English Authors

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le Carré, John (1931-2020)

John le Carre (pseudonym of David John Moore Cornwell), is an English writer well-known for his realistic spy novels.  He was educated at Oxford, taught briefly at Eton and then he worked for the British foreign service in Germany from 1956-1958.

His earliest novel Call for the Dead (1961) introduced the mild-mannered mastermind and secret agent George Smiley, a central character in many of his following books.  His 1963 novel The Spy Who Came in from the Cold was inspired by the Berlin Wall. It was described by Graham Greene as the "best spy story he had ever read". It brought Le Carre immediate fame.

He has gathered a reputation as a storyteller who mixes grim and realist detail with very elaborate plots.

Drabble, Margaret, editor. The Oxford Companion to English Literature. Sixth edition, Oxford University Press, 2000.

He shares this sense of being an "insider-outsider" with Kim Philby, says Sisman, but where Philby took to treachery, Cornwell turned to literature. "I think that edginess, that sense of being inside and understanding how society works but at the same time not being seduced by it, feeds into his work, so he can observe with a dispassionate eye the absurdities of Whitehall, for example.

Adam Siseman in an interview about his biography of Le Carre, with Jack Kerridge, The Telegraph, 2016.

Library Resources
Web Resources

Web Resources

Online study notes

The film 'The Constant Gardener


The Constant gardener

A Delicate truth

The Looking glass war

The Mission song

A Most wanted man

The Night manager

Our kind of traitor

The Russia house

The Spy who came in from the cold

The Tailor of Panama

Tinker, tailor, soldier, spy



Criticism and interpretation

The Constant Gardener

John Mullan, Senior Lecturer in English at University College London, looks at the literary techniques employed by John le Carre in The Constant Gardener.

Other resources

  • Burridge, James. SIGNIT in the novels of John le Carre, Central Intelligence Agency, Posted May 8, 2008, Updated August 4 2011. [SIGNIT - Stands for Signals Intelligence]
  • Honan, William H. 'Yvette Pierpaoli, 60, Aid Worker who devoted her life to refugees, The New York Times, April 20, 1999. John le Carre dedicated The Constant Gardener to Yvette Pierpaoli
  • Laurence, Jeremy. 'The Story of how multinational drug companies took liberties with African lives', Independent, September 26, 2005.
  • LeCarre, John, 'The Constant Muse' The Guardian, 25 February 2001.