Tue, 31/07/2007 - 14:47 -- James Oakley

Some of you will know that I greatly enjoy the novels of John le Carré. I’d highly recommend them, probably recommending that you start with Smiley (The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, then Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, then Smiley’s People).

He actually wrote two novels before Came in from the Cold, which were more along the lines of classic murder mysteries. I’ve been reading through in the order he wrote them, and it’s fascinating to see his writing style evolve. Plot complexity and suspense steadily increase. I did read A Constant Gardener (much, much better than the film, good though the latter is) out of turn. Writing after the end of the cold war there is a passion and an anger that was not there before.

Anyway… For some reason, I loved this paragraph from The Russia House. A group from the security services in the UK have just travelled to a small island off the cost of Maine to meet with some of their American counterparts. Reflecting on the American intelligence gathering community, the 1st person narrator writes:

And by goodness, were they industrious! If numbers, money and sheer endeavour alone could have produced intelligence, the Agency would have had it by the cartload – except that, alas, the human head is not a cart, and there is such a thing as unintelligence as well.

I don’t know why that grabbed me. But it did

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