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Esquire
Wednesday, January 28th, 2004


 

Absolute Friends

by John le Carré

A Labor of ... Labor

A review by Adrienne Miller

The "absolute friends" of John LeCarré's labored new novel are Ted Mundy, a kindly son of a British Army officer and an Indian servant girl, a former leftist, then Cold War-era spy, and now in the rather comically diminished role of English-speaking tour guide at a Bavarian castle, and Sasha, a disabled and not-quite-as-kindly son of a Nazi, a radical, and former double-agent partner of Ted's. Sasha reenters Ted's life with an interesting bit of news: His services as a translator are required to correct some "misinformation" about the Iraq War. Ted, a do-gooder to the last, is determined to do good, thus setting in motion the book's final tragedy. LeCarré, alas, uses Sasha as his spokesman for his opinions (all of which are well-justified, but that's beside the point) about Western imperialism, and the poor guy is given dialogue such as, "As a first stage, we shall wipe the human slate clean. We shall detoxify the brain, cleanse it of prejudices, inhibitions and inherited appetites. We shall purge it of everything rotten...Americanism, greed, class, envy, racism, bourgeois sentimentality, hatred, aggression, superstition and the craving for property and power." What a shame it is to have to say that a book by a writer as subtle and probing as LeCarré is such a preachy and didactic bore.


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