Why John le Carré is more than a spy novelist

John-le-carréWilliam Boyd at The New Statesman:

It must be difficult to write the life of a man who is still very much with us, and in the public eye, no matter how much liberty the biographer has been given to tell the story, warts and all. Sisman – a very fine and astute biographer – has done an excellent, not to say exemplary, job under the circumstances. Only rarely is one aware of a veil of discretion being drawn, of names not being named, yet it is impossible to imagine this Life being bettered – though le Carré’s own memoir, to be published in 2016, may add some gloss.

In considering this biography, a comparison comes to mind: there is something almost absurdly Dickensian about le Carré’s early life. He was abandoned by his mother as an infant; trusted to a corrupt, rackety and wilful father who was frequently bankrupted and imprisoned (as Dickens’s father was); tormented by feelings of class insecurity but eventually found fame and glory as a published writer under a pseudonym; and, in not-so-serene but well-heeled old age, recognised as a great English man of letters. Even his later so-called polemical novels have a whiff of the outraged Dickensian apostrophe about them, addressing the reader and pointedly making them aware of the injustice at large in the world.

more here.