The Pigeon Tunnel
John le Carré, the famous spy-turned-novelist (real name: David Cornwell), published his memoirs earlier this year. They were bits and pieces of his life, with no real cohesive thread to them. Maybe that's what memoirs are -- kinda fractured images of one's life (I think I am more partial to essay collections) -- but there are glimpses of what makes le Carré such a compelling espionage novelist. He tells stories of the people who inspired his characters and of his meetings with famous politicians and militants (from the President of Italy to the head of the Palestine Liberation Organization) but rarely dives into his personal life until the very end. His stories are, on the whole, interesting -- I'm particularly fascinated by his travels throughout Israel-Palestine that provided the inspiration for The Little Drummer Girl and his stories regarding Kim Philby, the MI6 agent who was a double agent for the KGB -- but some felt superfluous. The Amazon description, honestly, does the best job of summing up the scope of this book, where he writes about:
the parrot at a Beirut hotel that could perfectly mimic machine gun fire or the opening bars of Beethoven’s Fifth; visiting Rwanda’s museums of the unburied dead in the aftermath of the genocide; celebrating New Year’s Eve 1982 with Yasser Arafat and his high command; interviewing a German woman terrorist in her desert prison in the Negev; listening to the wisdoms of the great physicist, dissident, and Nobel Prize winner Andrei Sakharov; meeting with two former heads of the KGB......
Maybe for someone who is a devoted reader of le Carré (I cannot say I am), these memoirs would serve as an enlightening peak behind the curtain. For someone who has read only a few of his stories (and I cannot confess to remembering them all that well), these memoirs were merely a neat look into the life of a well-traveled novelist. Rating: ★★★