In From the Cold


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The Aims of the Project Thousands of men and women died in the service of Britain and the Commonwealth during two world wars and yet there is no official recognition of their sacrifice.


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Our task is to get these soldiers, sailors and airmen their due recognition — even after the passing of so many years. Unfortunately, many names were missed from the lists supplied to the Commission and, as a result, many casualties have no official commemoration. Record keeping was not always as accurate as it should have been back in the pre-computer days of the early twentieth century.

With modern technology and the greater accessibility to remaining records, it is possible, through painstaking and often tedious research, to find many of these missing names and to gather the supporting evidence required for recognition by CWGC and the appropriate military authorities. The number who died in that first world conflict was far greater as far as the Commonwealth was concerned than in the Second World War.

We have volunteers around the world with particularly active teams in Australia and South Africa.

IFCP Progress At the time of writing, IFCP has processed over five thousand cases — men and women whose sacrifice had been forgotten or overlooked and who now have their due recognition alongside their comrades. Some of them now have official war grave headstones over their graves and others appear on CWGC memorials to the missing.

Several new research resources have become available in recent times to assist with the work. It's worth remembering that rationing in Britain finally ended in ; that the second world war was a fresh memory Leamas is a veteran ; indeed, that anyone in their 70s would be a survivor of the —18 war, the first world war.

The action of the novel takes place half a century ago. It belongs to an entirely different world from the one we know today. And yet, and perhaps this is the first remarkable comment to make about The Spy , its cynicism is resolutely de nos jours.

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Rereading: The Spy Who Came in from the Cold by John le Carré

One forgets just how unsparing the book is, how the picture it paints of human motivations, human duplicities, human frailty seems presciently aware of all that we have learned and unlearned in the intervening decades. The world was, on the surface, a more innocent, more straightforward place in the early s: One of the shock effects of reading The Spy when it was published must have been the near-nihilism of its message. It is unremittingly dark — or almost so — and this fact, I believe, lies at the root of its greatness. The Spy is the story, to put it very simply, of a complicated act of deadly triple-bluff perpetrated by the British Secret Service against its enemies in the German Democratic Republic, as communist East Germany was then known.


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At its centre is Alec Leamas, sent, he believes, on a clever under-cover mission of revenge but in fact the unwitting tool of even cleverer British brains with other motives. The second remarkable aspect of The Spy is the skill with which it is constructed and written. If you are saying to the reader that you can enter the thoughts of any character and can comment on the action or events in your own voice, then any deliberate withholding of information counts as a black mark.

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The narrative house-of-cards begins to collapse; the reader's trust in the author's control dissipates immediately. There is never a sense that we are being overly manipulated — the choice of those characters whose inner thoughts he shares with us seems entirely apt — we never feel we are being narratively duped. Also, for a relatively short novel a tremendous amount is included. The ellipsis between chapter two and three is a model of how a simple change of point of view can eliminate pages and pages of laborious exposition.

Leamas's staged three months in prison covers three pages — and yet we emerge from them with a complete sense of what he must have gone through: The old adage of pouring a quart into a pint pot was never more successfully demonstrated. On a line-by-line level, furthermore, the prose is limpidly succinct and evocative. She had that pitiful spindly nakedness which is embarrassing because it is not erotic; because it is artless and undesiring. Everywhere that air of conspiracy which generates amongst people who have been up since dawn — of superiority almost, derived from the common experience of having seen the night disappear and the morning come.

There is a real confidence exhibited here, a sense that the author knows absolutely what he is talking about. The spy novel was being reshaped with The Spy — it was a paradigm shift in the genre — it would never be the same again and indeed its wider influence in literary fiction was manifold.

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However, as with a lot of artistic revolutions, this realisation comes with the benefit of hindsight. I must have first read The Spy in the early 70s, I suppose, and have read it three or four times since. It is a very exciting read but it's also highly complicated. There is a lot of challenging subtext, a lot is implicit, a lot seems initially confusing. In other words, it's very sophisticated and one of the appeals of sophistication in art is the understanding that such precision, such tastes, such values, such understatements are shared.

The sheer aesthetic pleasure of reading is massively enhanced, thereby. But I don't think this fully explains why I have reread the novel over the years.

Novels you reread have a different role in your personal pantheon than novels you simply admire or revere. There is something troubling about The Spy that draws you back again and again. Partly it is the sense that you may have missed something — that you haven't fully unravelled the intricacies and nuances of the book. One of the aspects of the novel that always bothered me was the end.

The Spy Who Came in from the Cold - Wikipedia

He is offered the chance to flee, to escape and climb over the Wall with the young girl he sort-of loves back to West Berlin. He and the girl are driven to a "safe" area of the Wall in a car provided for him by a double agent. Operationally and procedurally this seemed to me a huge error. My feeling was that an agent of Leamas's vast experience and worldliness would surely be aware that such a means of escape was riven with jeopardy.

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