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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 MI6 have come to the realization that Magnus is 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...

The book draws directly on 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 MI6 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.
  • Con Man: Rick Pym is the king of conmen, based on le Carré's own father.
  • 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.
  • 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 Spymaster: Jack Brotherhood of British MI6 and Axel of Czech Intelligence.