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John le Carré Has Not Mellowed With Age -

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I never knew he invented the words "honey pot" and "mole":

One of the best things about le Carré’s novels is that, from the start, they’ve hummed with the flavorful and recondite language of espionage, a field that has its jargon like any other. In many cases, le Carré has invented that jargon himself. Terms from his novels — “honey trap,” for instance, to denote using sex to compromise a target — have been adopted by the pros. He can probably claim “mole” as well. The editors of the Oxford English Dictionary, he says, wrote him once, asking if he invented the idea of employing the word as a synonym for a long-term penetration agent. Le Carré wasn’t certain. But the sole other historical usage turned out to be one he is unlikely to have seen — it appears in a little-known 17th-century volume about King Henry VII by Francis Bacon.

Yet John le Carré’s greatest invention is easily John le Carré himself. Born in 1931 in Poole, a sprawling coastal town in Dorset, he is a product of a childhood both unusual and enviable — if you happen to be a writer. It made him suspicious of charm of any sort and gave him a limitless fascination with humans and their secrets.

This is fascinating:

When I asked about a more recent object of liberal opprobrium, “Zero Dark Thirty,” Kathryn Bigelow’s 2012 film about the capture of Osama bin Laden, le Carré paused for a moment, then smiled at me, then paused again. “Let me,” he said, “try and organize my anger.” Soon after it was released, the film came under fire from commentators in the U.S. and Britain for presenting torture as a necessary evil. The film’s torture scenes infuriated him, and he faults Bigelow for not depicting nearly enough of the multiple types of behind-the-scenes intelligence gathering that were crucial to bin Laden’s capture. “If the film is accurate,” he said, “it is a portrait of such incompetence that it takes your breath away.”

Two of le Carré’s last three novels — “A Most Wanted Man” and his latest, “A Delicate Truth” — have dealt with the global war on terror, probing the kinds of nuances Bigelow avoided. About Islam and the West, he said: “If we spent a fraction of what we spent on war trying to meet people’s misunderstandings about us, we might do a better job.”

In “A Delicate Truth,” he directs his attention toward the perils of farming out military duties to mercenaries. “This will sound as if I am speaking large,” le Carré told me, “but Mussolini said that the definition of fascism was when you couldn’t put a cigarette paper between corporate power and government power. I have watched veteran members of our intelligence establishment go seamlessly into these private defense contracting companies.” Maintaining a military, done correctly, he said, is difficult physical, mental and moral work. “It’s so much easier if I come to you and say, ‘Here’s the contract, I want you to liberate Sierra Leone, I don’t give a toss who you take with you and try to keep the killing down.’ ”

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