Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Call for the Dead

I finished John Le Carre's 'Call for the Dead' at the weekend. It was his first book and introduced George Smiley. There's much to like about the book. One thing that caught my eye was that the back cover blurb which simply states:

Why did a routine security check make Fennan kill himself?

Short, to the point and does the job of piquing a potential reader's interest. There's no longer blurb on the inside either. Quite a refreshing approach.

The book also has some nice philosophical asides. Here are two of them.

What did Hesse write? 'Strangers to wander in the mist, each is alone.' We know nothing of one another, nothing, Smiley mused. However closely we live together, at whatever time of day or night we sound the deepest thoughts in one another, we know nothing. How am I judging Elsa Fennan? I think I understand her suffering and her frightened lies, but what do I know of her? Nothing.

He was going to tell Mendel how he had wrestled with Goethe's metamorphoses of plants and animals in the hope of discovering, like Faust, 'what sustains the world at it inmost point'. He wanted to explain why it was impossible to understand nineteenth-century Europe without a working knowledge of the natural sciences, he felt earnest and full of important thoughts, and knew secretly that this was because his brain was wrestling with the day's events, that he was in a state of nervous excitement.

1 comment:

Sarah said...

Call for the Dead is a wonderful book and an excellent introduction to Smiley and the character of Mendel who appears in later books.I also like A Murder of Quality, the other early Smiley book. Both are short with tightly written narratives.