Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (1974) is le Carré’s seventh novel and the fifth to feature the ‘anti-Bond’, George Smiley. Described by his creator as ‘Small, podgy and at best middle-aged … by appearance one of London’s meek who do not inherit the earth’,

le Carré’s unlikely hero is living alone in irritable retirement when he is recalled to the Circus, the inner circle of the Secret Intelligence Service, to discover the identity of a KGB mole in its midst. In a series of nested, labyrinthine narratives the traitor is at last revealed to be at the very centre of the already compromised network. His treachery is personal as well as political and he is eventually killed by his betrayed former partner, ‘my other half’.

The novel is partly based on le Carré’s own experience of the unmasking of the Cambridge spies Guy Burgess, Donald Maclean and Kim Philby. It was subsequently made into an acclaimed seven-part series by the BBC, broadcast from 10 September – 22 October 1979, starring Alec Guinness, Ian Bannen, Beryl Reid, Ian Richardson and Patrick Stewart. While the series was airing, rumours about the so-called ‘Fourth Man’ were also circulating and on 15 November Sir Anthony Blunt, former Surveyor of the Queen’s Pictures and Director of the Courtauld Institute, was revealed to have been the fourth Moscow-controlled spy in the heart of the British Establishment. A film version of the novel is currently in post-production, reportedly with Gary Oldman as George Smiley, Colin Firth as Bill Haydon and Benedict Cumberbatch as Peter Guillam, while Radio 4’s recent dramatization of all eight of the Smiley novels starred a critically-lauded Simon Russell Beal as Smiley.

The manuscripts and typescripts shown here form part of le Carré’s extensive working papers for the novel. The manuscripts and amendments are all in the author’s own hand; the earliest drafts differ substantially from the published text.

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