May 3, 2012

The Best of Espionage Novels

Spoiler warning: Plot and ending of John le Carré’s "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" and Graham Greene’s "The Human Factor" follow.

The film "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" is playing in Tokyo, now.

I used to read many espionage novels, including John le Carré’s works, so I’ll watch this film.
In the 1960’s it was revealed that Kim Philby, who had been a high officer of MI6, was a double agent, and he defected from U.K. to the Soviet Union. And then several espionage novels, inspired by the Kim Philby case, were written in the 1970’s.

The best works of them are John le Carré’s "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" and Graham Greene’s "The Human Factor". Both of them are serious and heavy, but their plots are different from each other.

In "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" Smiley, the main character, played the role as a detective, and he sought who was the double agent. John le Carré used the format of the mystery novel, and the mystery about who is the double agent is driving the story.

On the other hand, in "The Human Factor" Castle, the main character, himself, was the double agent. Graham Greene used the format of the suspense novel, and the thrill about when he will be exposed as the double agent is driving the story.

The preferences are difference according to the person, but I think that it’s clear which is superior as an espionage novel about a double agent.

The most interesting thing in the story about a double agent is their mind and motivation to be a double agent. The format of mystery novels, which John le Carré used in "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy", made it difficult to describe their mind and motivation, because the author should hide who was the double agent.

On the contrary, Graham Greene wrote "The Human Factor" from the standpoint of the double agent, Castle, so he could describe the mind and motivation of him deeply. As he is put into more critical situation, we can understand about his nature more.

At the end of "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy", we can find out who the double agent is and it gives us catharsis. But at the end of "The Human Factor", the contradiction of a double agent isn’t solved, and we can’t get catharsis. And more we would be impressed about the dark world of a double agent.

In "The Human Factor", I like the scene where Castle is looking for Boris’ hiding place at great risk best.

The leak of information from the section, which Castle belongs to, was discovered, and his colleague was murdered by poisoning, because he was suspected to be a double agent. If Castle leaks more information, this time, he will be suspected to be a double agent. So he reported to Boris, serving as a liaison to the Soviet Union, that he couldn’t send more information.

Castle hasn’t come out even to his family that he was a double agent, so only Boris knows that he is a double agent. But if Castle stops leaking information, Boris will go back to the Soviet Union and Castle has to keep his secret by himself.

Castle took a great risk to look for Boris, just because he wanted to talk with him, who was the only person sharing his secret. Finally he couldn’t find out him and he got into a Catholic church to confess that he was a double agent.

I, myself, often do thing without any meanings impulsively, too. I wonder why I want to do these things more, when they are more meaningless and forbidden. My own mind is the most mysterious thing in this world.

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