When you read a book by John le Carré you turn your life over to a master for as long as it take to read the book. Actually it is for longer than that, because the experience stays with you a long time.
John le Carré’s Agent Running in the Field is the story of a secret agent in his homeland of England who at the age of 45 or so has already reached his best by date. This was Interesting, because the author was nearly 90 when he wrote this book had not yet passed that date. Not nearly.
I am a great admirer of the novels of John le Carré and recently read his second last novel. I know there will be no more because now the writer has passed away. What a pity. The seemingly inexhaustible supply of outstanding espionage novels is about to crash to a halt. This novel is a dandy.
The English agent has an interesting relationship with a Russian spy. Even though it is the age of Putin, when money is all and ethics have slowly soured into hopeless gruel, the Russian spy surprisingly turns on England for ideological reasons. Another English spy can’t believe this is possible. An Englishmen who was so puritanically ethical that he would turn to Putin “who wouldn’t know an ethic if it bit him in the arse.” How is that possible? As le Carré says, it’s “a funny sort of Puritanism.” Indeed.
The English agent sees England as falling into what Russia used to be. Everything is lashed together and nothing works. The traitor in these circumstances is a “secret monk in search of an absolute, even if it involves absolute betrayal.”
It’s really a deep pleasure to read a book by an old master in the field. I strongly recommend this book.