On the 13th September, what may be John le Carré’s last interview was shown on the Channel 4 News. Jon Snow writes about his trip down to the author’s house in Cornwall and their discussion of money laundering, the SIS and why writing to him is ‘the only life’.
‘In the revealing interview at his Cornish home, le Carré, whose real name is David Cornwell, described how his experiences working as a spy during the 1950s and 1960s, and his childhood shaped his writing.
‘The 79-year-old wrote his third novel in just six weeks. He will release his 22nd novel, Our Kind of Traitor, later this week.
‘His books, including the bestselling The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, explore a world of espionage, money-laundering and moral ambiguities.
‘Le Carré worked for MI5 and MI6 during the 1950s and 1960s, using the cover of a British diplomat in Germany to run agents and lure defectors.
“In was in those days most definitely a calling and for all that I’ve written about it, it was a pretty decent calling, in the sense that we were very patriotic people in ways I don’t think we are anymore.
“The ethic, which I believe has been greatly undermined in recent times, was that we spoke truth to power,” he said.
‘However his cover was betrayed by the double-agent Kim Philby, the highest-ranking British intelligence officer who worked as a spy for the Soviet Union.
“I had been betrayed by Philby, I actually refused to meet Philby in Moscow in 1988. For me, Philby was a thoroughly bad lot, just a naturally bent man.’