-04 13:34

    Just re-read this one after many years. I forgot how awesome this book is. Le Carre was at the top of his game. First, there's Smiley, his heavy-lidded contemplation of what makes people tick. Then there's his people--the lamplighters, the mothers, the housekeepers and the wranglers. The lead-up to the big catch is perfectly done. It's funny, and suspenseful and gives you a thrill without big shoot-em-ups or special effects.Maria Ostrakova is a wonderfully drawn character who carries the early part of the story well. And then there's the tensely beautiful scene with Connie Sachs from whom Smiley gets the connection he needs to root out his old foe.There's something else in this era of Le Carre books - that kind of tatty dignified honour coming out of the war, contrasted with awful betrayal under a veneer of old boy.I read this book and Le Carre's others pretty much as they came out. And since I was still in elementary school/junior high around this time, they really made an impression on me about how smart people (and Smiley's spies are smart people) think, and how cool it is to be flip under pressure, and how heartbreaking it can be to be an idealist.I'm glad for the reminder.

  • Bradley West
    2019-06-21 15:33

    I've read a couple hundred spy novels, and this is my all-time favorite. Maybe it's because of the build up from the predecessors, "Tinker, Tailor" and, to a lesser extent, "The Honourable Schoolboy" but actually it's because le Carre is at the top of his game. He masterfully introduces the bit players via other bit players one instrument at a time until the orchestra is roaring away. By this late date, George Smiley (operating as "Max") and Alec Guinness were interchangeable in both le Carre's and my minds, which made it very easy to understand motive and extrapolate beyond the words on the page. Meanwhile, le Carre's command of detail unpaints every decrepit waterfront warehouse, loosens the planks on treacherous docks and leads us inexorably to a scene of death and redemption. And he repeats this trick scene after scene until the inevitable climax in Berlin.I recently bought the BBC's mini-series. If it is even half as good as this book, it will make for six hours of fascinating viewing.

  • Gerald
    2019-06-23 07:39

    The espionage establishment as mundane, humorless British corporate bureaucracy. Endless, boring meetings, unreadable secret-stamped files locked in nameless reading rooms, and middle-management infighting.Chilling because it feels so real, so closely observed.Third in the trilogy with Tinker, Tailor and The Honourable Schoolboy. The latter is an interlude. You could skip from one to three, then come back to it. If you do, you'll appreciate it more.The BBC TV series captured it all wonderfully, and Sir Alec Guiness as George Smiley was never better.

  • Srinivas Veeraraghavan
    2019-07-20 13:40

    In my Top 10 all time list. Few (if any) understood the human psyche as well as Le Carre and the Master's white hot brilliance finds its fullest expression in this Espionage classic. The last few pages where the enigmatic Karla is finally made to confront himself after painstakingly precise spade work by Smiley with his needle sharp brain and patience that could put a Zen Buddhist to shame made for riveting,breathless reaading that made me sweat. Doesn't get much better than this.

  • Peat
    2019-07-06 09:54

    I am personally of the opinion that this book should be accounted a masterpiece of its type. The story of a weary spy brought of retirement by an unexpected murder and given one last chance at bringing down his greatest opponent of all, Smiley's People does three things to near their highest conceivable peak in fiction.The first is how close we feel to the characters. We get every absurd thought, every hasty judgement, every echo of someone else's voice in their minds, every sudden fear and sudden anger and sheepish apology to both. Sometimes this comes from the characters, sometimes from the people watching them. The book is conventionally slow by any standards but the reader's intimacy with the characters' emotions cuts right through that as powerfully as possible, for those who like that sort of thing.The second is the mystery. Its moves along just ahead of the reader, ever detail revealing a tiny extra piece of the puzzle like a stoner's version of Catch Phrase until finally you have the full picture. Its almost a disappointment when the puzzle is complete. I love how detailed the picture is, how Smiley keeps nagging away until he has the entire thing. And the two parts of it come together when he interrogates someone, as we experience each and every minute of the hunt from a variety of views all pointing straight to the characters' hearts, particularly Smiley.The third would be the backdrop, both literal and thematic. It is a grandiosely grey period piece, everything tied to that particular time and place Smiley inhabited and capturing it in vivid detail. It doesn't rest that atmosphere on cultural references that are destined to become dated like lesser works do, but on little human details that let us imagine how it must have been to be there. And thematically, it is simple and powerful. This is a book about the price of betrayal, over and over, from the small betrayals of Ostrakova and Leipzig that set everything into motion, to the numerous betrayals of Smiley that leave him free to become what he feels necessary to see it through - more of a betrayer himself.A friend once told me the very best books are when you forget you're reading a book at all. Smiley's People accomplishes this for me.

  • Jonathan
    2019-07-02 08:42

    Magnificent. The beginning has the first wrong notes I've heard in Smiley's voice -- angry political editorializing, objectively arising out of the character's sense of obligation to others but somehow more jarring than his occasional revelations of feeling in the closing scenes which arise from the same sense of duties owed. But soon the novel slips into the familiar rutted paths of investigation -- observation, interrogation, analysis, memory -- as it builds towards its quiet, tense, conclusion, triumphant yet mournful. The conversations are as always superb: chess games, probably simplified for the readers' sake but still complex enough for the evasions and traps to feel significant. And the way Le Carre narrates Smiley's pondering of memory is addictive as ever. Where this takes on new weight, for me, was in the climax/coda sequence, where the narration jumps inside the head of a mental patient as convincingly and movingly as any I've read, and more efficiently than, say, Cuckoo's Neat. And are they truly ill, or simply brutalized? As before in these books, the Cold War depicted as personal becoming collateral damage of the political. In the end, the theme emerges as duty -- personal obligations and the way they weigh down these spies but also the way they redeem them. More even than the doubling of Smiley and Karla -- or perhaps it is part of the doubling -- personal bonds are the one thing they hold onto even as they feel they lose all other human values. Want to go back to his earlier books to see if this idea was really as explicit as it becomes here.

  • Ci
    2019-07-21 12:43

    One major pleasure of reading Le Carre is to savor his pithy, unexpected turn of phrases. Here are several: "He is a man cut off from all spontaneous acts", and "his silence was not offensive, he had the gift of quiet". One of my favorite paragraph is when Smiley grieved about an agent's death: "You didn't break down or beat your chest or any of thos histrionics. No. You just happened to put your hand to your face and find it damp and you wondered what the hell Christ bothered to die for, if He ever died at all". Even in common descriptions, there are sparkles of Le Carre's wordsmithing: "This time there was no lorry at all: only the deep, accusing silence that had followed in its wake". In the age of technical gadgets and implausible high-tech plots, this novel is a treasure to re-read as it is so exquisitely well-written.In this last installment of the Karla trilogy, we are treated with an unexpected moral dilemma. As the author pointed out in his introduction, the moral corruption feuled by paranoia blurs the line of the "good" and "bad", leaving Karla and Smiley switching seats in this final episode. Smiley thought that he would defeat Karla because Karla's fanatic "absolutism", yet the actual piece of "product" tumbled and explored by Smiley that toppled Karla is actually something quite different -- something Smiley thought that Karla would never posses. In the end, the hunter and the hunted are all fused in the same annilinating darkness of their games.

  • Todd Stockslager
    2019-06-25 13:41

    Le Carre picks up the thread of Smiley's pursuit of Karla as it was at the end of Tinker, Tailer . . . , the first book in the series, with barely a reference to the second. And like the first, this is a return to the spare, taut writing that makes Le Carre's best writing classic, without the overplotting and "literary" touches that marred the second.Le Carre writes with omnipresent omniscience, getting in every character's head, selectively, sometimes pulling the story forward, sometimes pushing it forward, a style that works best with Le Carre's spare prose. And the last 100 pages push the reader forward inexorably, having reached that tipping point of good suspense or mystery writing beyond which the reader must finish without interruption.My plan is it to stop reading Le Carre now and double back to the Vollman novel Europe Central which retrospectively covers the same ground and see if there are touch points of similarity, congruity, or extreme difference that cast light on the time and central to the history of the 20th Century but so fast fading in the distant rear view of the 21st.

  • Liz
    2019-06-30 10:26

    I don't think I've ever clutched a book quite so tightly while finishing it as I did with this one. It was partly awareness of the impending parting - I was about to finish the Karla trilogy and would have to let go of this world - but mainly it was pure tension, built up gradually over three novels and ratcheted up to maximum in this last one.For me, this book - all three of them, actually - works because it hurts. Everyone sacrifices something, often part of their moral fibre, in order to get what they want. Smiley's People is a novel of quiet tragedy that reads almost like a straight-up disavowal of the glitzy Bond-esque spy drama. I didn't want it to end, but the ending, when it came, was everything it could have been and nothing more.In terms of the writing, the author's spare yet evocative prose reads like a masterclass. And now I'm approaching hagiography (if you can do that about an author who is still living and writing, which I don't think you can), so I'll stop. Just...this is a virtuoso end to the trilogy.

  • Elena
    2019-07-14 13:52

    irst of all I have to say that this book is one of the best spy thrillers I’ve ever read.The plot is slow, but in a good way. There are several characters involved, some more important than others, but everybody fits in the story. Sometimes it may seem that things don’t make sense and you may wonder how some of the characters are connected, but everything makes sense when you reach the end. All the questions you had while reading will be answered.The main character is George Smiley. In this book he is already retired and living a quiet life until he has to go back to his job. People who are expecting lots of action and bullets will be disappointed. Smiley’s greatest weapon is not a gun or a knife. It’s his mind.Something I liked about this book is that the bad people (bad from Smiley’s point of view) don’t behave the way they do just because of the Soviet Union. It is interesting to see how most of them have more personal reasons and how those are discovered.This is an amazing story that I recommend to everybody who likes good spy novels set during the Cold War.

  • Heather
    2019-07-16 11:47

    This was by far my favourite of the seven George Smiley novels (just pushed 'Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy' out of the top spot) and is a brilliant conclusion to the three novels centred around Smiley's Soviet nemesis, Karla. This is the novel in which everything comes to a head and le Carre shows just how good he is by pulling together all the threads strewn throughout 'Tinker, Tailor' and the other Karla novel, 'The Honourable Schoolboy'. The tension throughout the novel built gradually and had me literally on the edge of my seat in the final chapter. After the frustrating conclusion to 'The Honourable Schoolboy' that left me feeling a little empty and morose, this novel put everything right and fans of Smiley and his people should be satisfied with the ending.

  • Mart
    2019-07-01 10:36

    Modern spy thrillers are like porn - they both feature unrealistic characters who engage in rather meaningless acts with much surface glitter and unrealistic enthusiasm. Le Carre, on the other hand, practices the real, true art of story telling, with credible characters and story lines that dare to raise more questions than answer them, granting the reader an opportunity to decide himself how to interact with the book, instead of providing ready made fast food style ways. A rather dark and slow paced book - but not a depressing one, though.

  • Feliks
    2019-06-20 14:46

    As far as modern fiction storytelling is concerned, I feel there's a strong technical reason why espionage is better-suited than any other genre (if we must perforce label it a genre) for the purposes of an author's narration. First-person psychological realism of course, is the most powerful form of fiction narration --and you can find that rigorous and difficult metier' in many --many of the best ever--mainstream dramatic novels. But in any 'lesser' yarn--the yarns which dominate the more popular, entertainment-novel marketplace-- what comes closest to that paradigm is a kind of 'heightened awareness' or 'heightened sensitivity' that really, only espionage affords. Certainly romance, horror, sci-fi, war, fantasy, nor westerns do not place any additional narrating tools in the author's hand. But espionage (especially espionage the way LeCarre always depicted it) relies on a greatly-magnified social perspective between all the characters involved in the story; which you just cannot encounter in any other style of read. The figures in a LeCarre story are just about as tuned-in as characters can get to each other. Why? Because of their profession. They're working shoulder-to-shoulder in a field where everyone needs must 'have their antennae fully extended' to the slightest nuance from their colleague; or their professional contacts; their families and close friends, and even (especially) their lovers. As LeCarre's creations go about their workaday lives--carrying out this-or-that official duty or mission or ||||||||--there is always a sectioned-off-zone of their attention-span which sifts through all of this info which floats past them during their day. Even on ||||||||; they MUST evaluate what their co-worker muttered-in-passing at lunch last week; or who's signature was scrawled on some memo; whose superior approved what expenditure; which indiscreet office fling is making the secretaries titter. Any of these nuances might indicate a leak, a mole, a vulnerability.Thus, huge fodder for the novelist. There is nothing better for fiction than characters who are deeply intermingled with each other; and in espionage fiction it is already provided by dint of the professional practice itself.Then there is also this next interesting aspect. Le Carre in particular is a master at 'circular' or 'layered' foreshadowing. Here's how it functions.Chapter 19~S. reads a report initialed by M., R., & T. ~They indicate in a follow-up memo that a background check of W. is called for.~S. wonders whether he should send someone to interview W's parents.~T. comes to S. and asks him if S. has thought about what W's parents might have to say. Is anyone planning to interview them? When was the last time anyone spoke to them?~S. pretends he hasn't considered it. ~M. & R. invite S. to lunch; and during lunch, L. appears. After lunch L. draws S. aside and mentions that he has heard he may be chosen to handle an upcoming interview. ~S. casually inquires how he came to that conclusion. ~L. says one of R.'s friends told him.~S. remembers R. and T. still keep in touch.~S. arranges the background check of W and assigns K. to handle it.Chapter 27~At last--finally--K. goes out of town to conduct the interview.See what I mean? Look at how much weight is placed on an event which might only take place many chapters later. In the meantime, all the characters talk about it, whisper about it, think about it, worry about it.You will find this technique in spades, in 'Smiley's People' and many others in just about any product from John leCarre. This is what makes him the premiere novelist of any genre ongoing today. He's on the first tier down from the more thorny, more esoteric powerhouses like Philip Roth, John Updike, Saul Bellow, etc. But he's great in his own way.See, there's foreshadowing and then there's foreshadowing. What LeCarre does is just outlandish. And only in an espionage novel do you get these languorous, lazy, circuitous steps eventually-shuffling-around-to the next plot point. In the time it takes an event to evolve, you get a bunch of characters who are all absolutely riveted upon one another. You get characters who listen and sift through everything their fellows might be suggesting, implying, half-intending. This is the bread'n'butter of the novelist: conversations and dialog. Nowhere else is it as vital, as it is in a work of espionage fiction. And leCarre deploys this technique the way a lead violinist wields his bow over a Bach partita in the Royal Albert Hall.When you read the superb 'Smiley's People'--capstone to the amazing 'Karla' sequence (five installments) these are a few things to keep in mind. 'People' is not a lengthy book; but it is deft. LeCarre was in complete command of his craftsmanship here. It's a softly-told yarn; hushed; inward and subdued. But ecstatic in its way. By all means do watch the fantastic BBC adaptation starring Alec Guinness and Michael Lonsdale. Whatever you do: if you read any of the 'Karla' novels, it is this volume which must always be read last. It is last in the chronology. Don't spoil the prize that LeCarre took twenty years to complete. It started with 'Call for the Dead' and ends here. Hurrah!