John le Carré

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Person.png John le Carré   Amazon WebsiteRdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
(author, spook)
John le Carre.jpg
BornDavid John Moore Cornwell
19 October 1931
Poole, Dorset, England
Died12 December 2020 (Age 89)
Alma materLincoln College (Oxford)
Children • Nicholas
• Timothy
• Stephen
• Simon
SpouseAlison Sharp

David John Moore Cornwell, better known by the pen name John le Carré,[1] was a British author of espionage novels. During the 1950s and 1960s, he worked for both the Security Service (MI5) and the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6).[2]

Early Career

He attended Sherborne School before studying German at Bern University, Switzerland, which led him to interrogate Czech refugees when he was stationed in Austria during national service in the British army’s Intelligence Corps (1950-52).

While reading modern languages at Lincoln College, Oxford (1952-56), he was a snitch for MI5. Affecting left-wing views, he joined the Communist Club and proceeded to report on the views and activities of his fellow students, including some of his own close friends,[3]. He began teaching German and French at the establishment boy's school Eton (1956-58).

He joined MI5 in 1958 and, two years later, transferred to MI6 as an intelligence officer, working under diplomatic cover as second secretary at the British Embassy in Bonn, then a political consul in Hamburg.[4]


His third novel, "The Spy Who Came in from the Cold" (1963), became an international best-seller and remains one of his best-known works. Following the success of this novel, he left MI6 to become a full-time author, writing a trilogy: "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy"; "The Honourable Schoolboy", and "Smiley’s People".

Le Carré's novels include "The Little Drummer Girl", "A Perfect Spy", "The Russia House", "Our Game", "The Tailor of Panama", and "Single & Single". Several of his books have been adapted for film and television, including "The Constant Gardener", "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy" and "The Night Manager".


In 2011, John le Carré was awarded the Goethe Medal.

At a ceremony in Stockholm on 30 January 2020, Le Carré was awarded the 2019 Olof Palme Prize, consisting of a diploma and 100,000 US dollars. The 88-year-old author said he would donate the winnings to the international humanitarian NGO Médecins Sans Frontières:[5]

Extract from Le Carré's Palme Award acceptance speech:

“Reading and thinking about Palme makes you wonder who you are. And who you might have been, but weren’t. And where your moral courage went when it was needed. You ask yourself what power drove him – golden boy, aristocratic family, brilliant scion of the best schools and the best cavalry regiment – to embrace from the outset of his career the cause of the exploited, the deprived, the undervalued and the unheard?”[6]

Detested Blair and Bush

“I happen also to believe that George W Bush is not fit to run America, or for that matter a single-decker bus, but that’s America’s business. Unfortunately, he has been given charge of the world’s only superpower.”

Le Carré was scarcely less contemptuous of Tony Blair. He had been “thrilled” by Labour’s victory in the 1997 general election, which seemed to offer fresh hope after almost 20 years of Conservative rule; but by the time of the next election in June 2001, disillusion had replaced his excitement. In an interview, Le Carré said that he would like to see Blair “punished” in the coming poll, then only three weeks away. Not only had he failed to instigate much-needed reform, he had continued the Thatcherite legacy – “he would have privatised air if he could”. Worst of all, Blair had kowtowed to the Americans.

In September 2002 he and his wife joined an anti-war rally in central London. He marched again the following February, as part of a worldwide protest against plans to invade Iraq, in the demonstration described as the largest protest march in British history.[7]

Skripal Affair

As if to confirm the old adage that 'old spies never retire' and in spite of the justified praise of much of his literary output as an accurate portrayal the post-war British-USSR spy wars, Le Carré has endorsed Mark Urban's book "The Skripal Files" as “A scrupulous piece of reporting, necessary, timely and very sobering.” [8].

"Bamboozled into Brexit"

John le Carré: "Bamboozled into Brexit"

John le Carré is 88 now, and 25 novels, 10 films and 6 TV adaptations later, he has new villains in his latest book: the people trying to take Britain out of the European Union. And he examines how the British public is being "bamboozled by people with private interests" in the push for Brexit:

"I'm talking about Brexit. I'm talking about the difference between patriotism and nationalism. A patriot can criticise his country, stay with it and go through the democratic process. A nationalist needs enemies.

Le Carré's feelings about Brexit are well known: he's against it. He's joined street demonstrations demanding the chance to vote again in a new referendum. Now the potentially damaging consequences of Brexit are better known. But the problem he says is bigger than that:

"I think that to have abandoned effectively our allies in Europe, to have actually turned them through the rhetoric that's thrown around into enemies. That's something quite extraordinary."

And he's not shy about getting these opinions into his new book, "Agent Running in the Field". The first reference to Brexit is what he describes as its "absurdity":

"It was much ruder than that. Let me just say that always in my books, I've tried to live the passion of my time. And in this case I felt very deeply, I continue to feel very deeply that the British public has been bamboozled by people with private interests. So to get that feeling to invest the argument in characters rather than just stand on the soap-box, that was my job."

That's always been Le Carré's job:

"It doesn't matter what new circumstances occur, it's the same show running in the background, it's the same people running it.
"I mean you look at the new so-called Russian security service, it's the KGB in drag."

The Russians are back in his latest book making trouble again:

"It's the same game played for different purposes by different rules."

And American politics don't get an easy ride in Le Carré's new book either:

"In Ed's world there there was no dividing line between Brexit fanatics and Trump fanatics. Both were racist and xenophobic. Both worshipped at the same shrine of nostalgic imperialism."[9]


Big Pharma is also engaged in the deliberate seduction of the medical profession, country by country, worldwide. It is spending a fortune on influencing, hiring and purchasing academic judgement to a point where, in a few years' time, if Big Pharma continues unchecked on its present happy path, unbought medical opinion will be hard to find.”
John le Carré [10]


Related Document

TitleTypePublication dateAuthor(s)Description
Document:The Russians are herearticle8 September 2010Andy WalkerFrom an interview broadcast on BBC Radio 4 about John Le Carré 's latest book of "Our Kind of Traitor". Le Carré (aka David Cornwell) also airs his views about the nature of the SIS's 20 years after the end of the cold war.