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|Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy|
First US edition cover
|Author(s)||John le Carré|
|Series||George Smiley /
The Quest for Karla
|Publisher||Hodder & Stoughton (UK)
Random House (USA)
|Publication date||June 1974|
|Media type||Print (hardcover & paperback)|
|ISBN||ISBN 0-394-49219-6 (hardback edition)|
|LC Classification||PZ4.L4526 Ti3 PR6062.E33|
|Preceded by||The Looking-Glass War|
|Followed by||The Honourable Schoolboy|
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is a 1974 spy novel by British author John le Carré, featuring George Smiley. Smiley is a taciturn, middle-aged intelligence agent who has been forced into retirement. He is recalled to hunt down a Soviet mole in the "Circus," the highest echelon of the British Secret Intelligence Service. In keeping with le Carré's work, the narrative begins in medias res with the repatriation of a captured British spy. The background is supplied during the book through a series of flashbacks.
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is the first novel of the Karla Trilogy, the second and third novels being The Honourable Schoolboy (1977) and Smiley's People (1979), later published in an omnibus edition as The Quest for Karla (1982). These are the fifth, sixth, and seventh le Carré spy novels featuring George Smiley.
Control, the Circus Chief, assigns the code names "Tinker," "Tailor," "Soldier," "Poorman," and "Beggarman," to the five senior intelligence officers under suspicion of being a Soviet mole, with the intention that should an agent called Prideaux uncover information about the identity of the mole he can relay it back using an easy-to-recall code the mole is unaware of. The names are derived from the English children's rhyme "Tinker, Tailor":
The codename "Sailor" was not used as it sounded too much like "Tailor," and Control drops "Rich Man" resulting in Toby Esterhase being code-named "Poor Man." George Smiley is "Beggarman."
Through a love affair in Hong Kong with Irina, the wife of a Moscow Centre intelligence officer, British agent Ricki Tarr discovers that there may be a high-ranking Soviet mole, codenamed "Gerald," within the Circus. After going undercover to avoid Soviet agents, Tarr alerts his immediate superior, Peter Guillam, who in turn notifies Undersecretary Oliver Lacon, the Civil Service officer responsible for the Intelligence Services. Lacon enlists George Smiley, the retired former Deputy Head of the Service, to investigate. Smiley and Guillam must investigate without the knowledge of the Circus, which is headed by Sir Percy Alleline and his deputies Bill Haydon, Roy Bland, and Toby Esterhase, as any of these could be the mole.
Smiley suspects that Gerald was responsible for the failure of Operation Testify, a mission in Communist Czechoslovakia, the ostensible purpose of which was to meet with a defecting Czech Army general. Operation Testify ended with Circus agent Jim Prideaux shot in the back and tortured, and caused the disgrace and dismissal of Control, head of Circus, who subsequently dies. Prideaux, who survived and was repatriated and dismissed from the Circus, reveals to Smiley that Control suspected the mole's existence, and the true aim of Operation Testify was to discover the mole's identity. Prideaux reveals that the Moscow Centre personnel who interrogated him already knew this, and it becomes clear to Smiley that the operation was a trap set by Moscow Centre to discredit Control and remove the threat to their mole Gerald.
Percy Alleline, who was Control's rival, has risen to head the Circus as a result of seemingly top-grade Soviet intelligence from a source code-named "Merlin." The Merlin material is handled by a secret committee, consisting of Alleline, Haydon, Bland, and Esterhase, in an operation called Witchcraft. Smiley's investigation leads him to believe that the Merlin source is false, and is being used by Moscow Centre to influence the leadership of the Circus. Cleverly, Moscow Centre has induced the Circus leadership to believe that Merlin maintains his cover in Moscow by feeding the Russians low-grade British intelligence, "chicken feed," from a false Circus mole. As a result, the leaders of the Circus suppress any rumours of a mole, protecting the actual mole.
Smiley contrives a trap for the mole, using a communication from Tarr, and Gerald is revealed to be Bill Haydon, a respected colleague and former friend who once had an affair with Smiley's now estranged wife, Ann. Haydon is arrested, and acknowledges he was recruited by Karla, the Moscow Centre spymaster. Percy Alleline is removed, and Smiley is appointed temporary head of Circus to deal with the fallout. Haydon is to be exchanged to the Soviet Union for several of the agents he betrayed, but is mysteriously killed while in custody, shortly before he was due to leave England. Though his killer is not explicitly revealed, it is strongly implied to be Prideaux, his old partner, whom he betrayed in Operation Testify.
The characters in Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy use a great deal of jargon for matters specific to their trade, plus a few Britishisms like mews (in the sense of apartment), peach (to inform against, betray) shirty, redbrick and, D-Notice, touches of French as thé dansant, coq au vin and German terms such as Märchen and Gemütlichkeit. Spy lingo examples are:
|Agent||An espionage agent or spy; a citizen who is recruited by a foreign government to spy on his own country. This term should not be confused with a member of an intelligence service who recruits spies; they are referred to as intelligence officers or more particularly case officers.|
|Circus||The in-house name for MI6, the SIS (Secret Intelligence Service), which collects foreign intelligence. "Circus" refers to the (fictional) locale of the headquarters in Cambridge Circus, London.|
|Coat trailing||Denotes behavior that is deliberately provocative, of writing, speech, behavior, et cetera.|
|Comecon||A reference to Comecon, an economic organization under the organization of Soviet Union comprising the countries of the Eastern Bloc along with a number of socialist states elsewhere in the world.|
|Comintern||See Comintern (1919–43), a communist organization, organized in Moscow in 1919.|
|The Competition||MI5, the UK's internal counter-espionage and counter-terrorism service, which the Circus also calls "The Security Mob."|
|The Cousins||The CIA in particular and the U.S. intelligences services in general.|
|Ferrets||Technicians who find and remove hidden microphones, cameras, etc.|
|Honey-trap||A sexual blackmailing operation.|
|Housekeepers||The internal auditors and financial disciplinarians of the Circus.|
|Inquisitors||Interrogators who debrief Circus intelligence officers and defectors.|
|Janitors||The Circus headquarters operations staff, including those who watch doors and verify that people entering secure areas are authorised to do so.|
|Lamplighters||A section which provides surveillance and couriers.|
|Lotus eater||Someone who affects amnesia of past covert activities.|
|Mailfist job||An espionage job denoting an operation with an object of assassination.|
|Mole||An agent recruited long before he has access to secret material, who subsequently works his way into the target government organization. Le Carre has said this was a term actually used in the KGB; an equivalent term used in Western intelligence services was sleeper agent.|
|Mothers||Secretaries and trusted typists serving the senior officers of the Circus.|
|Nuts and Bolts||The engineering department who develop and manufacture espionage devices.|
|Pavement Artists||Members of surveillance teams who inconspicuously follow people in public.|
|Pepper Pot||Probably a reference to a tall tower room, one story higher than the rest of the building, probably at a corner; see Pepper Pot, Brighton, plus .|
|Persil||The cleanest security category available, used of questionable foreigners, "Clean as fabric washed in Persil."|
|Reptile fund||The source of money for covert operations, a slush fund, , .|
|Scalphunters||Handle assassination, blackmail, burglary, kidnap, etc.; the section was sidelined after Control's dismissal.|
|Shoemakers||Forgers of documents and the like.|
|Wranglers||Radio signal analysts and cryptographers; it derives from the term wrangler used of Cambridge University maths students.|
The television adaptation of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier Spy also uses the term "burrower" for a researcher recruited from a university, a term taken from the novel's immediate sequel The Honourable Schoolboy. Le Carre has said that most of these terms were his own invention and were not used in MI6.
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is John le Carré's novelisation of his experiences of the revelations in the 1950s and the 1960s which exposed the Cambridge Five traitors, among them Guy Burgess, Donald Maclean, Anthony Blunt, John Cairncross and Kim Philby, as KGB moles employed by the SIS.
Karla is modelled on KGB Gen. Rem Krassilnikov, whose obituary in the New York Times newspaper reported that the CIA considered him as such. Moreover, skewing in favour of the latter, Smiley reports that Karla was trained by "Berg," Alexander Mikhailovich Orlov, an NKVD intelligence officer who defected to the West in 1938.
The character Bill Haydon is derived from Kim Philby, who, in the late 1950s, transcended SIS suspicions that he too might be a traitor, given his connection with the defector Guy Burgess, and continued as an SIS intelligence officer until defecting to the USSR in 1963. David Cornwell (John le Carré) worked as an intelligence officer for the SIS (MI6) during Philby's tenure, and has said that Philby betrayed his identity to the Russians, which was a factor in the 1964 termination of his intelligence career.
Connie Sachs, the Circus's principal Russia researcher, is modelled upon Milicent Bagot.
In 1979, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy was adapted to television as a seven-part series for the BBC, featuring Alec Guinness as George Smiley, of the SIS; the initial broadcast coincided with the British Government announcing that Anthony Blunt, the Keeper of the Queen's Pictures, was one of the Cambridge Five traitors. In the United States, the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) broadcast it as part of its "Great Performances" series, introduced by the Canadian journalist Robert MacNeil, who explained the workings of SIS.
The main title credits feature a matryoshka doll progressively revealing a doll more irate than the previous, with the final doll being faceless, an allusion to Winston Churchill's describing Russia as "A riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma." Analogously, the literary George Smiley concludes that only Karla saw the last doll in the British traitor. The end credits music, an arrangement of Nunc dimittis ("Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace") from the Book of Common Prayer (1662), was composed by Geoffrey Burgon for organ, trumpet and boy soprano; the score earned the Ivor Novello Award for 1979. The end credits appear over a stationary shot of Oxford University.
In the United States, subsequent syndicated broadcasts and DVD releases compressed the seven British episodes into six, in which scenes were shortened and the narrative sequence altered. In the British original, Smiley visits Connie Sachs before Peter Guillam's burglary of the Circus, while the US version reverses the sequence of these events, in line with the time sequence of the novel.
In 1988, BBC Radio 4 broadcast a dramatisation, by Rene Basilico, of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy in seven weekly half-hour episodes, produced by John Fawcett-Wilson. It is available as a BBC audiobook in CD and audio cassette formats. Notably, Bernard Hepton portrays George Smiley. Nine years earlier, he had portrayed Toby Esterhase in the television adaption.
In 2009, BBC Radio 4 also broadcast new dramatisations, by Shaun McKenna, of the eight George Smiley novels by John le Carré, featuring Simon Russell Beale as Smiley. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy was broadcast as three, one-hour episodes, from Sunday 29 November to Sunday 13 December 2009 in BBC Radio 4's Classic Serial slot. The producer was Steven Canny.
Swedish director Tomas Alfredson made a film adaptation in 2011 based on a screenplay by Bridget O'Connor and Peter Straughan. The film was released in the UK and Ireland on 16 September 2011, and in the United States on 9 December 2011. It included a cameo appearance by John le Carré in the Christmas party scene as the older man in the grey suit who stands suddenly to sing the Soviet anthem. The film received numerous Academy Award nominations including a nomination for Best Actor for Gary Oldman.
|Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy|
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