John le Carré

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Luck's just another word for destiny … either you make your own or you're screwed.

John le Carré is the pen-name of David John Moore Cornwell (born 19 October 1931), a British writer of spy novels, and a former spy himself.


  • 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.
    • "The United States of America Has Gone Mad" (2003)
  • 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. I think what gives my works whatever universality they have is that they use the metaphysical secret world to describe some realities of the overt world.
    • As quoted in "Master of the Secret World: John le Carré on Deception, Storytelling and American Hubris" by Andrew Ross, in Salon (21 October 1996); also in Conversations with John le Carré (2004) edited by Matthew Joseph Bruccoli and Judith Baughman, p. 141

The Spy Who Came In From the Cold (1963)[edit]

  • "This is a war," Leamas replied. "It's graphic and unpleasant because it's fought on a tiny scale, at close range; fought with a wastage of innocent life sometimes, I admit. But it's nothing, nothing at all beside other wars – the last or the next."

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (1974)[edit]

  • He worked for the fleshy side of the Foreign Office and his job consisted of lunching visiting dignitaries whom no one else would have entertained in his woodshed.

Smiley's People (1979)[edit]

  • Blackmail is more effective than bribery.
  • So odd to think of the Devil as a fumbler!
  • The neglected are too easily killed.
  • Balls, the lot of it. It's death, that's what I'm suffering from. The systematic encroachment of the big D.
  • You see a lot — your eyes get very painful.
  • There's one thing worse than change and that's the status quo.

The Constant Gardener (2001)[edit]

  • [She] reports that [the company] recently donated fifty million dollars to a major U.S. teaching hospital, plus salaries and expenses for three top clinicians and six research assistants. Corruption of university Common Room affiliations is even easier: professorial chairs, biotech labs, research foundations, etc. 'Unbought scientific opinion is increasingly hard to find.'

The Mission Song (2006)[edit]

  • Savages...are by nature rash. They have no middle gear. The middle gear of any man is self-discipline.
  • Luck's just another word for destiny...either you make your own or you're screwed.
  • If you're in a hole, don't dig, they say.
  • When you assimilate, you choose.
  • Elections are a Western jerk-off.
  • Why is it that so many men of small stature have more courage than men of size?
  • Peace, gentlemen, it is well known, does not come of its own accord, and neither does freedom. Peace has enemies. Peace must be won by the sword.
  • The friends of my friends are my friends.
  • Never trade a secret, you'll always get the short end of the bargain.
  • We were both hybrids: I by birth, he by education. We had both taken too many steps away from the country that had borne us to belong anywhere with ease.
  • No problem exists in isolation, one must first reduce it to its basic components, then tackle each component in turn.
  • A good man knows when to sacrifice himself, a bad man survives but loses his soul.
  • Nothing in life... even a few broken bones, is without its reward.

Radio interview (November 2008)[edit]

Interview with Ramona Koval. The Book Show, Australian Broadcasting Commission Radio National. (19 November 2008)
  • There are some Arabs who think that the Germans did the right thing by the Jews. This makes it easy to recruit Arab terrorist.
  • There is a big difference between fighting the cold war and fighting radical Islam. The rules have changed and we haven't.
  • We were not faced (in the cold war) in a conflict with people who are prepared to die for their cause. We weren't in conflict with people whose idea is to kill as many as they could.
  • In the war on terror we did everything wrong that we could have done.
  • You can't make war against terror. Terror is a technique of battle. It's a tactic that has been employed since time immemorial. You can conduct clandestine action against terrorists, and that must be done.
  • To operate an intelligence network against the Islamist terror is terribly difficult because they don't have a central command and control center such as we would understand. Therefore you cannot penetrate at the top and find out what will happen on the ground.
  • Because we are so unfamiliar with the motivation of the people we are dealing with, we are more afraid of them than we need to be.
  • On one hand we go like hell for every terror cell we can find, we penetrate it, we destroy it. On the other hand, there is a much bigger need for a political solution.

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