Who is John Le Carre?

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John Le Carre Biography & Facts

David John Moore Cornwell (19 October 1931 – 12 December 2020), better known by his pen name John le Carré (), was a British-Irish author, best known for his espionage novels. During the 1950s and 1960s, he worked for both the Security Service (MI5) and the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6). 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. According to his son, Nicholas Cornwell, le Carré took Irish citizenship shortly before his death. Following the success of this novel, he left MI6 to become a full-time author. His books include The Looking Glass War (1965), Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (1974), Smiley's People (1979), The Little Drummer Girl (1983), The Night Manager (1993), The Tailor of Panama (1996), The Constant Gardener (2001), A Most Wanted Man (2008), and Our Kind of Traitor (2010), all of which have been adapted for film or television. Early life David John Moore Cornwell was born on 19 October 1931 in Poole, Dorset, England. His father was Ronald Thomas Archibald (Ronnie) Cornwell (1905–75), and his mother was Olive Moore Cornwell (née Glassey, b. 1906). His older brother, Tony (1929–2017), was an advertising executive and county cricketer (for Dorset), who lived in the U.S. His younger half-sister was the actress Charlotte Cornwell (1949–2021), and his younger half-brother, Rupert Cornwell (1946-2017), was a former Washington bureau chief for the newspaper The Independent. His uncle was Liberal MP Alec Glassey, who gave Cornwell his mother's Ipswich address, when he was 21 years old. Cornwell had little early memory of his mother, who had left their family home when he was five years old. They reacquainted at "Ipswich (upstation) railway platform" some 16 years later at his mother's written invitation following Cornwell's initial letter of reconciliation.Cornwell's father had been jailed for insurance fraud and was a known associate of the Kray twins. The family was continually in debt. The father–son relationship has been described as difficult. Rick Pym, a scheming con man and the father of A Perfect Spy protagonist Magnus Pym, was based on Ronnie. When his father died in 1975, Cornwell paid for a memorial funeral service but did not attend, a plot point repeated in A Perfect Spy.Cornwell's schooling began at St Andrew's Preparatory School, near Pangbourne, Berkshire, and continued at Sherborne School. He grew unhappy with the typically harsh English public school régime of the time and disliked his disciplinarian housemaster, Thomas. He left early to study foreign languages at the University of Bern in Switzerland, from 1948 to 1949. In 1950, he was called up for National Service and served in the Intelligence Corps of the British Army garrisoned in Allied-occupied Austria, working as a German language interrogator of people who crossed the Iron Curtain to the West. In 1952, he returned to England to study at Lincoln College, Oxford, where he worked covertly for the British Security Service, MI5, spying on far-left groups for information about possible Soviet agents. During his studies, he was a member of a college dining society known as The Goblin Club.When his father was declared bankrupt in 1954, Cornwell left Oxford to teach at Millfield Preparatory School; however, a year later he returned to Oxford, and graduated in 1956 with a first class degree in modern languages. He then taught French and German at Eton College for two years, becoming an MI5 officer in 1958. He ran agents, conducted interrogations, tapped telephone lines, and effected break-ins. Encouraged by Lord Clanmorris (who wrote crime novels as "John Bingham"), and whilst being an active MI5 officer, Cornwell began writing his first novel, Call for the Dead (1961). Cornwell identified Lord Clanmorris as one of two models for George Smiley, the spymaster of the Circus, the other being Vivian H. H. Green. As a schoolboy, Cornwell first met the latter when Green was the Chaplain and Assistant Master at Sherborne School (1942–51). The friendship continued after Green's move to Lincoln College, where he tutored Cornwell.In 1960, Cornwell transferred to MI6, the foreign-intelligence service, and worked under the cover of Second Secretary at the British Embassy in Bonn; he was later transferred to Hamburg as a political consul. There, he wrote the detective story A Murder of Quality (1962) and The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (1963), as "John le Carré" (le Carré is French for "the square")—a pseudonym required because Foreign Office officers were forbidden to publish in their own names.In 1964, le Carré's career as an intelligence officer came to an end as the result of the betrayal of British agents' covers to the KGB by Kim Philby, the infamous British double agent (one of the Cambridge Five). Le Carré depicted and analysed Philby as the upper-class traitor, codenamed "Gerald" by the KGB, the mole hunted by George Smiley in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (1974). Writing Le Carré's first two novels, Call for the Dead (1961) and A Murder of Quality (1962), are mystery fiction. Each features a retired spy, George Smiley, investigating a death; in the first book, the apparent suicide of a suspected communist, and in the second volume, a murder at a boy's public school. Although Call for the Dead evolves into an espionage story, Smiley's motives are more personal than political. Le Carré's 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 its publication, he left MI6 to become a full-time writer. Although le Carré had intended The Spy Who Came in from the Cold as an indictment of espionage as morally compromised, audiences widely viewed its protagonist, Alec Leamas, as a tragic hero. In response, le Carré's next book, The Looking Glass War, was a satire about an increasingly deadly espionage mission which ultimately proves pointless.Most of le Carré's books are spy stories set during the Cold War (1945–91) and portray British Intelligence agents as unheroic political functionaries aware of the moral ambiguity of their work and engaged more in psychological than physical drama. The novels emphasise the fallibility of Western democracy and of the secret services protecting it, often implying the possibility of east–west moral equivalence. They experience little of the violence typically encountered in action thrillers and have very little recourse to gadgets. Much of the conflict is internal, rather than external and visible. The recurring character George Smiley, who plays a central role in five novels and appears as a supporting character in four more, was written as an "antidote" to James Bond, a character le Carré called "an international gangster" rather than a spy and who he felt should be excluded from the canon of espionage literature. In contrast, he intended Smiley, who is an ov.... Discover the John Le Carre popular books. Find the top 100 most popular John Le Carre books.

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