The Spy Who Came in from the Cold

The Spy Who Came in from the Cold

The spy novel written by John le Carré, who himself has worked as an agent for the MI6, was published in 1963. It is set in the early 1960s, portraying the high tension during the Cold War. In contrary to other, more famous spy novels “The Spy Who Came in from the Cold” was written from an omniscient perspective, depicting more the psychological conflicts that come with the live of a spy.

The main character is Alec Leamas, an old, overworked, alcoholic agent, who works for the British intelligence service. After years of working as the head of the station in West Berlin and having no real success in recruiting double agents to spy on the East Berlin government, he is called back to London. Where he is asked to stay for one last mission before his retirement, with the goal to discredit the head of the “Abteilung”, the East German secret service.

The novel is full of conspiracies and moral conflicts, showing the betrayal and dishonesty Alec is confronted with. It is unlike any other spy novel I have ever read. Instead of using high tech gadgets or fancy guns, the battle is fought with intelligence and pure manipulation. Half of the time even the reader has no idea of what is going on, until later the dots start to connect and the whole plan and trickery is revealed. I would definitely recommend this novel, although it is more suitable for advanced readers, due to the complexity of the plot and the challenging vocabulary and grammar.

“The Spy Who Came in from the Cold” is le Carré’s third novel, which became one of his best-known works and became the starting point of a book series, which depicts more of the challenging missions of the British secret service.

Judith Trotzke




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