This is the story of Magnus Pym, from his childhood to the end of his career in middle age. As a young man, there is little doubt that his father Rick was the most influential character in ...
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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 ... See full summary »
Taken from the book by John le Carre, George Smiley rallies to the aid of his former intelligence colleague, Ailsa Brimley, to investigate a mysterious letter from a junior master's wife at... See full summary »
This is the story of Magnus Pym, from his childhood to the end of his career in middle age. As a young man, there is little doubt that his father Rick was the most influential character in his life. Rick was a raconteur, con man, thief, black marketer and all in all, simply larger than life. From a young age, Rick included Magnus in his schemes and the young man learned that you would do anything for the ones you love. When a university student in Switzerland, Pym meets the other person who will have the greatest influence in his life, Axel, a Czech refugee. As Pym enters his career in the British Secret Service, his relationship with Axel and the values he developed in childhood lead him down his own path of betrayal and loyalty. Written by
There is a brilliant lesson of sorts here about narrative depth, but you must know the book. Lavishly conceived by Le Carre as his magnum opus, the book is not any other spy thriller you picked up on an airport, it's one of the most tantalizing I know. The center is this, a mysterious man, posing as someone else, is holed up in a small room in Dorset overlooking the ocean and recalls a whole journey through life.
The childhood stream-of-consciousness where he attempts to be Faulkner without conquering the madness doesn't work; so much else does. It has a strong sense of presence in several places from Greek islands to Washington, the center of control. It has a sense of anxious premonition about the extents of control. It has a narrator writing a memoir while efforts are underway to apprehend him before he defects to the other side. It has several relationships of ambiguous love defined in his imagination. It has a disappearance in the middle of the night and a strange encounter in a Czech barn.
This, it just won't do.
The most glaring fault by far is that they simplified the structure, making it a linear telling in one go (practically). The childhood segment works even less because when seen, it loses the shroud of memory. Seeing Rick is never going to be as powerful as sensing him move through room's of the son's memory. It still covers most of the narrative ground but we lose the premonition, we lose the mystifying sense of machinery set in motion long ago and discovered only when the ground beneath our feet shifts, we lose the depth of the betrayal of love. We lose it all and get a nicely groomed play. Its idea of profound emotion is actors grimacing in close up; I was stunned to see that it's from the late 80s, it looks 20 years older.
I don't know if this is watchable fiction, maybe it is, but it's a complete catastrophe where it should go beyond it and give us lives, contact, sense, everything Le Carre strove to have it slide through portals of remembrance is reduced to the Cliff notes version.
But something weird happens. To see this and to have known the book is to have images of something I've known as deeper, more elusive, more rending and this, for me, was to recall even the book as deeper than Le Carre managed with words. A powerful scene in the film exemplifies just this, when his wife, alarmed by events, begins to read an unfinished manuscript he's left behind, ostensibly a novel he's writing (he says), but she suspects it's more, we know it's more, it's the disguised recollections of a lifetime (this is completely flattened in this linear telling).
She cries as she reads about betrayal as hope, as salvation, as an adventure for the imaginative soul, but oh how much more maddeningly full is the life behind the words. His wife, his mentor in the service, will they ever truly know? To know this is to realize how much we won't truly know in turn. There's only so much you can say and so easy to misunderstand. What Le Carre doesn't put to words around this life deserves its Tarkovsky film.
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