Nothing is as it was. Old enemies embrace. The dark staging grounds of the Cold War—whose shadows barely obscured the endless games of espionage—are flooded with light; the rules are rewritten, the stakes changes, the future unfathomable. John le Carré has seized this momentous turning point in history to give us the most disturbing experience we have yet had of the frail and brutal world of spydom.
The man called Ned speaks to us. All his adult life he has been in British Intelligence—the Circus—a loyal, shrewd, wily officer of the Cold War. Now, approaching the end of his career, he revisits his own past—an intricate weave of suspicion, danger, boredom and exhilaration that is the essence of espionage and of his own sentimental education. He invites us on a tour of his three decades in the Circus, burrowing deep into the twilight the Circus, burrowing deep into the twilight world where he ran spies—"joes"—from Poland, Estonia, Hungary, men and women to whom he gave his most profound love and hate. Along the way we meet a host of splendid new characters and reacquaint ourselves with the legendary old knights of the Circus and the notorious traitor, Bill Haydon.
Telling the story of his own life's secret pilgrimage, Ned illuminates the brave past and the even braver present of George Smiley—reluctant keeper of the flame—who combines within himself the ideal and the reality of the Circus. Smiley, Ned's mentor and hero, now gives back to him the "dangerous edge"of memory which empowers him to frame the questions that have haunted him—and the world—for thirty years, and that haunt us still.
The Secret Pilgrim holds us galvanized by its storytelling genius, by its perceptions of the moral conundrums at the heart of our society, and by its singular grasp of the myths and fantasies underlying the conflicts of nations. It is John le Carré's most magnificent novel.