The Secret Life of John Le Carre, Adam Sisman ( hardback Oct 23)


Secrecy came naturally to John le Carre, and there were some secrets that he fought fiercely to keep. Nowhere was this more so than in his private life. Apparently content in his marriage, the novelist conducted a string of love affairs over four decades.

To keep these relationships secret, he made use of tradecraft that he had learned as a spy: code names and cover stories, cut outs, safe houses and dead letter boxes. Such affairs introduced both jeopardy and excitement into what was otherwise a quiet, ordered life. Le Carre seemed to require the stimulus they provided in order to write, though this meant deceiving those closest to him.

It is no coincidence that betrayal became a recurrent theme in his work. Adam Sisman's definitive biography, published in 2015, revealed much about the elusive spy-turned-novelist; yet le Carre was adamant that some subjects should remain hidden, at least during his lifetime. The Secret Life of John le Carre is the story of what was left out, and offers reflections on the difficult relationship between biographer and subject.

Not merely the conclusive homage to a compulsively fascinating character, but an insightful study into the biographical process itself' Nicholas Shakespeare'Now that he is dead, we can know him better.


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