Thursday, September 8, 2016
THE PIGEON TUNNEL by John le Carre, Read by the author
While it is noted that the wonderfully engrossing The Pigeon Tunnel is billed as the story of John le Carre’s life or a memoir in actuality it is more a series of autobiographical reminiscences re the author’s writing career. And a delicious read it is! Le Carre plays straight with us by initially declaring that he isn’t going to discuss his personal life or his actual spy work. Not to worry - there is an abundance of fascinating material, so much so that the 11 hours and 30 minutes fly by leaving us wishing for more. Of course, frosting on the cake is to hear these memories remembered in le Carre’s own voice.
As most know le Carre who is David Cornwell in private life was once a British Intelligence officer who chose a pen name in order to write thrillers in his spare time. The astounding worldwide success of his first, The Spy Who Came In From the Cold, enabled him to write full-time. And we are the beneficiaries - who could forget Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, The Little Drummer Girl or A Perfect Spy?
Now with The Pigeon Tunnel we are privy to how his unforgettable characters were created. He writes with modesty, flair and humor whether he’s telling us about a parrot at a Beirut hotel that could precisely mimic machine gun fire or recounting his experience going into the Far East and Southeast Asia to do research on The Honorable Schoolboy. There are a myriad of stories about real-life folk with whom le Carre crossed paths - everyone from Yasser Arafat to Alec Guinness (who brought the author’s George Smiley to vivid life), scientist Andrei Sakharov, film directors Fritz Lang, Stanley Kubrick, Richard Burton and more. Each recollection is both captivating and revealing.
Listening to The Pigeon Tunnel is a bit like being in a room with one of the world’s greatest writers and hearing him reminisce. What a pleasure, what a privilege!