John le Carré

Literary Birthday – 19 October – John le Carré

John le Carré was born 19 October 1931 and died 12 December 2020.


  1. The cat sat on the mat is not a story. The cat sat on the other cat’s mat is a story.
  2. Having your book turned into a movie is like seeing your oxen turned into bouillon cubes.
  3. I’m in the business of storytelling, not message making.
  4. I think the first thing you’ve got to do is grab the reader by the ear, and make him sit down and listen. Make him laugh, make him feel. We all want to be entertained at a very high level.
  5. Remember Graham Green’s dictum that childhood is the bank balance of the writer? I think that all writers feel alienated. Most of us go back to an alienated childhood in some way or another. I know that I do.
  6. It’s part of a writer’s profession, as it’s part of a spy’s profession, to prey on the community to which he’s attached, to take away information – often in secret – and to translate that into intelligence for his masters, whether it’s his readership or his spy masters. And I think that both professions are perhaps rather lonely.
  7. Completing a book, it’s a little like having a baby.
  8. America has entered one of its periods of historical madness, but this is the worst I can remember: worse than McCarthyism, worse than the Bay of Pigs and in the long term potentially more disastrous than the Vietnam War.
  9. I use the furniture of espionage to amuse the reader, to make the reader listen to me, because most people like to read about intrigue and spies. I hope to provide a metaphor for the average reader’s daily life. Most of us live in a slightly conspiratorial relationship with our employer and perhaps with our marriage.
  10. A desk is a dangerous place from which to view the world.

John le Carré was a British author of espionage novels. He worked for the British intelligence services in the 1950s and 1960s and began writing novels. After his novel The Spy Who Came in from the Cold became an international best-seller, he left MI6 to become a full-time author. His latest novel is A Legacy of Spies. He also wrote about his life in The Pigeon Tunnel: Stories from My Life.

Source for Image

Krimidoedel, CC BY 3.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

by Amanda Patterson

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Posted on: 19th October 2013