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A posthumous novel, John le Carré's last mystery


One of the guests at the intimate ceremony held this Tuesday with which his family wanted to fire John le Carré in north London, was Murat Kurnaz, a Turk illegally detained by the CIA after the 11, sent to a secret prison in Afghanistan, tortured, and subsequently imprisoned in Guantánamo. Kurnaz, who was found innocent and released after a lengthy trial, spoke in a short video about the help that the British writer gave him during the defense of his case, which in part inspired The Most Wanted Man . “He was a great man,” Kurnaz noted. The journalist Yassin Musharbash, who helped him in the investigation of that novel on the human rights violations committed by the Bush Administration in the war on terror, recalled in the same ceremony a phrase that summarizes the life and work of a writer obsessed with people who manage to maintain decency in an indecent world: “I thought that, in the end, it is not writers who change the world, that’s why I admired activists.”

John le Carré’s family (Poole, 414 – Truro, 2020) allowed a small group of journalists to follow by videoconference a ceremony in memory of the writer, whose real name was David Cornwell, who died at 89 years in December 2020 , and his wife, Jane, who died at 62 years just a few months later, in February , after spending the vast majority of their life together. His four children and grandchildren participated, some childhood friends, publishers, musicians, the playwright Tom Stoppard, with whom he corresponded throughout 15 years, the film director Susanne Bier or the director Errol Morris, from which a short film about Le Carré was broadcast. Bach’s Zarabanda was even heard. All this diverse set of characters and creators reflects a phrase that the novelist utters about himself in Morris’s film: “I have lived many lives.”

Ejemplares de la nueva novela de John le Carré en una librería de Londres.
Copies of John le Carré’s new novel in a London bookstore. NEIL HALL (EFE)

The author of The spy who arose from the cold died deeply angered by the Brexit, which in one of his last interviews he described as “the greatest idiocy perpetrated by the United Kingdom”, although he took his revenge: in an image offered by The Guardian this week he appears involved on an Irish flag on the day of his 89 birthday, just three months before his death. He wanted to die as a citizen of the European Union and became an Irish citizen when he was already very ill. It was the last joke, and a little revenge, from a creator who always maintained a sense of humor and who left a mystery at his death in the form of a novel.

His latest book, Silverview Project , which has just come out in English with very good reviews and whose edition in Spanish is scheduled for January 2022 in Planeta, he had been writing for a long time, however, he wanted two other works to be published first: The Legacy of Spies , in which his character reappears more famous, George Smiley, and A decent man , published months before his death, and that ends with a phrase in which hope and bitterness are mixed: “I wanted to tell you that it was a decent man, but it was too late. These are two quite political novels, in fact, The Legacy of Spies ends with a Smiley plea in favor of Europeanism in which the old spy claimed that there was only one reason why the one who many times sold his soul to the devil to win the Cold War: “I am a European. If I had a mission, if I was ruthless, I was for Europe. If he had an unattainable ideal, it was to lift Europe out of its darkness into a new era of reason. I still have it. ”

Silverview Project is a classic Le Carré novel in which a financier who has retired to open a bookstore in A small town on the British coast receives a strange visitor, while, in a subplot, a network of informants may be exposed. His literary agent Jonny Geller, who worked for 15 years with Le Carré, stated to Sky News, which finished the book in September 2014 but never delivered the manuscript. “He told me: ‘It’s ready’ … I was waiting for the book at my house, but nobody gave me a box, instead I received a letter that said: ‘I have decided that this is not the time, but if you want to publish this later of my death with the permission of my children, please have my blessing. ”

John le Carré, en el estudio de su casa en Cornualles en 2009.
John le Carré, in the study of his home in Cornwall in 2009.

“With the publication of Silverview Project it is clear that his virtues as a storyteller have remained intact until the end,” writes Mick Herron in The Guardian. “If from time to time we come across a passage where we believe we have already been in the past, those moments are overshadowed by the sadness of knowing that we will never be there again.” Joseph Finder argues in The New York Times that this book may not be among his masterpieces, “but the stature of a writer does not diminish with his lesser works.” And it raises one of the many questions posed by the novel: “Le Carré seems to suggest that each human relationship is both an asset and a vulnerability.”

The journalist Yassin Musharbash shared during the ceremony the experience of working with a creator who “when I started writing a book it was never about things that I knew, but about things that I wanted to know”. He recalled that he loved the research process and that he considered that the key to a novel was at its end. When a new writer sent him a first chapter, he assured that he replied that until the last chapter he was not able to know if the novel worked.

During the ceremony, the participants recalled the sense of humor of Le Carré, his laughter, his love for Jane Cornwell and her family, his modesty, his kindness, his immense curiosity and concern for world affairs. The novelist himself appears in the short by Errol Morris claiming the pleasure that his work gave him: “In recent years I really enjoy my work, not being a writer, but writing.” His son Nick finished the event, which lasted for an hour and a half, remembering his childhood and celebrating the vital legacy of his parents, who died during the pandemic at a devastating time for the United Kingdom: “I grew up in a house full of stories, with the door always open. Winter 2020/2021 It was long and terrible, but I beg you not to leave with sadness now. ”