Boekverslag : John Le Carre - The Spy Who Came In From The Cold
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The Spy Who Came In from the Cold


The grim, dangerous work that makes up the core of spying is displayed in exquisite and fascinating detail, in this excellent novel by John Le Carré. With the cold rain pouring down on the murky streets of Berlin, Checkpoint Charlie doesn't seem to have much to recommend it. Yet this symbol of the Cold War represents hope and freedom to those oppressed in the East and, conversely, the malignant presence of Communism to the West. In this transition zone stands Alec Leamas, a British agent waiting for the defection of one of his spies. The man in question appears over the border and looks set to make his escape when, suddenly, he is cut down in a hail of gunfire. Leamas is recalled to London by his boss, Control, expecting to be fired. Instead Control decides to keep Leamas "out in the cold" a while longer. However, Leamas is soon looking for work and ends up with a menial librarian job. With his only friend, whisky, for company, Leamas stews in his own thoughts, building up resentment against the British Secret Service. Nothing seems able to penetrate his shell (built up over the years as a spy) although his fellow librarian, Elizabeth Gold, takes a liking to him. Unfortunately, Leamas assaults a shopkeeper and ends up in jail.

When he's realeased from prison there is someone to see his return to society and he approaches him in the park. Claiming to be from a charity which helps ex-convicts, Ashe takes Leamas to an expensive lunch. This is all double-talk of course - in reality it's an approach from the enemy, checking out a disgruntled ex-spy and finding out if he'll defect. Leamas seems to feel that he doesn't owe Britain anything and, somewhat grumpily, seems to accept (purely for the money). Then Leamas circuitously makes his way to Smiley's house, for a meeting with Control. Everything becomes clear Control outlines the plan, a devious and cunning attempt to discredit the top East German spy, Hans-Dieter Mundt. With haste, Leamas is flown to Germany for de-briefing by Fiedler, the second in command to Mundt. The crux of the plan is that Fiedler detests Mundt and would do anything to destroy him.

By dropping subtle hints during his conversations with Fiedler, Leamas allows the agent to draw his own conclusions without injudicious prompting. The incredible skill that Leamas has for espionage, and his years of experience, hold him in good stead as he weaves a convincing tale for Fiedler. Realising the "truth", Fiedler bundles Leamas back to East Germany, where he hopes to bring down Mundt in a closed trial. Leamas is an added complication though since he insists that Mundt couldn't have been a double-agent (he was head of East German operations and would have known). Fiedler still manages to force a trial though, absolutely convinced that Mundt is betraying his country, and the closed session begins. It seems as though the tribunal will rule against Mundt, resulting in his execution, until his defense lawyer presents an unexpected witness. That witness's Liz. This pastes a whole new complexion on the proceedings and the fate of everyone involved. At the end Leamas is shot and Liz's also dead.
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