0 A Perfect Spy John Ie Carré (Hodder and Stoughton £9.95) Don’t let on you heard it from me but the Cold War, the most spectacular non-event in modern history, was a ruse staged by the Yanks and the ruskies for the benefit of David Cornwell, alias John le Carré. These days they needn’t play such an elaborate hoax: a spy swapshop on the Glienecke Bridge, the defection of a ham-strung ballet dancer, a diplomatic bag gone astray in Tesco’s, and those halcyon nights of subterfuge come flooding back. Such publicity you couldn’t buy with a streak at Murrayfield.

Hyped by the super powers, espionage is a romantic business which le Carré at least does his best to deglamorise. When he introduced us to George Smiley, in Call for the Dead, he described him as ‘breathtakingly ordinary’. At first there seems nothing particularly remarkable about Magnus Pym, the ‘perfect spy’ of the title of his new novel, whom we meet ‘in the small hours of a blustery October morning in a South Devon coastal town‘ emerging from a country cab. His attire, baggage, demeanour, suggest the ubiquitous, senior civil servant returning to his weekend second home after a fraught week in the City, an overnight’s tossing-and-turning courtesy of British Rail.

But when he is greeted by his landlady, the Dickensian Miss Dubber, he has a new name, Canterbury, and his questions are more charged than idle curiosity normally permits. What’s a light doing on? Are there other lodgers? This is a man looking over his shoulder. Dark deeds are afoot.

Pym has gone AWOL, and has fled to Farleigh Abbott to pen a last, long, reflective letter to his son Tom, still at boarding school. No one knows where he is; his wife Mary, Jack Brotherhood his immediate boss, his ‘Joes’ (agents), his Czech associates. He writes furiously as the net closes in, fashioning an autobiography as spellbinding as David Copperfield‘s and no less inventive. But if David was an orphan, Pym had a father and it’s his death and the consequent implied ‘handover’ that sparks off Pym’s disappearance. Pym, with an overweening desire to please, has risen to a point where he has more clout than the British ambassador to Washington and challenges Rick, his father, with boasts about his ‘diplomatic doings'. Rick, R.T., Ricky, is a hard act to follow. Conman, blackmarketeer. Liberal


candidate, a king to a court of crooks and lovelies, he watches his son’s rise with a mixture of pride, envy and delight, his eye always on the main chance. ‘My dear father,’ Magnus writes on his appointment to a Foreign Office posting in Prague, ‘unfortunately I am not yet in a position to persuade Pandit Nehru to grant you an audience so that you can put your football pool scheme to him, though I can well imagine the boost it might give to the struggling Indian economy.’ When father and son lunch together it’s Arthur Daley meets the man from U.N.C.L.E.

Long before then, a darker, less eccentrically acceptable side of Rick’s wheeling and dealing has been revealed to Magnus, whose own thriving career, double-dealing in state secrets at the behest of a friend whom he believes he betrayed when they were both students in Bern, is raising eyebrows on the other side of the Atlantic. Suspicion falls on him when it’s realised that the information he is receiving is largely worthless. Already he has survived a kangaroo court but the Americans, unmollified by British assurances, have him under surveillance.

To save his skin Pym would need to betray Axel a second time. The option is friend or country and he chooses the former. ‘Love is whatever you can still betray, he thought. Betrayal can only happen if you love.’ Misguided, naive, intelligent, naturally devious, incorrigible liar, his father’s son, Pym is a ‘perfect spy’ because for him the deceit of spying is like that of conning, not criminal, not treason, not wrong. He manages to take everyone in, including himself.

To say A Perfect Spy is about espionage is like saying David Copperfield is about economics. Le Carré’s novel is so broad, dense and multi-layered, so well written, that it transcends the genre status unfairly accorded his work. That doesn’t stop it being a thriller and as such it grips, to quote Maurice Richardson on an early Dick Francis, like Princess Anne’s knees. (Alan Taylor)

0 August in July (‘arlo (iebler (Hamish Hamilton £9.95) lt'sa depressing thought but August Slemic is a man for our times. loveless. lonely and displaced. he is unable to communicate his despair either to his wife Eunice or his salesman son Damian. who won't even find a radio station for his technologically retarded father. Set parallelly in pre-war Poland and on the eve of(‘har|ie and Di's nuptials Slemic’s is the story ofa man at the crossroads. haunted by his

unsatisfactory past. tortured by the sterility of his fastidious present. Change is in the air. a buzz of expectancy surrounding the royal Wedding. and he resolves to cast off his old clothes and don new attire. starting with a pair ofswimming trunks. Life for estate agent Slemic is about to begin at sixty in the public swimming baths. But when he finally has his regenerative fling with a divorcee he finds. in a surprising finale. that Eunice has beaten him to it. August in July is an uncomfortably smooth read. like a bitter pill swallowed with a spoonful ofhoney. Ifit's a sign ofthe times it is a reflection. not of the age of reason but ofresenttnent. (Alan'l’aylor) For free copies of (,‘arlo (iebler’s first book. see this page?

0 Ende Anton-Andreas Guha (£2.95 Corgi) It‘s Germany. I983 but it could be anywhere. anytime. 'I‘he super-powers have pushed their nuclear buttons and ‘a classic Greek tragedy unfolds‘. Day by day a newspaper journalist records the end of mankind. documenting barely comprehensible acts of annihilation (‘this morning they bombed Havana to nothing‘) and personal reactions. an aghast bystander of a Kafkaesque nightmare. People react in different ways: a busker plays Bach and Beethoven unaffected by the chaos surrounding him. others loot. panic. commit suicide. The pervasive mood is of impotence. 'l'oo plausible by half. (Alan 'l‘aylor)


o Ghastly Good Taste John Bet jeman (Century Hutchinson Ltd/T he National Trust £4.95) A rare, readable guide to the history of architectural taste written ‘primarily to dissuade the average man from the beliefthat he knows nothing about architecture and secondly to dissuade the average architect from continuing in his profession.’ We pray for its success.

0 Stained Glass Elegies Shusaku Endo (Penguin £2.95) Eleven short stories by Japan’s esteemed novelist, as much a moralist as Graham Greene, and on par as a writer.

0 The North American Sketches oi n.3, Cunninghame Graham Edited by John Walker (Scottish Academic Press £7.50) Renowned as an itinerant eccentric Graham’s connection with North America has been overshadowed by his colourful life among the Argentine gauchos. In 1878 and newly-wed to the enigmatic Gabrielle he spent two years in Texas and Mexico. His ‘sketches’, sensibly and zealously presented by the editor, are remarkable for their

immediacy and verve.

o Ragged London in 1861 John Hollingshead (Dent £4.95) The other side of Victorian ‘values’ in the wake of one of the coldest winters on record. Hollingshead, self-styled as Dickens’ ‘champion out-door young man’, was an ace investigative journalist sympathetic to the plight of the poor but suspicious of ‘indiscriminate charity’, whatever that means. A Londoner himself his reports have the other-worldly air of a foreign correspondent.

o Wisdom Madness & Foliy: The Making of a Psychiatrist R. D. Laing (Papermac £3.95) By the end of this memoir its author is thirty and on the road to mental misery (treatment thereof), after discovering that psychiatry instead of curing people was driving them crazy.

0 The Swiss Army John McPhee (Faber £3.95) So, Italy had thirty difficult years under the Borgias, but at least it produced Michelangelo, Leonardo and the rest of the Renaissance. In Heidi-land, as Harry Lime said, they had brotherly love, 500 years of democracy and peace and ended up with the cuckoo clock. But they do have an army 650,000 strong— more highly trained than Dad’s with soldiers better equipped than William Tell. And they have no problem synchronising watches.

0 How to Become a BtII George Mikes (Penguin £2.95) Try emigrating.


(‘ollect this token and the one in the next issue of'l‘he List (published 15 May) for your free hardback copy of ('arlo ( iebler‘s highly successful first novel. The Eleventh Summer ( £8.95. Hamish Hamilton).

[5 copies available to the first tokens received. See Book page for a review of his latest novel. August in July. Name . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. Address . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ..

Send to The List (Book ()ii‘cr). H High Street. Edinburgh H II l'I‘li.


Free copies of linde. .-l Diary nil/1e Third World War Anton-Andreas (iuha ((‘orgi £2.95) are being offered to the first 20 list readers to complete and return the form below to: The List (Ende 0iter),14 High Street, Edinburgh EH11TE.

Name . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. Address . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ..







031???) 281;)


mThe List 2— 15 May 51