Saturday, 5 March 2011

Britain is a country where an old writer called John le Carré has donated his old writings to an old Oxford Library

John le Carré, the 80 year old author of spy novels featuring 'George Smiley' and one of Britain's most significant living writers, has given 85 boxes of his manuscripts to the Bodleian Library in Oxford.

"I am delighted to be able to do this," he said. "Oxford was Smiley's spiritual home, as it is mine. And while I have the greatest respect for American universities, the Bodleian is where I shall most happily rest."

The papers show :

* his detailed working methods where a day's longhand writing was typed up by his wife and then had tweaks, edits and rewrites taped or stapled to the original.

* the whole process of the creation of a novel and for 'Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy', are in 18 archive boxes of material.

* the many changes to the famous description of Smiley at the start of chapter two that, in its published form, begins: 'Small, podgy and at best middle-aged, he was by appearance one of London's meek who do not inherit the earth.'

Things you probably didn't know about John, that he :

* was born David John Moore Cornwell in Poole, Dorset and has said he did not know his mother, who abandoned him when he was 5 and had a difficult relationship with his father, who was jailed for confidence tricks and schemes and who was one of the reasons behind John's fascination with secrets.

* in his 1986 'A Perfect Spy', featured his father as 'Rick Pym' the scheming con-man father of the protagonist 'Magnus Pym'.

* was educated at Sherborne School, where he was unhappy in the typically harsh English public school régime of the time and then studied foreign languages at the University of Bern.

* joined the 'Intelligence Corps' of the British Army in Austria, working as a German-language interrogator of people who crossed the 'Iron Curtain' to the West and then in 1952, returned to England to study at Oxford University where he worked for MI5, spying upon far-left groups for information about possible Soviet agents.

* when his father was declared bankrupt in 1954, left Oxford to teach at a boy's preparatory school and then returned to a year later and graduated with a First Class Honours degree in 1956.

* taught French and German at Eton College for 2 years and then became an MI5 officer in 1958, running agents, conducting interrogations, tapping telephone lines, and effecting break-ins.

* encouraged by Lord Clanmorris, who wrote crime novels, began writing his first novel, 'Call for the Dead' in 1961 and used him and Vivian Green as the inspiration for 'George Smiley', the master spy of 'The Circus'.

* transferred to MI6, the 'Foreign Intelligence Service', in 1960 and worked under cover as 'Second Secretary' in the British Embassy at Bonn and then in Hamburg as a 'political consul'.

* wrote 'The Spy Who Came In from the Cold' in 1963, as 'John le Carré', a pseudonym required because Foreign Office officers were forbidden to publish in their own names
and has said that the writing "changed my life and put me on bare-knuckle terms with my abilities".
From the 1965 film with Richard Burton and Claire Bloom :

* left the Intelligence Service in 1964 to work full-time as a novelist when his 'cover was blown' and career ended by the betrayal of British agents to the Russian KGB by the double agent, Kim Philby.

* depicted Philby as 'Bill Haydon', the upper-class traitor, code-named 'Gerald' by the KGB and 'the mole' hunted by George Smiley in 'Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy'.

* has lived in St Buryan, Cornwall, for more than 40 years where he owns a mile of cliff close to Land's End.

Tinker Tailor opening credits

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy - end credits :

Example of his dialogue and characterisation in tinker tailor :

John talking about his work :

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