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The Pigeon Tunnel: John Le Carré

I haven't finished reading this yet, but I already know it's going to be the kind of book where I just want to read out random passages to strangers, so here is a bit I liked:

"To the lawyer, truth is facts unadorned. Whether such facts are ever findable is another matter.  To the creative writer, fact is raw material, not his taskmaster but his instrument, and his job is to make it sing... Was there ever such a thing as pure memory?  I doubt it.  Even when we convince ourselves that we're being dispassionate, sticking to the bare facts with no self-serving decorations or omissions, pure memory remains as elusive as a bar of wet soap."

This is so true.  I don't remember actual stuff that happened.  I only remember the story I told myself about it afterwards.  It's a way better story, anyway. Internally consistent, people have motivations that make sense, it's just so much better than the primary world.

The first chapter is titled "Don't Be Beastly To Your Secret Service"  and is mostly about people working for MI5 and MI6 ranting at spy-thriller writers.  It amused me enormously, and here is a randomly selected line, about his experience at MI5:

"Spying on a decaying British Communist party twenty-five thousand strong that had to be held together by MI5 informants did not meet my aspirations."

Or, on British Intelligence in general "I would guess there is not a spy agency anywhere in the Western world that has enjoyed more mollycoddling from its domestic media than ours. Embedded scarcely covers it. Our systems of censorship, whether voluntary or imposed by vague and draconian legislation, our skills in artful befriending, and the British public's collective submission to wholesale surveillance of dubious legality are the envy of every spook in the free and unfree world."

He contradicts himself a bit, but I find him too hilarious to care.

Oh drat, some LJ change has disabled my 'all power corrupts but we need electricity' tag for being too long.  ALAS.


( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
1st May, 2017 18:41 (UTC)
That sounds like an interesting read. Will there be more quotes?
1st May, 2017 20:35 (UTC)
Very probably! Apart from anything else, it's an excuse to use my George Smiley icon!
1st May, 2017 18:52 (UTC)
I've adored his books my entire adult life. I have to track this down and read it, have been meaning to for a few months!
1st May, 2017 20:36 (UTC)
I adore his Smiley books. Some of the later ones I was less in love with, but I read and re-read the Smiley ones until I have lost count!
1st May, 2017 20:52 (UTC)
The Smiley books are by far my favorites also!
1st May, 2017 22:39 (UTC)
In that case I have an anecdote I've probably not told you: when I was at university, I had a tutor who was popularly reputed to be a recruiter for British Intelligence. He never mentioned anything to me directly, but after I got my degree, I got a letter inviting me to a secret interview in London at the Ministry of Defence. It said something like 'in your own interest don't disclose this to anyone'. It was THE MOST LE CARRE THING!!!

Obviously, demonstrating just how utterly wrong he'd got me, I instantly told everyone I knew about it, and have been doing so periodically ever since. :-DDD
1st May, 2017 21:31 (UTC)
There is still 'power corrupts but we need electricity'? Which is good, because it's a good tag.
1st May, 2017 21:34 (UTC)
Ooh! So there is!
1st May, 2017 22:22 (UTC)
Hmmm. I haven't read any Le Carré in years and years. You're making me think I need to remedy that.
1st May, 2017 22:39 (UTC)
This one is a kind of autobiography, and definitely very readable.
1st May, 2017 22:42 (UTC)
... the more-recent non-Smiley one I remember liking particularly was 'Our Game' although I liked the recent TV series of the Night Manager too.
8th May, 2017 06:15 (UTC)
As a lawyer, I have to rather disagree with him about how I see facts. Facts are the scaffolding, the supports on which I build the compelling structure of my arguments. In a certain kind of case, facts are a great bell to be struck with a well-tuned argument so that the truth rings out and cannot be ignored.

But I am a rather liberal, activist sort of lawyer. There are those of us are rather agnostic about whether one can actually get at 'truth', so I suppose he's talking about them. Some are even agnostic about whether there is such a thing as trut.
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )

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