Duck Duck Book

8 – absolute friends
01.19.2005, 12:03 am
Filed under: fiction

Absolute friends / John le Carré.
Boston [Mass.] : Little, Brown, c2003.
[MCL call number: FICTION LECARRE; 47 copies, three holds;
also CD FICTION LECARRE; five copies, no holds]

Being a fan of fiction about spies since my teenage years, I have read a lot of John le Carré’s novels. I have read many of them twice or three times. I have listened to them on tape, I have read them to other people, and I have enjoyed them every one. But — and this is the big caveat — for me, most of le Carré’s books really start slow. I spend the first 50 pages thinking, “okay, introduce one more character, provide one more piece of stage-setting knowledge, and I’m going to put this book down!” This is true even of my favorite le Carré book, The Night Manager.

But reading the first pages of Absolute Friends didn’t put me in that cranky frame of mind. I didn’t have to remind myself that le Carré’s dialogue is among the most realistic and unpredictable of any I’ve read, that his characters can be horrible, evil, immoral people and I might still love them, that he makes the business of spying for one’s government seem glamorous and fascinating while also highlighting how it eats away at one’s humanity and helps bring about the ruination of our world. I just read the book. I couldn’t put it down.

And what is Absolute Friends actually about? The book explores the deep and very odd bond between Ted and Sasha, friends from their radical student days who spy for each others’ countries from either side of the Iron Curtain; and along the way, it presents a sharp critique of war mongering and the battle the United States and Britain are currently waging “against terrorism.”


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