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Sep 15

Written by: Diana West
Monday, September 15, 2008 5:55 AM 

John Le Carre, The London Sunday Times, breathlessly informs (via CNSNews.com), almost defected to the Soviet Union. The reporter--extremely impressed by this best-selling chronicler of moral equivalence between the US and the USSR during the Cold War sitting before him, "...clutching his glass of calvados as the last suspicion of sunlight dissolves in the sea, an easy dying of the light..." and all that--writes:

“You were genuinely tempted?” I ask him, in some surprise.

“Yes, there was a time when I was, yes,” he says.

“For ideological reasons, like the rest of them - Blunt, Philby, Maclean?”

Le Carré is considered to be on the left these days, of course - a consensus arrived at largely through his visceral dislike of recent US foreign policy. One of that coterie of British literary greats - Pinter, Hare, Amis - railing at the supposed cretin in the White House, snarling about rendition and Guantanamo and Halliburton. Surely, though, he was not that far to the left, back then?

“God, no, no, no. Never for ideological reasons, of course not . . . ” “Then why?” Not money, surely, I think to myself.

“Well, I wasn’t tempted ideologically,” he reasserts, in case there should be any doubt, “but when you spy intensively and you get closer and closer to the border . . . it seems such a small step to jump . . . and, you know, find out the rest.”


This is maybe less surprising than at first it seemed: we are in true le Carré territory, nuanced and complex, where the spying is sometimes an end in itself and where there is rarely an easy, Manichaean split between the good guys and the bad guys. Defecting was a temptation the writer resisted, to our good fortune.

Each to his own. It is in very large part due to the successive bestsellers of John Le Carre that such rot about "there rarely [being] an easy, Manichean split betwen the good guys and the bad guys" rolls off this reporter's typepad in the first place. If ever there was a Manichean split between "good guys" and "bad guys," it was the split between Western liberty and Soviet totalitarianism. Now we know yet another reason why Le Carre, 76, not only denied this split, but was also never repelled by such totalitarianism. It turns out he was deeply drawn to it.

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