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Literature / A Perfect Spy

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Love is whatever you can still betray... Betrayal is a repetitious trade.
A Perfect Spy

The eleventh novel by John le Carré.

During the Cold War, British diplomat and undercover spy, Magnus Pym is missing. His Colleagues at MI-6 have come to the realization that Magnus is in fact a Double agent; working for Czechoslovakian intelligence.

Torn between two spymasters and a domineering father who has towered over him his whole life. Magnus sets down in a quiet Dorset town, to make his last will and testament. Waiting to see who gets him first: The British or the Czechs...

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Drawing directly between le Carré's own early life and relationship with his father. The tale shows the strains of betrayal, keeping secrets and the ultimate costs of a double life.


Contains examples of:

  • Anachronic Order : The tale is told as Magnus is writing his life and jumps between the 80's and the past.
  • Author Avatar: Pretty much all of the things Magnus has occurring to him until he Joins MI-6 are based upon le Carré's early years.
  • Based on a True Story: Rick Pym is closely based on le Carré's real life father Rick Cornwell, also a professional conman, except his political ambitions which are probably derived from the activities of John Poulson.
  • Becoming the Mask: Magnus wears so many masks that he loses his identity.
  • Catchphrase: Rick has several.
  • Con Man: Rick Pym is the king of conmen, based on le Carré's own father.
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  • Consummate Liar: Magnus, tragically.
  • Corporal Punishment: Magnus receives quite a lot, first from his uncle, then at boarding school.
  • Double Agent: A unique case of a story of a western agent working for the other side.
  • Driven to Suicide
  • Large Ham: Rick.
  • Motive Decay: Played straight for Magnus. He starts giving the Czechs Secret information out of some kind of idealism about creating a new and better world. As time goes on and the Czechs are shown to be as bureaucratic, class ridden as the British, but with with a side of torture and oppression. Magnus doesn't get out because he doesn't know any better.
  • Parental Substitute: Both Jack Brotherhood and Axel to Magnus, in a fashion.
  • The Pollyanna: Magnus.
  • The Spymaster: Jack Brotherhood of British MI-6 and Axel of Czech Intelligence.
  • Tragic Hero: Magnus, and Jack Brotherhood to an extent.
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  • "Well Done, Son!" Guy: Magnus has a VERY troubling relationship with his father.


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