John le Carre

John le Carre quotes

Quotes by and about John le Carre

(Continued from his main entry on the site.)

Le Carre: "Anybody in the creative business, as you might call it, has some sense of guilt about fooling around with fact, that you're committing larceny, that all of life is material for your fabulations."

Le Carre: "[With my writing] I hope to provide a metaphor for the average reader's daily life. Most of us live in a slightly conspiratorial relationship with our employer and perhaps with our marriage. I think what gives my works whatever universality they have is that they use the metaphysical secret world to describe some realities of the overt world."

Le Carre: "We lie to one another every day, in the sweetest way, often unconsciously. We dissemble - 'Yes, darling, I'm fine.' We dress ourselves and compose ourselves in order to present ourselves to one another."

Le Carre: "That is the condition in which all of us live in some ways: The longing we have to communicate cleanly and directly with people is always obstructed by qualifications."

[Interviewer: "Most if not all of your books have been about the world of espionage. Is there something completely different that you'd like to write?"]
Le Carre: "Well, it's called a genre - writing about this stuff. My definition of a genre is something that limits me, that circumscribes me. I've never found that constraint in writing on this subject. Partly because it was the water I swam in for a while, and partly because I can think of no better stage on which to act out the world's comedy. We all of us reach for secrecy and deceit to protect ourselves. We all of us offer one another partial versions of ourselves in order to coexist at all. We keep our thoughts to ourselves and so on. So all of us in a sense are conscious of the secret condition, and that's really how we meet and associate in all sorts of ways - often to spare one another's feelings. And yes, I have written quite a few books that do not touch on espionage - others that have perhaps stretched the possibilities of espionage in order to accommodate quite other themes - but generally it's what I do best; it's where I swim most naturally, and I'm completely content with what I've written. Not to admire it! But I don't feel that I've been constrained by the limitations of what is called the genre."

Le Carre: "I dislike Bond. I'm not sure that Bond is a spy... It seems to me he's more some kind of international gangster with, as it is said, a license to kill. ... [He is] neo-fascistic and totally materialist. You felt he would have gone through the same antics for any country really, if the girls had been so pretty and the Martinis so dry."

Le Carre: "In the last fifteen or twenty years, I've watched the British press simply go to hell. ... Even with the 'quality' papers, the standard of literacy is pathetic."

Le Carre: "How Bush and his junta succeeded in deflecting America's anger from bin Laden to Saddam Hussein is one of the great public relations conjuring tricks of history."

The Guardian: "[His father] was a confidence trickster who made and lost a number of fortunes and was, at least once, imprisoned for fraud. 'Thanks to his father,' says a friend, '[he] doesn't really know who he is. Actually, he never did know who he was, or where he fitted. One minute, there was a mock Tudor mansion in Maidenhead; the next, his father was in jail.' From an early age, [Le Carre] was making up stories to cover his tracks and explain things away, a gift that became essential when, as a teenager, he was sent to board at Sherborne school. Cornwell did not fit in and left early to make his way in the world. Later, he wrote: 'People who have had unhappy childhoods are pretty good at inventing themselves.' Being untruthful became a habit of being. After studying abroad, he attended Oxford, joined MI5, later transferring to MI6, adopted his nom de plume and began writing fiction."

New York Times: "He mostly avoids television except for news and rugby, though he does watch the occasional broadcast of 'The Daily Show With Jon Stewart,' a program recommended by his adult children.

New York Times: "He is disappointed in Barack Obama for, among other things, not shutting the prison at Guantanamo."

New York Times: "When he was nominated in 2011 for the coveted Man Booker International Prize, given for a writer's entire body of work, he asked that his name be withdrawn."

New York Times: "Shortly after joining MI5 full time, le Carre began writing his first novel, 'Call for the Dead,' in longhand in red notebooks. He loved MI5. 'It was like working on a great newspaper,' he said. 'They were really funny people, not institutionalized, not too corporate in their minds and often very bright with curious interests.'"

New York Times: "His readership is vast and influential. When le Carre received an honorary degree from Oxford last summer, the Burmese democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi was on hand to receive one as well. In her speech, she declared: 'When I was under house arrest, I was also helped by the books of John le Carre. ... They were a journey into the wider world. Not the wider world just of other countries, but of thoughts and ideas.'"

New York Times: "Calling him a spy writer is like calling Joseph Conrad a sea writer, or Jane Austen a domestic-comedy writer."