Posted by: cassymuronaka | September 2, 2011

The return of George Smiley

I always thought that I would be a much better spouse to the self-effacing George Smiley than the fantastically promiscuous Lady Ann Sercomb, whose character I honestly never understood in John le Carré classic books on Cold War skirmishes between rival spy agencies: that of  Britain’s “Circus” and Moscow Centre.

Actually, just about any woman would have been a better mate for the fictional English spymaster who had a far more interesting retirement than most of us ever will experience: a cat and mouse game with his wily Soviet counterpart, Karla. As numerous books unfold, Smiley’s beautiful, aristocratic wife openly and continually cuckolds her brilliant little husband, but never quite gets around to divorcing him. And throughout these novels, George Smiley endures the perpetual query of friends and colleagues who raise an eyebrow and ask him, “How’s Ann?”

More than thirty years ago, the British Broadcasting Company made two superb mini-series from two of the trilogy of novels devoted to Smiley’s pursuit of Karla: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and Smiley’s People.

Both television series starred the excellent Alec Guinness, an actor who created another iconic and futuristic hero of a far different stripe: Obi Wan Kenobi of  “Star Wars.” The same holds true for the man who played Karla in the second series. And that was Patrick Stewart, Captain Jean-Luc Picard on the American television series, “Star Trek: Generations.”

In November, a film version of  “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy” will be released with a magnificent English cast. Gary Oldman steps into George Smiley’s shoes, with Colin Firth, Tom Hardy, Ciarán Hinds, John Hurt and Mark Strong playing other key parts.  If we’re lucky and it’s a fine, profitable production, then perhaps we can look forward to any number of films with George Smiley front and center.

Right now, my sister and I are re-reading the Smiley trilogy. I’ve just started the second novel:  The Honourable Schoolboy.  The first and the third books of the series are among the best novels I’ve ever read, and, as a result, John le Carré  has become my favorite author over the years.  He writes so well and with such sardonic subtlety that it’s hard not to be insanely jealous of his great gift at the same time the reader is appreciating it.

Smiley: “Good afternoon, Mr. Brownlow.”
Mr. Brownlow: “Oh, hello sir. How’s Lady Ann?”
Smiley: “She’s very lucky. I’ve bought her a present. I was wondering if I could put it in your safe and come back for it later?”
Mr. Brownlow: “Doesn’t tick, does it?”
Smiley: “Only in wet weather.”



  1. Oh, goody. Looking forward to this.

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