The Secret Pilgrim: A George Smiley Novel

The Secret Pilgrim A George Smiley Novel Nothing is as it was Old enemies embrace The dark staging grounds of the Cold War whose shadows barely obscured the endless games of espionage are flooded with light the rules are rewritten the stake

  • Title: The Secret Pilgrim: A George Smiley Novel
  • Author: John le Carré Michael Jayston
  • ISBN: 9781101575710
  • Page: 200
  • Format: Audio
  • Nothing is as it was Old enemies embrace The dark staging grounds of the Cold War whose shadows barely obscured the endless games of espionage are flooded with light the rules are rewritten, the stakes changes, the future unfathomable John le Carr has seized this momentous turning point in history to give us the most disturbing experience we have yet had of the frailNothing is as it was Old enemies embrace The dark staging grounds of the Cold War whose shadows barely obscured the endless games of espionage are flooded with light the rules are rewritten, the stakes changes, the future unfathomable John le Carr has seized this momentous turning point in history to give us the most disturbing experience we have yet had of the frail and brutal world of spydom The man called Ned speaks to us All his adult life he has been in British Intelligence the Circus a loyal, shrewd, wily officer of the Cold War Now, approaching the end of his career, he revisits his own past an intricate weave of suspicion, danger, boredom and exhilaration that is the essence of espionage and of his own sentimental education He invites us on a tour of his three decades in the Circus, burrowing deep into the twilight the Circus, burrowing deep into the twilight world where he ran spies joes from Poland, Estonia, Hungary, men and women to whom he gave his most profound love and hate Along the way we meet a host of splendid new characters and reacquaint ourselves with the legendary old knights of the Circus and the notorious traitor, Bill Haydon Telling the story of his own life s secret pilgrimage, Ned illuminates the brave past and the even braver present of George Smiley reluctant keeper of the flame who combines within himself the ideal and the reality of the Circus Smiley, Ned s mentor and hero, now gives back to him the dangerous edge of memory which empowers him to frame the questions that have haunted him and the world for thirty years, and that haunt us still The Secret Pilgrim holds us galvanized by its storytelling genius, by its perceptions of the moral conundrums at the heart of our society, and by its singular grasp of the myths and fantasies underlying the conflicts of nations It is John le Carr s most magnificent novel.

    One thought on “The Secret Pilgrim: A George Smiley Novel”

    1. The phrase "invisible writing" kept entering my mind as I read le Carré's last Smiley novel, which consists mostly of a spy named Ned, on the verge of retirement, reflecting back on his career. Christopher Hitchens used it in reference to an Anthony Powell passage wondering what George Orwell (Powell's friend) would have been like in the Army. Hitchens and I are talking about slightly different things - he calls Powell's passage "deceptively dense." I would adapt it to mean writing that doesn't [...]

    2. Since the start of 2017 I have read all the George Smiley books with 'The Secret Pilgrim' (George Smiley #8) (1991) being the final book. Or that was the case, until the recent announcement that Smiley is set to return for the first time in 25 years in 'A Legacy of Spies', a new novel by John le Carré that is scheduled for publication on 7 September 2017.Back to 'The Secret Pilgrim': it’s less of a novel and more a collection of interlinked short stories, it is (or was) a perfect way to concl [...]

    3. I always feel sad when I read a John LeCarre but sadness is not always a bad thing. I have the feeling that this was intended to be LeCarre's goodbye to spying so he says a number of things right out in this that needed to be said. He says that spying is needed because governments don't believe anything they haven't paid for, that no one knows who tomorrow's enemies or allies will be so you have to find out the secrets that are always there. The book is really a collection of profiles, almost sh [...]

    4. Another classic espionage novel written in beautiful English. The narrator turns out to be Ned, the sympathetic, melancholy, Dutch-English head of the Russia House in the novel of the same name. And guess who appears next: dear old George Smiley, who gets an encore. I thought we had seen the last of him in Smiley's People, but here he is again. The Secret Pilgrim is really a book of short stories based on Ned's reminiscences of his life as a spy, while he listens to Smiley giving a lecture to Sa [...]

    5. This is a collage of old tales an ageing spy tells his students before his retirement. Unfortunately the stories were told in the first person voice from a perspective I never connected with. Despite his best efforts, le Carré couldn’t make me care about Ned, not even when he was reminiscing with Smiley. Smiley made a cameo and nothing more. I might have found a couple of the spy tales themselves interesting, but they always ended and a new chapter began just as I started paying attention. So [...]

    6. This was a great page turner. Once I got sucked into the story I didn't want to stop. Alas, sleep and laundry got in the way. "The Secret Pilgrim" was a good ending to the Smiley series.

    7. This is the most fun of the Smiley books. Written during the period of Glasnost, le Carré concludes THE SECRET PILGRIM by posing the question: Now that we have defeated rogue communism, how will we defeat rogue capitalism? Hmmm.

    8. "The Secret Pilgrim" is one of those works which show why le Carre is a class apart from the rest of his contemporaries who deal with the genre of spy thrillers. Almost written in the form of a short story collection, "The Secret Pilgrim" is a series of reminiscences by a British spy on the verge of his retirement. From the experience of trailing the wife of an Arab sheikh shopping in Britain to cultivating a contact who carries out landing missions on a motorboat, le Carre brings along a multit [...]

    9. A final wrap-up to le Carré's George Smiley series is a chronological narrative of short-stories framed around the memories of spy Ned, and the stories of George Smiley, given to a group of trainees selected for the Secret Service. The stories span the 40+ years of the Cold War, and capture the gradual disillusionment of Ned and the ambiguity of the sagacious/perceptive George Smiley. While this is not the best in the George Smiley oeuvre, it is a nice victory lap. It allowed le Carré the oppo [...]

    10. I re-read Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy a few weeks ago and it made me want to re-read all Le Carre books, so I am ploughing my way through our whole stack. Even though they are dated, and in most cases I can remember the outcome from the last time I read them (1970's), it's like sitting down for a while and catching up with an old teacher, getting the chance to remember so many aspects of the 'deepest' fiction author I have ever encountered. What have I learned? Reading Le Carre ensures that I prop [...]

    11. With the Cold War over and George Smiley providing little more than a cameo appearance, this episodic retrospective falls slightly short of being classic Le Carre but the novel's examination of the psychological effects of intrigue and deceit upon it's perpetrators is compelling nonetheless.

    12. A very welcome, nostalgic return for Smiley. But this time he is reminiscing for the students of the service. This is essentially a framing device for a bunch of short stories. As such, it is probably one for those already into le Carré, not one to create converts. That said, there are some beautiful passages here — it kinda feels like pieces that he couldn't work into the novels (there is one which feels like it emerged from the writing of The Honourable Schoolboy for example). Written in th [...]

    13. I suspect that this is le Carre's attempt to put the Cold war to bed. It is a reprise, and summarising of a number of episodes in the life of Ned an instructor at the spy school Sarrat. It is held together by George Smiley addressing as passing out class of young agents, in which he attempts to add perspective and clarification to the activities of the past and hopefully the future. It is curious to see how it has all worked out.

    14. This book contains episodes from the life of a spy in the British Secret Service, known to us only as "Ned".I liked this book, liked the themes in it.Some of the longer episodes such as the one of Cyril Fruin a bore, while some of the short ones such as the one of Smiley and the parents of a dead "alleged Spy" were poignant gems.

    15. Last of the Smiley series, and the final one I hadn't read. Absolutely spectacular. This time we followed one particular spy throughout his whole career, from his first case to his retirement, thus there were many different stories in one really. Simply can't wait for the new (and presumably last) Smiley novel, coming out in the autumn. I'm so excited for that!

    16. I have recently started reading some of John le Carre’s novels, I am still unsure if I really like his work or not. I know I do not dislike his work, but none of his books have left me completely satisfied. This book seemed more like a series of short stories and I got the feeling as I was reading this book before some of his previous novels I was missing some points which were brought up but not fully explained as it appeared it was assumed the reader had the background information already.Th [...]

    17. Originally published on my blog here in August 2001.The last Smiley novel is unique in le Carré's output. It is very episodic, and in many places reads like a collection of short stories. It has a regretful, valedictory tone, but is one of the easiest of le Carré's novels to read.The narrator is Ned, the former head of the The Russia House in the novel of that name, now running a secret service training course. He invites the long retired, legendary George Smiley to talk to the group, to find [...]

    18. My first John le Carre novel this year (don't know why it took so long, really).This one's different from his other works particularly in terms of narrative, where each chapter is almost a short story in itself. Through the memories & flashbacks of the protagonist Ned College (in the course of a lecture by the legendary George Smiley) as he reflects on his career in British Intelligence, le Carre explores the questions & issues that have haunted the world throughout the Cold War Years. S [...]

    19. "There's no such thing as retirement [from spying], really. Sometimes there's knowing too much, and not being able to do much about it, but that's just age, I'm sure. I think a lot. I'm stepping out with my reading. I talk to people, ride on buses. I'm a newcomer to the overt world but I'm learning." ~ NedThis volume was my book introduction to Le Carre's work (having previously seen a movie based on one of his novels [The Russia House] and itching to see "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy." This fir [...]

    20. I loved this book. I found the form of the novel intriguingly old-fashioned: a series of chapters from the life of a British Intelligence man near the end of his career, linked together by his own mentor Smiley's after-dinner talk to a new generation of spies. Although The Secret Pilgrim was written twenty years ago, the areas and ideas it discusses are of course very relevant today. In addition to le Carré's wonderful characterisation, this book might contain the finest of his writing I have y [...]

    21. I think this George Smiley novel is a bit disappointing since he's simply invited by Ned to share his knowledge/ideas, that is, he showed up once in a while in a class of young people hoping to be a great secret agent like him. Of course there're some exciting episodes worth reading but, I think, reading his Karla Trilogy is all right and you can say, "That's it!" In other words, you won't feel guilty or inadequate if you skip this one.

    22. The Secret Pilgrim is written almost as a memoir of an espionage agent Ned who has evidently figured in previous John Le Carré novels, none of which I have read. Not being familiar with Ned didn't take away from the enjoyment of the book, and the short story reminiscences didn't act as a spoiler in case I do find myself browsing through the Le Carré section at the local library. An interesting read, more like a 3.5

    23. This is the last of the George Smiley novels, and Smiley is not really even its central character. Rather, he serves as a kind of narrative frame for the story, and Le Carre uses him much of the time as mouthpiece for extended thoughts on the end of the Cold War. It is much less great than the best of Le Carre's work, but it is gripping and interesting anyway--if sometimes preachy and didactic--and it has flashes of the writer in his prime.

    24. I enjoyed each little story, and typically found the characters Ned encounters more interesting than Ned himself. The frame story was a pretty weak excuse for Ned to dredge up all of these memories, but I was more or less willing to roll with it. Not a bad book--and every once in a while le Carre shows you that he can really write.

    25. I am a huge fan of the Smiley series and had somehow missed this one. I thought I would be just indulging my nostalgia for the series but this is a startling novel to read now and realize when it was published. The ethical questions it raises are as fresh as they come! Brilliant!

    26. Quite a gentle one here. Its something like a book of short stories crafted into a novel - tales looking back over a lifetime of spying. Not much glamour, quite a lot of regret. Beautifully written and put together as usual. Borrowed from the Histon Library.

    27. A nice "memoir" of the Cold War, in a way. I wasn't sure it would hold together, but I think it worked in the end. I think it was a good send off to Smiley. I don't think it was LeCarré at his best, but even when he's rusty he's better than most.

    28. Czterdzieści lat służby Neda w wywiadzie brytyjskim, zwanym Cyrkiem, to okres zimnej wojny. W każdym z trzynastu rozdziałów książki Ned powraca do jednego z incydentów swojej misji, począwszy od bolesnej inicjacji, którą przeżył ze swoim przyjacielem ze szkoly szpiegów, Benem, skończywszy na ostatnim zleceniu, które otrzymał kilka dni przed przejściem na emeryturę, kiedy to od pewnego bogatego Anglika usłyszał: () jeśli te czarnuchy powystrzelają się jutro moimi zabawkam [...]

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