The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (George Smiley) by John le Carré (Epub)



Ebook Info

  • Published: 2009
  • Number of pages: 228 pages
  • Format: Epub
  • File Size: 0.25 MB
  • Authors: John le Carré


On its publication in 1964, John le Carré’s The Spy Who Came in From the Cold forever changed the landscape of spy fiction. Le Carré combined the inside knowledge of his years in British intelligence with the skills of the best novelists to produce a story as taut as it is twisting, unlike any previously experienced, which transports anyone who reads it back to the shadowy years in the early 1960s, when the Berlin Wall went up and the Cold War came to life. The Spy Who Came in From the Cold was hailed as a classic as soon as it was published, and it remains one today.

User’s Reviews

Review “The best spy story I have ever read.”—Graham Greene“First-rate and tremendously exciting.”—Daphne du Maurier“Le Carré is one of the best novelists—of any kind—we have.”—Vanity Fair“Written…with a pitiless, elegant clarity. The Spy who Came in from the Cold is a first-rate thriller and more.”—Time –This text refers to the audioCD edition.

Reviews from Amazon users, collected at the time the book is getting published on UniedVRG. It can be related to shiping or paper quality instead of the book content:

⭐ “The Spy Who Came in From the Cold” is a bitter and angry novel about Cold War spies that refuses adamantly to glorify or glamorize their activities and that digs beneath the patriotic ideologies in the name of which secret agents act to uncover the morally troubling effects their plots have on real people.It begins with a scene of maximum tension at the Berlin Wall. Alec Leamas, a British agent responsible for a network of spies in East Germany who are being rounded up, is waiting in a checkpoint in West Berlin, hoping that the last of his agents will be able to escape. After that agent gets shot down before his eyes just before crossing the border, Leamas retreats to London in a fog of bitter disillusionment.The rest of the novel narrates an increasingly complex plot hatched by the Circus, the British spy agency Leamas works for, to recover from the elimination of their spy network by getting back at the German spymaster responsible – Mundt.The plot begins with Leamas acting the part of a disgruntled agent, shortchanged for his service to his country and vulnerable to defection. He is contacted by agents for East Germany and agrees to supply them with information, but not before he takes a job in a library where he meets and becomes lovers with Liz Gold, a character who will come to represent the innocent bystanders who get pulled into the world of morally questionable espionage with tragic results.Almost everything that happens in this novel is morally questionable on both sides and that is what provides a good bit of the intellectual stimulation of the book. John Le Carre always keeps the big picture ideology within the frame of the story by having his characters invoke Communist ideology alongside ideas of Democracy. Without going too deeply into political science, politics is always a reasonable topic of conversation here whether it’s pillow talk between Alec and Liz or a discussion of their greater mission between Alec and his Communist counterparts.But Le Carre’s focus is always on real people and he loves to explore the way that the idealism of the East and the West get twisted and distorted in their effects on both those spies who must compete aggressively for their “side” as well as the innocent people who are just doing their jobs. At one point Alec refers to this as “turning the plan into people,” in other words, to achieve some results in intelligence work, agents must be used and people will die and these deaths flatly contradict the western democracies’ ideological support for the freedom of the individual.These moral concerns fit neatly into a novel which is full of betrayals and double-crossings. The way information is doled out as the plot unfolds changes the way you see the characters and what you make of their motives but it all circles back to the Berlin Wall and an ending which parallels the opening.Leamas’s bitterness proves to be wholly justified, but his downfall is brought about by his inexplicable hunger for “operational life.” His embittered attitude is perhaps most directed at his own profession, one to which he is drawn like a magnet. Of spying he has this to say: “What do you think spies are: priests, saints and martyrs? They’re a squalid procession of vain fools, traitors too, yes; pansies, sadists and drunkards, people who play cowboys and Indians to brighten their rotten lives.” It’s a great diatribe which encapsulates the mood, the atmosphere, the tensions, and the overriding philosophy of this novel.Coming in from the cold has many meanings here. Leamas comes in from the cold when his East German network gets wrapped up and he flies back to London, he comes in from the cold when he leaves the Circus to work at the library as a discarded alcoholic former spy, he comes in from the cold when he agrees to sell information to the East Germans, and finally he comes in from the cold when he ends up back at the Berlin Wall in the final scene. With shifty characters, a torturous plot, and a warm core of humane sympathy this novel is an entertaining and philosophical spy novel for the thinking reader.

⭐ Although I have read many of the spy stories written about the era of the Cold War, John le Carre was not among the well-known authors in my library. This book once again crossed my path, and this time I decided to purchase it. It is easy to see why it was acclaimed when it was published in 1963, and the taut storytelling makes one wish for more writers to emerge from the same mold.Lovers of spy stories should be warned that this is not the fantastic world of James Bond nor the incredible action tale of a Jason Bourne. Mr. le Carre’s novel is dark and moody, and takes the time to allow readers to thoroughly absorb each scene. Although it is not a 300 or 400 page book, it is not a book to be read quickly or skimmed. If you do, you will miss out on key elements of the story and the ending will have a different impact for you.The last part of the book picks up the pace, and the twists and turns are unexpected, jarring, yet totally believable. The last chapter of the book is not your typical ending, yet it encapsulates the mood of the entire story. Not to be missed is the “Fifty Years Later” section, an introduction to the book written by the author for the 50th anniversary of the initial publication. It is amazing that the novel many folks feel is the ultimate spy story was viewed by Mr. le Carre as just the opposite. Sorry, no spoilers here…it is an interesting addition to the book, and I encourage everyone to read that before beginning the book. Five stars.

⭐ Ever since the movie, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy came out I have wanted to read John le Carré. But I have not known where to start. Tinker, Tailor is in the George Smiley series of 8 books but the start of its own trilogy.And many of the early books are not available in kindle or audiobook format that I prefer. So I picked up The Spy Who Came In From the Cold because it is the earliest of the series on audiobook, it is before Tinker Tailor and many people think it is le Carré’s best book.I like spy books. There is something that both meets my needs for action and fast moving plot, and also some cerebral content that is more than many action books.le Carré is known for writing cerebral spy novels. So while he has intrigued me, I have been a bit intimidated by the books. Most people that don’t like them say they are too slow or to cerebral. When I finally started this I listened to it straight through in just over a day. (It is only 7 hours.)le Carré is a pen name for an actual British spy. He was not allowed to write under his own name for security reasons. The weaknesses of the spy world and the mind bending planning of a spy to double or triple cross either your bosses or your enemies are realistic in feel.The Spy Who Came In From the Cold is primarily about a spy that is either trying to double or triple cross the East Germans. Throughout the book you think you know what is going on, but you are never quite sure that you really have the whole picture.The ending is unconventional. It is not what I expected from a spy novel and I think that is why many reviews suggest that this book really changed the way that we think about spy novels. It was le Carré third novel and its success allow him to leave MI6 and become a full time author (in 1963).If you like spy fiction and have not read le Carré this seems like a good place to start. I will move on and read some more of his books over the next couple months. (I have since read about 10 books by le Carre and I still think this is the place to start for him.)

⭐ This is my first novel by le Carre, and it wasn’t bad at all. I went back and forth between 3 and 4 starts, but ultimately settled on 3. And that’s not bad, it just means it wasn’t super.I know this is going to sound paradoxical, but the book was both easy to read and not. In general, the book flowed easily, and I could read large chunks of the book in one sitting. It went fest, and the story zipped along.On the other hand, if you are American, you will probably struggle with various terms and locations that are just not familiar. I made regular use of the Kindle dictionary to keep abreast of the lingo, or sometimes I simply skimmed over such words for the sake of expediency.—————I noticed Amazon and Goodreads have a slightly different meanings to their 5-point scale. I thought it was odd to have a different rating for the same book on two different sites, so I came up with my own scale below. For the record, it is fairly close to Amazon’s scale, but allows me to be consistent between the two sites.5 – Fantastic. Life-altering. Maybe only 30 in a lifetime.4 – Very good.3 – Worth your time.2 – Not very good.1 – Atrocious.

⭐ First published in 1963, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold won all sorts of awards. Later was listed as one of the fifty best books of all time, something like that. I read the 50th anniversary edition, published 2013, with a foreword by the author where he details how, through the years, the more he denied it had any connection to the work of real British spies, the more reviewers and others were convinced it was the real deal.When the book was first published, James Bond and, later, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., were all the rage. They gave the world a Technicolor picture of glamorous spies in exotic locales where rich people floated around and the spies had all these cool gadgets. Le Carre’s world of spies was much more black and white, grimy and furtive and morally ambiguous. So, yeah, reviewers were convinced this was the real deal. You decide for yourself.I may have seen the movie with Richard Burton back in the day, but i remember very little about the plot. However, I read A Legacy of Spies before I read this one, and it has all the spoilers for this novel. So I knew in advance what was going to happen in The Spy Who Came in from the Cold. Which may not have been such a bad thing. That’s all I can say.But if you’re looking for an intriguing story and an accurate picture of the world of the Cold War, written as it was going on, give this book a try.

⭐ If a general reader can call up the title of only a single espionage novel, it seems likely to be The Spy Who Came In From the Cold. John le Carré’s iconic 1963 story, and the 1965 film on which it was based, have cemented in generations of readers a view of the Cold War spy game as a dirty business fought between ruthless, amoral adversaries who know each other’s names. It’s often thought to be the best spy novel ever written. Many other popular authors in the genre have followed le Carré’s lead, depicting spies who will do just about anything to score a point on the opposition. Whether there’s much truth to this portrayal is uncertain. But it’s what we’re led to believe espionage is all about. Today the reality is different.What espionage is all aboutEspionage is the business of acquiring information about a country’s actual or potential adversaries. It’s primarily conducted—today, at least—in three ways. First, by analysts who read published materials such as economic surveys and scientific papers to gain a fuller understanding of another country’s economic, military, and technological capabilities. Second, called sigint, by programmers who scour online information, legally or not, often using the techniques of Big Data to analyze what they’ve found. Third, and last, by spies using the well-documented methods of humint, or human intelligence.Secret agents continue to ply their trade, of course, but these days they’re more likely to engage in industrial espionage in corporate and university labs rather than digging secrets out of other governments. Of course, it can all get very nasty, and occasionally someone dies. But that can hardly be the rule. And I’d be surprised if a man like le Carré’s Alec Leamas, the protagonist of this novel, could find work today in the field. So, although The Spy Who Came In From the Cold may be the best spy novel ever written, it’s an artifact of its time and a poor guide to the spycraft practiced today.Cynicism oozes from the pages of this novel—as much from the author’s acknowledged feelings as expressed in his introduction as from his portrayal of Alec Leamas. As le Carré asks in his introduction, “how far can we go in the rightful defense of our Western values without abandoning them along the way?” In The Spy Who Came In From the Cold he tells us that MI6, and by extension the Western intelligence services, have proven to be as ruthless and amoral as the East German Stasi and the Soviet KGB.As MI6’s director, Control, argues, “you can’t be less ruthless than the opposition simply because your government’s policy is benevolent, can you now?” I’m sure much the same sentiment can be heard in the halls of the CIA, MI6, the Mossad, and the SVR and GRU to this day. Their behavior makes that clear. But the amorality is expressed in very different ways, for the most part, not the tit-for-tat, face-to-face murder of espionage agents.The cast of charactersWith le Carré’s favorite spy, George Smiley, hovering in the background and playing a minor role, as does Control, three other men and one woman hold center stage. It’s Smiley’s third appearance in the series of nine novels that follow his career.Alec LeamasAlec Leamas is a burned-out senior intelligence officer. “He met failure as one day he would probably meet death, with cynical resentment and the courage of a solitary. He’d lasted longer than most; now he was beaten.” He had been chief of MI6’s Berlin station, one of the agency’s top posts. But at every turn he had lost even his most valuable agents to his opposition counterpart in East German intelligence, a younger man named Mundt.Hans-Dieter MundtHans-Dieter Mundt is the Abteilung‘s deputy director of operations who introduced a “new style” to his agency’s approach to the West. “The first agent Leamas lost was a girl. She was only a small link in the network; she was used for courier jobs.” But Mundt steadily worked his way up to the top of Alec’s network. And when he shoots Karl Riemeck in the back on his way through the Brandenburg Gate in attempting an escape to West Berlin, Alec knows it’s all over for him. All that remains is an opportunity to get even. And that’s what Alec is about as the story unfolds.Comrade FiedlerA young man identified only as Comrade Fiedler is effectively Mundt’s deputy. It’s he who conducts all the interrogations for his boss and displays great skill in doing so. Fiedler is nothing like the stereotypical Communist interrogator, quick to use the most violent means of torture to extract information. He is, instead, soft-spoken and gentle, deploying a clever and subtle mind to suss out what he needs from his subjects. Ironically, Fiedler is Jewish. Mundt, a former Nazi, is a virulent anti-Semite who takes great pleasure in needling the younger man whenever he has a chance.Liz GoldNineteen-year-old Liz Gold is an assistant librarian at the library for psychic research where Alec is steered into a similar job. In time, the two become lovers, and it’s clear they’ve fallen in love to whatever degree that might have meaning for Alec. Liz is Jewish and a loyal Communist. Alec insists he believes in nothing. “Sometimes she thought Alec was right—you believed in things because you needed to; what you believed in had no value of its own, no function.” But Alec’s work forces him to leave Liz behind—for good, he believes.About the authorThe British novelist David Cornwell, best known under his pseudomym John le Carré, died in 2020 at the age of 89. In the course of his long life, he wrote nine novels involving MI6 officer George Smiley, of which The Spy Who Came In From the Cold was the third. He also wrote sixteen standalone spy novels, two works of nonfiction (one of them a memoir), and three screenplays. Wikipedia states that “During the 1950s and 1960s, he worked for both the Security Service (MI5) and the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6).” But in a preface entitled “Fifty Years Later” to this edition of The Spy Who Came In From the Cold, le Carré downplays his experience as a spy.“I was never a mastermind, or a mini-mind,” he writes, “and long before I even entered the secret world, I had an instinct toward fiction that made me a dubious fact-gatherer.” No surprise there: le Carré’s father was a con man. He adds, “I was never at personal risk in my secret work; I was frequently bored stiff by it.” Strange then, isn’t it, that the man would be remembered as the author of the best spy novel ever written?

⭐ This is about the 3rd time I have read Le Carre’s “The Spy Who Came In From The Cold” (SW) since it was first published in 1963. It was Le Carre’s (David Cornwell) 3rd book and is generally regarded, at its meager 212 pages, as one of the greatest spy fiction novels of all time. His most recent novel, “Legacy of Spies” (LS) will be released tomorrow, 9/5/17, and since it is strongly tied to events in SW, I felt a quick re-reading was in order. Though I have not read Le Carre’s recent novels – more on that later – I just got dinged by Amazon that my copy of LS will arrive very soon.Reading some advance reviews of LS, I became aware that a significant part of its plot was an investigation of Peter Guillam’s and George Smiley’s involvement in SW. I had forgotten this and as I read SW I paid more attention to their mentions; they are numerous and critical not only to LS but also SW. For example, Smiley’s name pops up on the very last page of SW.I have read many Le Carre novels, and his prose has been sterling in each and every one of them. What set SW and the Smiley threesome apart for me were the excellent characters LC constructed for those four books, not just the protagonists, but the supporting casts as well. And the plots were incredible, particularly SW and “Tinker Tailor…”. Over the years I have finally come around and agree that SW is Number One. It is the ultimate spy novel of betrayal with such a grand twist that it can be re-read and re-read and still survive the span of fifty years plus.I remember my first reading, how stunned I was when hearing Alec Leamus’s explanation to Liz of what had happened. In my recent reading, as the courtroom scene wound down and knowing the twist that was coming, I sat and wondered when Leamus was going to get it. When? Then Bam! as I turned the page, “And suddenly, with the terrible clarity of a man too long deceived, Leamus understood the whole ghastly trick.”As Leamus and Liz race to the Wall, Leamus shares some (Le Carre’s) core beliefs: “What do you think spies are: priests, saints, and martyrs? They’re a squalid procession of vain fools, traitors too, yes; pansies, sadists and drunkards, people who play cowboys and Indians to brighten their rotten lives.” In his post-Smiley books, Le Carre takes a lot of shots at the CIA and America in general. He’s not the first to do so; I’m a big boy and it usually doesn’t bother me. See the very first sentence in SW. A rather green (not in the eco sense), inept character is continually referenced by nationality and not by name; when he leaves the room, Leamus and his other companions share a laugh. There are other needles, e.g.”Alec doesn’t seem to like our American cousins”.Post-Smileyand starting with “Little Drummer Girl” I feel that subsequent Le Carre books were clunkers. There was never a protagonist that came close to rivaling Leamus or Smiley. The books seemed to get grumpier and angrier, and I found the plots boring. So, looking at his total works I feel Le Carre is somewhat over-rated, but I still tip my hat and am exceedingly grateful for the those fantastic four books he wrote so many years ago. I hope LS will be a fifth.

⭐ I didn’t expect to like The Spy Who Came in from the Cold as much as I did. I was disappointed when I read Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, after seeing both the Alec Guinness and Gary Oldman versions. For the most part, I struggled to find a connection to each of the characters, relying on some of the effective theatrical portrayals to flesh out the words on the page.But this novel was gripping. It is paced beautifully, and Alex Leamas is a terrific protagonist. The novel opens at the Berlin Wall, as Leamas waits for a key operative to escape. What happens next is an absorbing tale of how deceptions are constructed and maintained; Le Carre paints a profession that requires agents to place significant trust in others, even as the system itself reinforces how little anyone can be trusted. Le Carre’s almost-relentless focus on Leamas’ point of view reinforces his isolation and the perilous nature of the enterprise.I’m not sure that Le Carre knows how to write women; I found Liz to be pretty stereotypical in her focus on Leamas. But her later experiences and final scenes drive home the hypocrisy of Western intelligence services during the Cold War. I figured out the game a bit before Leamas did, but not by much. And the ending of the book is powerful.

⭐ I know this is heresy but I’m not impressed by “The Spy Who Came in from the Cold.” Le Carré is regarded as a master of the spy novel and this was the first Le Carré novel I’ve read. I was chagrined that, as a huge spy novel fan, I hadn’t read any of his books. Maybe it’s the fact that “Spy” is nearing 60 years old, but “Spy” is one of my least favorite spy novels. As spy novels go, it’s very much on the cerebral side. There are interrogations and there’s a trial. There’s a lot of conversation and discussion. There are flashes of excitement in the novel. I think the reader does get a good view into early Cold War relations between England and East Germany. Fiedler is a sympathetic anti-hero. But I didn’t find Alec Leamas a particularly interesting protagonist. I didn’t always understand his random flashes of anger. Mundt – the Jew hating German – seems a cliched stereotype today. But it’s Liz who I really disliked. She’s fatuous, ingratiating, and whiny. I found the ruse used to get her to travel to East Germany unbelievable. A 1963 Briton could travel to East Germany just like that? Really? I don’t think so. I’ll certainly read another Le Carre novel. But this first one left me wanting. Recommended with reservations. (For some unbelievable plot point and cliched characters.)

⭐ The Spy Who Came in From the Cold was a blockbuster bestseller when it first appeared in the 1960s. It is a spy thriller, and I guess that was the hot genre at the time, boosted by the popularity of the James Bond books. The introduction mentions that some people referred to it as the “anti-Bond.” Although the author protests that it was a complete work of fiction, a lot of people seemed to think that it told true events in the current, or at least recent times.Having now read the book, I am not all that thrilled with it. There were some heart-pounding action scenes, especially at the end, but a lot of it was people talking and was just boring. Nobody was what they seemed to be, and most of what they said was lies (well, this being a bunch of spies, it would be like that, right?). I particularly didn’t like the ending.But I have to acknowledge that, though the events in the book probably weren’t true (one hopes), I very much got the impression that the atmosphere and feel of the book were most likely largely true of the real business of international spying – that the long boring sequences of people talking what is very likely lies are much more a part of the job than neat hardware or quick satisfying fights that you usually win.


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