Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (novel)

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Cambridge Circus in the mid-1970s, home of the "Circus," the fictionalized Secret Intelligence Service.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is a 1974 spy novel by British author John le Carré. It follows the endeavors of taciturn, retired spymaster George Smiley to uncover a Soviet mole in the British Secret Intelligence Service. It is the first novel in what became the Smiley Versus Karla or Quest for Karla trilogy, followed by The Honourable Schoolboy (1977) and Smiley's People (1979).

Part One[edit]

  • Jim Prideaux arrived on a Friday in a rainstorm. The rain rolled like gun-smoke down the brown combes of the Quantocks, then raced across the empty cricket fields into the sandstone of the crumbling facades …Of the whole school only little Bill Roach actually saw Jim arrive, saw the steam belching from the Alvis' bonnet as it wheezed its way down the pitted drive…
    • Chapter 1
  • Coming from a broken home Roach was also a natural watcher. In Roach's observation Jim did not stop at the school buildings, but continued across the sweep to the stable yard. He knew the layout of the place already. Roach decided later that he must have made a reconnaissance or studied maps.
    • Chapter 1
  • “You're a good watcher, anyway…No one else spotted me. Gave me a real turn up there, parked on the horizon. Thought you were a juju man. Best watcher in the unit, Bill Roach is, I'll bet. Long as he's got his specs on. What?”
    “Yes,” Roach agreed gratefully, “I am.”
    • Chapter 1
Boarding school in Taunton, Somerset that matches some of the descriptions and location of Thursgood's school.
  • Bill Roach had a feeling he could not describe that Jim lived so precariously on the world's surface that he might at any time fall off into a void; for he feared that Jim was like himself, without a natural gravity to hold him on…Roach appointed himself Jim's regent-guardian…a stand-in replacing Jim's departed friend, whoever that friend might be.
    • Chapter 1
  • Unlike Jim Prideaux, Mr. George Smiley was not naturally equipped for hurrying in the rain. Indeed, he might have been the final form for which Bill Roach was the prototype. Small, podgy and at best middle-aged, he was by appearance one of London's meek who do not inherit the earth.
    • Chapter 2
  • Roddy Martindale had no valid claim on Smiley either professionally or socially. He worked on 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.
    • Chapter 2
  • On the way he became even more irritable and, from a callbox, sought an appointment with his solicitor for that afternoon.
    “George, how can you be so vulgar? Nobody divorces Ann. Send her flowers and come to lunch.”
    • Chapter 2
There was a short pause, illuminated by the vision of Ricki Tarr and his Moscow Centre mistress kneeling side by side in the rear pew of a Baptist church in Hong Kong.
  • “I'd leave that coat on if I were you, George, old boy,” said an amiable voice. “We've got a long way to go.”…Their destination was the residence of Mr. Oliver Lacon of the Cabinet Office, a senior adviser to various mixed committees and a watch-dog of intelligence affairs…Whitehall's head prefect.
    • Chapter 2
  • The matter of Miss Aaronson's mail was more complex. There were two envelopes on the staffroom sideboard Thursday morning after chapel, one addressed to Jim and one to Miss Aaronson…At the door, Roach looked round. Jim was standing again, leaning back to open the morning's Daily Telegraph. The sideboard was empty. Both envelopes had gone. Had Jim written to Miss Aaronson and changed his mind? Proposing marriage, perhaps? Another thought came to Bill Roach…Was he so lonely that he wrote himself letters, and stole other people's as well?
    • Chapter 3
  • “I'm surprised they didn't throw you out with the rest of us,” Smiley said, not very pleasantly. “You had all the qualifications: good at your work, loyal, discreet.”
    • Chapter 4
  • “Are you enjoying retirement, George?” Lacon asked, as if blurting into the ear trumpet of a deaf aunt. “You don't miss the warmth of human contact? I rather would, I think.“
    • Chapter 4
  • Smiley thought: Yes, with Ricki Tarr it could have happened. With Tarr, anything could have happened…In Brixton, they used to call him accident-prone.
    • Chapter 4
"Moscow Centre" (KGB headquarters, Lubyanka Square, 1983)
  • Sometimes as Tarr spoke an extraordinary stillness came over his body as if he were hearing his own voice played back to him.
    • Chapter 5
  • From the outset of this meeting Smiley had assumed for the main a Buddha-like inscrutability…His hooded eyes had closed behind the thick lenses. His only fidget was to polish his glasses on the silk lining of his tie, and when he did this his eyes had a soaked, naked look which was embarrassing to those who caught him at it.
    • Chapter 6
  • There was a short pause, illuminated by the vision of Ricki Tarr and his Moscow Centre mistress kneeling side by side in the rear pew of a Baptist church in Hong Kong.
    • Chapter 8
  • At Waterloo, from a reeking phone box, Guillam telephoned a number in Mitcham, Surrey, and spoke to Inspector Mendel, formerly of Special Branch, known to both Guillam and Smiley from other lives…He was a quirkish, loping tracker of a man, sharp-faced and sharp-eyed, and Guillam had a very precise picture of him just then, leaning over his policeman's notebook with his pencil poised.
    • Chapter 11
  • The door opened part way, held on a chain; a body swelled into the opening. Two shrewd eyes, wet like a baby's, appraised him, noted his briefcase and his spattered shoes, flickered upward to peer past his shoulder down the drive, then once more looked him over. Finally the white face broke into a charming smile, and Miss Connie Sachs, formerly queen of research at the Circus, registered her spontaneous joy.
    • Chapter 12
"Polyakov...Cultural Attaché, Soviet Embassy London. He's come alive again, just as you predicted."
  • “I hate the real world, George. I like the Circus and all my lovely boys.” She took his hands.
    ”Polyakov,” he said quietly, pronouncing it in accordance with Tarr's instruction, “Aleksey Aleksandrovich Polyakov, Cultural Attaché, Soviet Embassy London. He's come alive again, just as you predicted.”
    • Chapter 12
  • Connie began her story like a fairy-tale: “Once upon a time there was a defector called Stanley, way back in sixty-three,” and she applied to it the same spurious logic, part inspiration, part intellectual opportunism, born of a wonderful mind which had never grown up.
    • Chapter 12
  • Patiently Smiley waited for the speck of gold, for Connie was of an age where the only thing a man could give her was time.
    • Chapter 12
  • “Aleksey Aleksandrovich Polyakov was a six-cylinder Karla-trained hood if ever I saw one, and they wouldn't even listen to me!”
    • Chapter 13
“We blew up the photographs and there they were: two gallantry and four campaign. Aleks Polyakov was a war veteran and he'd never told a soul in seven years."
  • “We blew up the photographs and there they were: two gallantry and four campaign. Aleks Polyakov was a war veteran and he'd never told a soul in seven years. Oh I was excited! ‘Toby,’ I said, ‘You just listen to me for a moment, you Hungarian poison dwarf. This is one of the occasions when ego has finally got the better of cover.’”
    • Chapter 13
  • “It's all neon lights and Sodom. All over the world beastly people are making our time into nothing…It was a good time, a real time. Englishmen could be proud then. Let them be proud now.”
    “That's not quite up to me, Connie.”
    “Poor loves. Trained to Empire, trained to rule the waves. All gone. All taken away. Bye-bye world. You're the last, George, you and Bill… 'If it's bad, don't come back. Promise? I'm an old leopard and I'm too old to change my spots. I want to remember you all as you were. Lovely, lovely boys.”
    • Chapter 13

Part Two[edit]

"The more identities a man has, the more they express the person they conceal." —George Smiley
  • “We're losing our livelihood. Our self-respect. We've had enough.” Alleline took back the report and jammed it under his arm.
    “And like everyone who's had enough,” said Control, as Alleline noisily left the room, “he wants more.”
    • Chapter 16
  • Witchcraft No. 4 was an immensely technical Soviet Foreign Service appreciation of the advantages and disadvantages of negotiating with a weakened American president. The conclusion, on balance, was that by throwing the President a bone for his own electorate, the Soviet Union could buy useful concessions.
    • Chapter 16
  • “You're an educated sort of swine,' Roy Bland announced… “’An artist is a bloke who can hold two fundamentally opposing views and still function’: who dreamed that one up?”
    Scott Fitzgerald,” Smiley replied.
    “Well, Fitzgerald knew a thing or two,” Bland affirmed. “And I'm definitely functioning, George. As a good socialist I'm going for the money. As a good capitalist, I'm sticking with the revolution, because if you can't beat it, spy on it.”
    • Chapter 17
  • “Control's been toiling through personal dossiers of old Circus folk heroes, sniffing out the dirt, who was pink, who was a queen. Making a study of all our failures: and for why? Because we've got a success on our hands…Get away from him, George. Death's a bore. Cut the cord, move down a few floors. Join the proles.”
    • Chapter 18
  • In due course Smiley noticed that the secret was out, and he was still mystified by the speed with which that had happened. He supposed Bill had boasted to someone, perhaps Bland. Ann had broken her own rules. Bill was Circus and he was Set — her word for family and ramifications. On either count he would be out of bounds.
    • Chapter 18
“Cheer up, Peter, old son. Jesus Christ only had twelve, you know, and one of them was a double.”
  • Suddenly, Smiley sat up with a jolt.
    “We spoke,” wrote Alleline to the Minister, in a minute dated February 27th this year. “You agreed to submit a supplementary estimate to the Treasury for a London house to be carried on the Witchcraft budget.”
    He read it once, then again more slowly.
    • Chapter 19
  • On the day the Berne police hit the villa and Guillam had to hop over the back wall, he found Toby at the Bellevue Hotel munching pâtisseries and watching the thé dansant. He listened to what Guillam had to say, paid his bill, tipped first the band-leader, then Franz the head porter…”If you ever want to get out of Switzerland in a hurry,” thought Guillam, “you pay your bills first.”
    • Chapter 21
  • Across from Porteous were Bill's Russians, Nick de Silsky and his boyfriend Kaspar. They couldn't smile and for all Guillam knew they couldn't read either because they had no papers in front of them; they were the only ones who hadn't. They sat with their four thick hands on the table as if somebody was holding a gun behind them, and they just watched him with their four brown eyes.
    • Chapter 21
  • From not far away came Phil Porteous's purr: “The source is extremely secret, Peter. It may sound to you like ordinary flight information but it isn't that at all. It's ultra, ultra sensitive.”
    “Ah well, in that case I'll try to keep my mouth ultra shut,” said Guillam to Porteous, and while Porteous colored, Bill Haydon gave another schoolboy grin.
    • Chapter 21
  • “Why's it all so hot? What sort of plant can he be when we don't believe a word he says?”
    Alleline seemed to be torn between giving a satisfactory but indiscreet answer, or making a fool of himself.
    • Chapter 21
  • Now whole vistas of deceit opened before Guillam. His friends, his loves, even the Circus itself, joined and re-formed in endless patterns of intrigue. A line of Mendel's came back to him, dropped two nights ago as they drank beer in some glum suburban pub: “Cheer up, Peter, old son. Jesus Christ only had twelve, you know, and one of them was a double.”
    • Chapter 21
  • 'It is the business of agent runners to turn themselves into legends,' Smiley began. “They do this first to impress their agents. Later they try it out on their colleagues and in my personal experience make rare asses of themselves in consequence.”
    • Chapter 23
  • "I even put it to Control: we should take the opposition's cover stories more seriously, I said. The more identities a man has, the more they express the person they conceal."
    • Chapter 23, George Smiley
“Karla's pulled the Circus inside out; that much I understand, so do you,” Smiley said quietly.
  • “So Karla is fireproof?" Guillam asked finally. "He can't be bought and he can't be beaten?”
    “Karla's pulled the Circus inside out; that much I understand, so do you,” Smiley said quietly. “Karla is not fireproof because he's a fanatic. And one day, if I have anything to do with it, that lack of moderation will be his downfall.”
    • Chapter 23
  • Closing the passenger door after him, Guillam had a sudden urge to wish Smiley good night or even good luck, so he leaned across the seat and lowered the window and drew in his breath to call. But Smiley was gone. He had never known anyone who could disappear so quickly in a crowd.
    • Chapter 23
  • “All power corrupts but some must govern and in that case Brother Lacon will reluctantly scramble to the top of the heap.”
    • Chapter 26, Sam Collins to George Smiley
  • “George is like a swift,” Ann had once told Haydon in his hearing. “He cuts down his body temperature till it's the same as the environment. Then he doesn't lose energy adjusting.”
    • Chapter 26

Part Three[edit]

There was tea on a tray…To safe houses belongs a certain standard of catering.
  • "If I couldn't get out, if there was any fumble after I'd met Stevcek, if I had to go underground, I must get the one word to him even if I had to go to Prague and chalk it on the Embassy door…Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Sailor. Alleline was Tinker, Haydon was Tailor, Bland was Soldier and Toby Esterhase was Poorman. We dropped Sailor because it rhymed with Tailor. You were Beggarman," Jim said.
    • Chapter 31, Smiley's interview with Jim Prideaux
  • There was tea on a tray: Guillam had prepared it, two cups. To safe houses belongs a certain standard of catering. Either you are pretending you live there, or that you are adept anywhere; or simply that you think of everything. In the trade, naturalness is an art, Guillam decided.
  • Chapter 34
  • “I want to put a thesis to you, Toby. A notion about what's going on. May I?...You don't have to speak at all,” Smiley said. “There's no risk to listening, is there?”
    “Maybe.”
    • Chapter 34
  • “Percy's door opens and somebody walks in. We'll call him Gerald, it's just a name…Perhaps he doesn't say anything till they're outside the building, because Gerald is very much a field man, he doesn't like to talk with walls and telephones around."
    • Chapter 34
Lock Gardens…was a terrace of four flat-fronted nineteenth-century houses…each with three floors and a strip of walled back garden running down to the Regent's Canal. (Merlin's safe house in Camden Town)
  • "As to the identity of the source - well that's a big, big mystery at this stage, but so it should be. Forgive me if I'm a little wide of the mark here and there but I've only the file to go by."
    The mention of a file, the first indication that Smiley might be acting in some official capacity, produced in Esterhase a discernible response…an expression of shrewd familiarity, as if Toby was trying to indicate that he too had read the file, whatever file it was, and entirely shared Smiley's conclusions.
    • Chapter 34
  • “Secret services and their customers are like anyone else, I'm afraid. They value most what costs most, and Merlin costs a fortune. Ever bought a fake picture?”
    “I sold a couple once,” said Toby with a flashy, nervous smile, but no one laughed.
    “The more you pay for it, the less inclined you are to doubt it.”
    • Chapter 34
  • Is the Witchcraft committee led from below? From the middle or from the top? I rather like Karla's description of committees don't you? Is it Chinese? A committee is an animal with four back legs.
    • Chapter 34
  • “George, you been talking to the wrong guys.”
    “One of us has,” Smiley agreed pleasantly. “That's for sure.”
    • Chapter 34
  • That one won't crack, though, Mendel decided with approval; one of your flabby oak trees, Smiley was. Think you could blow him over with one puff but when it comes to the storm he's the only one left standing at the end of it.
    • Chapter 35
  • Haydon also took it for granted that secret services were the only real measure of a nation's political health, the only real expression of its subconscious.
    • Chapter 38
  • For a while he had remained content with Britain's part in the world, till gradually it dawned on him just how trivial this was. How and when was a mystery…simply, he knew that if England were out of the game, the price of fish would not be altered by a farthing. He had often wondered which side he would be on if the test ever came; after prolonged reflection he had finally to admit that if either monolith had to win the day, he would prefer it to be the East.
    “It's an aesthetic judgment as much as anything,” he explained, looking up. “Partly a moral one, of course.”
    “Of course,” said Smiley politely.
    • Chapter 38
  • Then he saw her: her disreputable car shunting towards him down the lane marked "Buses Only" and Ann at the wheel staring the wrong way. Saw her get out, leaving the indicator winking, and walk into the station to inquire — tall and puckish, extraordinarily beautiful, essentially another man's woman.
    • Chapter 38
  • “His real name is Bill,” Roach heard Jim explain to a visiting parent. “We were new boys together.”
    • Chapter 38

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