Talk:John le Carré

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Photo Source[edit]

I'm sorry Black Widow but can you provide a source for the photo. Can this photo be placed under the GFDL ? - Ericd 02:37 Apr 15, 2003 (UTC)

  • I don't give two damns about your Wikipedia:Image use policy. This is a policy created by half a dozen people out of the thousands using Wikipedia. It has NO LEGAL OR BINDING STATUS. This is an open website. I am not obliged to provide you or anyone with a statement as to its copyright status, permission, or any other thing a few people decide they want. The only obligation (and this was clearly stated already in discussions with Mr. Wales re DMCA) is to tick the box required in order to upload. NO MORE NO LESS. Stop interfering with people who actually make a contribution here. What you are doing is illegal harassment and interference. If you have any questions about this matter, please take them up with the ONLY authority, Mr. Wales who pays the freight.Black Widow__(copied to the group's Village Pump.)
  • I've deleted the picture and taken the issue to the mailing list. DW/Black Widow should now be banned. -- Zoe


I'm not sure I understand why this photo was removed? There are hundreds of photos on Wikipedia. Why this one. the person calling themselves Ericd asked for information but I can't understand why they ask or what their position at Wikipedia is to demand someone answer them. Then another guy calling himself Zoe just deletes it. Why do they single out this photo and allow others? Will that happen to other people if they add a photo? Olga Bityerkokoff

From the upload screen Please note that as with Wikipedia pages, others may edit or delete your uploads if they think it serves the encyclopedia, and you may be blocked from uploading if you abuse the system. If you don't think the deletion serves Wikipedia, then argue that, but don't argue that others don't have a right to change what you or others do. Tuf-Kat

Le vs le[edit]

On an entirely different note, this article is inconsistent because it has two different usages -- "le Carré and "Le Carré." Obviously it should be one or the other. It seems "le Carré" is correct, but I'm not familiar enough with the author to know for certain. As well, there's the stylistic issue of how to begin a sentence with a name like "le Carré." In US usage, this would be avoided; however, I don't know what the Wiki style is on this. David Hoag 16:40, 17 August 2005 (UTC)

It is le Carré; starting a sentence with the authors surname would entail capitalising the word so that the sentence began Le Carré [..]. Sjc 13:38, 13 November 2005 (UTC)

Whats not relative[edit]

using the phrase "morally relative" is silly here: "His works also differ from the Bond books in that they are morally relative; there are constant reminders of the fallibility of the western espionage systems and western countries in general, often with the implication that the Soviet bloc and the NATO bloc are essentially two sides of the same coin."

makes more sense without it: "His works also differ from the Bond books in that there are constant reminders of the fallibility of the western espionage systems and western countries in general, often with the implication that the Soviet bloc and the NATO bloc are essentially two sides of the same coin." -- noe 3:21, 21 December 2005

  • I disagree; I find it apposite and exact. 16:05, 18 April 2006 (UTC)
Of course his work is morally relative... Many of his characters pause to think about the nature of their conflict, and they typically determine that their actions are justified by the simple fact that the alternative is worth resisting by any means necessary--even if the agents don't particularly like what they have to do to fight the good fight. It's never a black and white senario, and, as such, it's never really good v. evil... At its best, it normally comes down to the morally relative case of better v. worse. --(Mingus ah um 02:09, 6 May 2006 (UTC))
  • Sorry for the initial edit on this subject without looking at the discussion first! I do disagree with calling Le Carre a relativist, though--some people take relativism in a robust sense to mean that there is no such thing as something's being right or wrong, independent of the interests, desires, biases, and so on of some particular moral evaluators. This is an ambitious claim, and while it might be possible to defend this reading of Le Carre, it seems as though such a reading would be a little too controversial for a wiki article. In fact, I read Le Carre in a way that's very incompatible with this sort of relativism--a central theme I take away from his work is a profound concern for the way that involvement in international espionage can greatly undermine the ability of individuals to lead moral, meaningful, and coherent lives, and the way that this phenomenon is a Bad (if arguably necessary) Thing. (Think of Alec Leamas's death at the Wall, Smiley's existential loneliness, Westerby's turn AWOL, and Pym's suicide.)
(You might also, and much more plausibly, defend Le Carre as a relativist in some weaker sense, as being opposed to the claim that the conflict between, say, the British secret service and its opponents on the other side of the Iron Curtain maps in some straightforward way to a conflict between good and evil, which is I think what Mingus is getting at. This defintely seems right to me, but calling this claim "relativist" might, in the context of the other, stronger meaning of the word, could be very misleading.)-- 16:10, 16 September 2006 (UTC)

Is there even any point to this discussion? I see none. Perhaps in some self-indulgent academic thesis there may be a place for it, but a single word cannot illuminate what is essentially ambivalent, complex and subjective. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 15:20, 28 November 2010 (UTC)

Franklly, I think comparing Le Carre's works with James Bond novels is rather contrived/silly. James Bond is basically pulp fiction as it is and doesn't require any real thought to consider it's literal implications. And even at the times the Bond books were published they weren't taken all that seriously.

However, I think it's fairly obvious LeCarre displays a relativist's quality in himself through his writing. Read any of his books and you'll see he is much more concerned about detailing to the reader about what the actual operatives are doing in the field than he does with the bureaucrats. Bureaucrats are always tied to some power structure and thus held to a certain set of rules and conduct. The spies he detailed and wrote about were put on missions that were illicit and thus they were meant to act somewhat independently of their mother organization. Again, read any of the novels and you'll find numerous accounts of LeCarre's characters making their own judgements as to solving problems, often outside their own realm of training. That's essentially a form of relativism. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talk) 10:03, 9 January 2007 (UTC).

Career dates[edit]

Need to add career dates where available. How much time between departure from SIS and publication of first novel? Implications?


I've adjusted the capitalisation of le Carré's name according to the rule noted by Sjc, and tried to tidy up a few other things.

  • Just been through and done exactly the same - was the previous fixing reverted? Carre 15:49, 11 October 2006 (UTC) (and yes, Carré is my surname, although I have no 'le' in front of it)


As the mole, 'Gerald', Bill Haydon, le Carré makes hay with the opportunity to detail the deceit and weaknesses of Philby. - I don't understand this sentence. Does the character Haydon represent Philby or le Carré? What is the relationship of the mole "Gerald" to either of them? How does one "make hay with" an opportunity? PhilipC 08:23, 25 February 2006 (UTC)

This has been fixed. --(Mingus ah um 02:10, 6 May 2006 (UTC))
  • I'll be doing cleanup on this pages and some relative ones. If anyone has any other comments, drop a line on my desk. Alphabeter 00:15 20 April 2006 (UTC)
Done it again, as per Sjc. Wikiain (talk) 06:40, 17 August 2014 (UTC)

Current state of the article[edit]

Hey, people. I've reorganized things a bit, but I think that the article could still be strengthened by:

  • a (spoiler fee) paragraph dedicated to le Carre's Circus, and the characters who have populated it, in the As an Author section
  • expansion of novel stubs/elimination of related redink...
  • a ref. to cite the specific years le Carré worked for the Circus

--(Mingus ah um 05:05, 4 June 2006 (UTC))

Removed 'Unbearable Peace'[edit]

I removed this listing from the bibliography section as that's not a book. It was a short item by le Carré in Granta magazine. Perhaps if someone adds a section about le Carré's non-book items, that could be added, but it might be confusing including it in a list of books when it's not a book. (talk) 15:44, 31 December 2007 (UTC)

Brother's name is Tony[edit]

I know, because Tony dated my sister Sonia back in 1950. I remember sitting with him, David (as he was then) and his father Ronnie, having drinks at Harewood Downs Golf Club, Chalfont St. Giles. I added an article detailing his bad relationship with his father in People Magazine. JohnClarknew (talk) 04:03, 23 September 2008 (UTC)

Shameful misuse of quotations[edit]

I have removed the first quotation and properly attributed the second. These were both embarrassing, at best. Both quotes were falsely attributed to le Carre himself, perhaps to lend them (or the contributor) luster. Moreover, the first quotation was completely inappropriate for the introduction area, in which it had been included. Perhaps for a fan webpage, but not there. A wikipedian who comes across this page will gain nothing by reading something vague about le Carre's dogs and his children, assuming she or he is looking for concrete information on the man. Such information might well be added to a true biographical section, but has no place in the introduction.

Simply the fact that the contributor could not see fit to give the true sources of these quotes indicates a lack of understanding and respect for for both wikipedia and Mr. le Carre.--Gregapan (talk) 12:55, 3 March 2009 (UTC)


How do you pronounce the name? Can someone who knows put it up? —Preceding unsigned comment added by Igu Soni (talkcontribs) 15:31, 6 May 2009 (UTC)

It's usually pronounced as le carr-ray - first part as in carrot, second part as in ray. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 20:58, 26 June 2010 (UTC)

Reference 3[edit]

I have placed a tag on the ref 3 claiming that Jerry Westerby in the The Honourable Schoolboy is based on Le Carre's father, which seems unlikely. The source cited does not confirm this. Rick Pym in A Perfect Spy is based on his father as Le Carre has acknowledged. Jezhotwells (talk) 00:48, 25 December 2009 (UTC)

The character of Old Hugo, father of the protagonist in The Naïve and Sentimental Lover, is also modelled on Ronnie, as is that of the absent mother. But I can't offer a citable source. --Hors-la-loi (talk) 16:31, 3 December 2013 (UTC)

recent edits by Alex2706[edit]

I have reverted recent edits by the above editor changing the lower case "le Carré" to "Le Carré". All RS show the lower case version. Obviously where it starts a sentence the upper case L is used. I also reinstated the Politics section. This is relevant information as le Carré has been interviewed in the press and on radio and TV about his views on the War on Terror several times. It also forms the background to Absolute Friends and A Most Wanted Man and peripherally in Single and Single. Jezhotwells (talk) 14:11, 20 February 2010 (UTC)

Best Known Work[edit]

Is "The Spy Who Came In From the Cold" really the best known JL book to date? I adore it, but I find that a lot of his recent works--especially if they've been put into movies--are more famous, e.g., TCG or TTP. TTS seems the most famous of the Cold War books, perhaps due to Alec Guiness. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 01:36, 13 August 2010 (UTC)

Last interview[edit]

I note that the cite actually states that this will be his last television interview. Perhaps that should be made clear? Jezhotwells (talk) 20:14, 13 September 2010 (UTC)

I have just watched the interview on C4 catchup and he indeed says: "Let me tell you something: I will never do another interview again, with anyone, for the rest of my life." So I have no quibble with this. Jezhotwells (talk) 20:56, 13 September 2010 (UTC)
Corrected. I have added television as he is almost certainly meaning that kind of interview, because that is what he says first of all near the beginning when asked and it is what Snow said as interview headline. He was just quickly re-emphasising that fact latter on, so just omitted the word out of quick sentence construction whilst talking. If it later transpires this was the last interview of any kind, it can of course be reedited accordingly. Jimthing (talk) 00:11, 14 September 2010 (UTC)

hello, in 2006 he mentioned a last one for Dutch VPRO tv

Spoilers for Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy[edit]

There's a section in which the solution to the mystery to his book is spoiled. Shouldn't we change that? I hate spoilers, and my reading experience was irrevocably changed by simply wanting to know about the man, and not the specific novel. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 23:58, 4 February 2011 (UTC)

Spoiler warnings are not used on Wikipedia, This is an encyclopaedia, please read WP:SPOILER. Jezhotwells (talk) 00:10, 5 February 2011 (UTC)

Okay, fair enough, but a spoiler for a book in a different article? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 00:14, 5 February 2011 (UTC)

If you want to discuss changes to policy then consider posting at WP:Village pump (policy). But please read the archives of that page for many previous discussions. Jezhotwells (talk) 00:18, 5 February 2011 (UTC)

It's not a change to policy. It's a small change to an article not about Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy which spoils the central solution, the mystery itself, in an article that's NOT about Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. I'm absolutely perplexed why the reaction is a firm "That's not the policy, read the policy." That's an absurd response to something unrelated to policy. I'm not advocating a spoiler warning - I'm saying that specific line should be moved to the SPECIFIC article so to avoid ruining the experience for readers who haven't had the chance to read it yet. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 14:10, 5 February 2011 (UTC)

You appear to fail to understand what an encyclopaedia is. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy was published 36 years ago and has been turned into a TV series in the 1980s, and will be turned into film shortly. I presume that the sentence to which you refer is:

"Le Carré depicts and analyses Philby as 'Bill Haydon', the upper-class traitor, code-named Gerald by the KGB, the mole George Smiley hunts in Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (1974); after publication, the novelist revealed that spymaster Smiley's model was Vivian H. H. Green."

There is no spoiler there, just a description of the book, see descriptions of the forthcoming film,[1], the book,[2] and the TV series.[3] You will see the same on the book jacket. Jezhotwells (talk) 14:29, 5 February 2011 (UTC)

After all these informative replies, I have yet to read a reasonable answer WHY this information is described on the author's biography, when it should be included as background information for the novel in question. Why can't this information be sequestered on the pages for the book, the series and the film?

Sorry, forgot to add, no you will not see the solution to the mystery printed on the book jacket. Provide me with proof of such a claim.

Well, it is on the cover of my 1980 edition. But anyway there is nowhere else to go with this discussion. You wish to impose new rules on Wikipedia, fine go ahead and propose these changes. You have had the appropriate venue pointed out. It is relevant to provide information about Haydon being based on Philby, who was known to the author, who served in MI6. Along with The Spy Who Came In From The Cold, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is arguably le Carré's best known work. It has been analysed and discussed countless times and it is highly relevant to a biographical article about le Carré. If you don't like it, don't read it. Jezhotwells (talk) 15:33, 5 February 2011 (UTC)

I too have had the ending of the book spoiled by this page. Surely you can just take the real name of the mole out of the quoted sentence and so preserve the mystery for those of us who are approaching the book for the first time without compromising any principles here? I note the Agatha Christie wikipedia page doesn't give away all the murderers for example despite the regular televising of the material, and i think it is presumptuous to assume you have the right to announce Gerald's identity here for the sake of completeness, when you can still make the same point about Le Carre without naming the character. It may well have been discussed and analysed countless times but that makes no difference to a reader coming to the book for the first time, so please remove the name for the sake of all those who are not as fortunate as you in discovering Le Carre 30 years ago. Thanks —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 16:24, 10 February 2011 (UTC)

Not sure if you are the original poster, but spoiler warnings are not used on Wikipedia, This is an encyclopaedia, please read WP:SPOILER. Jezhotwells (talk) 19:51, 12 February 2011 (UTC)

That wasn't the original poster, but their opinion still matters. Jezhotwells, you wrote "if you don't like it, don't read it" which to me, sounds absolutely absurd. How was I suppose to know that the solution to the mystery was revealed in the biography when I wasn't expecting it. That's like in the Bruce Willis article spoiling the end of The Sixth Sense. That's utterly ridiculous and facetious. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 00:21, 15 February 2011 (UTC)

I can't answer for what you expect when reading an encyclopaedia. Please read WP:SPOILER. Jezhotwells (talk) 01:21, 15 February 2011 (UTC)

This is the second poster again. I don't want a spoiler warning and have not requested you add one. All you need to do to preserve the mystery for readers without distracting in any way from the point you make about Le Carre analysing Philby's character is to remove Bill Haydon's name from the article. Why are you unable to countenance this request??? It is a small change that doesn't detract from your otherwise excellent article in any way. In fact I cannot really see what value the name Bill Haydon adds to the article that simply referring to the mole Gerald doesn't. Stating again that this is an encyclopedia is not really reason enough for not removing Bill Haydon's name when you can make the same point without it; your factual purism is admirable but it is also a bit selfish. Please explain to me why you have to use Bill Haydon's name rather than simply call him Gerald, and if possible try to avoid hiding behind the "it's an encyclopedia so i can write whatever i want as long as it's factually correct" excuse you have used so far? All we're asking for is a bit of consideration for those who haven't read it yet, and you can show this without changing the point you are making.—Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 21:38, 18 February 2011

Sorry, I don't agree with these two anonymous IPs. I did not write the sentence to which you take offence and I will not remove it because you don't like it. Quite a number of editors have contributed to this article. If you wish to pursue this further, I suggest that you raise a request for comment. Jezhotwells (talk) 14:24, 19 February 2011 (UTC)

I hope your page on father xmas is equally as clear on whether he is fictional or not for all the 8 year olds out there who might want to find out where he lives. The self-righteousness and downright selfishness displayed by Wikipedia in this discussion has ensured that i for one will never use the site again. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 13:22, 21 February 2011 (UTC)

Hah hah!. Very funny! To quote from the Wikipedia article: "Father Christmas is the name used in many English-speaking countries for a symbolic figure associated with Christmas." Does that upset you? Jezhotwells (talk) 16:59, 21 February 2011 (UTC)

The observation that you MAY include certain information does not assert that you MUST. (An important legal principle, I suggest). Removal of just 3 words ( 'as Bill Haydon' ) would leave the meaning of the sentence intact, and end the argument. That some contributors have reacted with such aggressive negativity to the request is disappointing. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Jhunt29 (talkcontribs) 11:18, 1 June 2011 (UTC)

I have removed the reference to Bill Haydon, as it is not consistent with editorial standards, and does not fall under the Spoiler policy. The Spoiler policy states: 1)"A spoiler is a piece of information in an article about a narrative work" - this article is not about the narrative work in question; 2)"When including spoilers, editors should make sure that an encyclopedic purpose is being served." As has been stated here repeatedly, and in my opinion, there is no encyclopedic purpose served by including the character's identity. The preponderance of views in this section supports this judgment. Since the name serves no useful purpose to readers and is actively detrimental to some, it should not be in the article. Pbsenerchia (talk) 18:12, 4 August 2011 (UTC)

  • It is entirely appropriate to identify Philby as the character Bill Haydon rather than as a generic mole. That achieves completeness and adds to article quality; it identifies which character is Philby. WP even has an article on Bill Haydon. The narrow interpretation of the policy to an article about a narrative work is not persuasive me. The Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy reveals the traitor. The article is about the author, and the work is one of the author's significant achievements. Glrx (talk) 19:43, 4 August 2011 (UTC)

It's not a narrow interpretation, it's a literal one - the policy says "article about a narrative work". It's an absurdly strained interpretation to suggest that includes a biography of the author. Besides, as you point out, this information is contained in the article about the book - where it belongs. Anyone who has read the book will know exactly which character is modeled on Philby - anyone who has not read the book will not wish to know. It's absurd to suggest otherwise, and as I pointed out, the preponderance of users who have undertaken to comment disagree with your position. The Spoiler policy, which demonstrably - by its own terms - does not apply, does not support your position at all, and neither does any standard of editorial judgment. As I said above - the article is complete without that one piece of information; it serves no purpose. It clarifies nothing for anyone. It does one thing only - ruins the book for those who haven't read it. So please, explain again what you think it accomplishes to have it in there, since identifying the mole Gerald as Bill Haydon is redundant to anyone who already knows, and undesirable to anyone who doesn't. And remember - the article is not about the narrative work (which readers who have not finished the book - such as myself - DO NOT READ to avoid spoilers), so the Spoiler policy does not apply. Kindly stop citing it. Pbsenerchia (talk) 21:07, 4 August 2011 (UTC)

You have very few edits on WP. Please get a consensus to delete the spoiler on this talk page before changing the article again. Be mindful that consensus is not a vote. Glrx (talk) 21:29, 4 August 2011 (UTC)
The identification of Haydon as the mole and that the character is based on Philby is often discussed in articles and reviews and as the whole of the Smiley v Karla trilogy is based on Haydon's treachery, it seems wholly appropriate to have it in this article. The trilogy is the work that established le Carré's standing as a novelist. Jezhotwells (talk) 21:58, 4 August 2011 (UTC)

Right, but again, you prove my point: "... often discussed in articles and reviews ..." of the work itself. It IS in the article about the work itself. You will note that I have not read the page about the book or the trilogy because I was aware there would likely be spoilers. I've made my point that the spoiler policy explicitly limits itself to articles about the narrative itself, and thus is not applicable to a biographical article; that much is irrefutable. I have made clear points about why that piece of information should not be in the article, and I remain wholly dissatisfied with the responses. Here is why it does not belong: the identity of the mole is known to anyone who has read the book, and who therefore may benefit from the knowledge that the character is based on Philby. One who has read the book gains nothing from having the mole named; even using the code name "Gerald" is superfluous. A person who hasn't read the book knows nothing of Bill Haydon, and therefore gains nothing by knowing the character is based on Philby. However, the plot - the central mystery - is ruined for a person who learns that. I think that pretty clearly demonstrates that the inclusion of the name in the paragraph adds nothing, and there is no valid reason for keeping it in the article. It has no purpose other than to spoil the book - in what is supposedly a biographical article about the author. Generalities about the importance of the work or the appropriateness of including the name demonstrate nothing; they beg the question. I've made a reasoned argument that the name should not be included because it adds nothing of value to any reader, and is detrimental to many readers. "Yes it should" is not an argument; if there is a reasoned argument why the name adds value, I would be happy to hear it, because I cannot for the life of me fathom one myself. Finally, please excuse any emotional reaction I may have had to this; I literally set the book down because I was curious about the details of Cornwell's intelligence service, and in a biographical article, in the section titled "Early Life and Career", I found myself reading the one, single piece of information that could ruin my enjoyment of what is, by consensus, one of the author's greatest and most celebrated works. And its inclusion is entirely gratuitous. Pbsenerchia (talk) 22:54, 4 August 2011 (UTC)

Feel free to raise a request for comment. Jezhotwells (talk) 22:59, 4 August 2011 (UTC)

Impressive argument.

Also, I fail to see what relevance my number of edits has to the reasonableness of my point. Pbsenerchia (talk) 01:27, 5 August 2011 (UTC)

The number of edits suggest (but do not prove) a lack of perspective. You, for example, want to apply a literal reading so that a permissive policy in one article becomes a prohibition in all other articles. I don't agree with that view at all. The policy does not state that spoilers are prohibited in all articles except.... A permissive policy in the area where it hurts the most suggests the policy is also permissive in other articles. If you were depending on your narrow reading of Wikipedia policy to avoid a spoiler about TTSS, then that was your mistake. If you had finished reading the book before taking a break and researching the author, would we be having this discussion now? And how many readers fit into your alleged fact pattern -- knowing WP policy so well that they know it is unsafe to read the TTSS article but believe it is safe to read an article about the author?
Few edits can also suggest other things, but that's for another day.
On the whole, your arguments are more focused on the spoiler aspect than on what the article should do. You're angry the article spoiled the plot, and now you're looking for reasons that editors should not name BH. Policy. It's just three words. The reasons are secondary to your goal. Your argument condenses to WP should not include any spoilers in any of its articles. If somebody has already read the book, then the TTSS article wouldn't need to disclose the mole either. The article could say Smiley catches the mole.
WP editors do not want to spoil the plot for you or anybody else, but that does not mean they should choose to be so circumspect as to be obtuse. Frankly, saying Bill Haydon is much more concrete than saying the mole. "Bill Haydon" reminds me of Karla's advice about Ann; saying the mole does not take me there.
Glrx (talk) 03:36, 5 August 2011 (UTC)

Thank you for your substantive response.

The number of edits reference was ad hominem; my comment on it was rhetorical.

My central argument continues to be: Why should this information be in a biographical article? Not that spoilers should not be included in all articles (that's a silly distortion), and not that there should be disclaimers in Wikipedia. The biographical article links to the TTSS article; anyone desiring further info about it can go there. It's hardly "so circumspect as to be obtuse" to refer to the character by description without revealing the plot of the book, because it's unthinkable that you could forget the identity of the mole after reading the book. So again - if the purpose of including BH in this article is not to spoil the book for the unwary, what is it? Completeness for the sake of completeness? It adds nothing to le Carre's biography; it only pertains to the plot of the book. Re-read all your arguments - none of them addresses the biographical significance of the name Bill Haydon. They all say "but this is important to the book!" - which is why it properly belongs in the article on the book, where it already is.

I'm tired of this. It's pretty clear at this point that I won't convince the two of you who are determinedly opposed to changing it. When snooping around my profile looking for evidence with which to discredit my argument revealed that this was my only foray into editing, it should have occurred to you that my only purpose for doing this was to prevent others from having this work ruined for them for no reason at all. I personally have nothing to gain. What is your purpose for doing this? It defies common sense, and as an editorial matter the argument for taking that detail out far outstrips that for leaving it in (it reminds you of Karla's advice to Ann - not a biographical detail in the early life and career of David Cornwell). The book was ruined for me, and I am unlikely (especially now) to ever dabble in wikipedia'ing again - the only reason I have for doing this is because I wish to spare other fans of the author from having this work ruined. As for how many others are similarly situated to me, read the comments above - they do not appear to be from regular contributors, which means they are from people like me who went out of their way to try to change this. I just wish you would reconsider whether you are making Wikipedia better or worse. Pbsenerchia (talk) 19:18, 5 August 2011 (UTC)

Obviously you do not understand what an encyclopaedia is. You have decided to be upset, so there really is nothing more to be said. This is not a fan site, a couple of comments from IPs and yourself about a page which enjoys an average of 1,000 views per day are of little consequence. As I said earlier, if you feel strongly about this, raise an RfC. Jezhotwells (talk) 22:28, 5 August 2011 (UTC)

@Glrx: Obviously you favor censorship.

@Jezhotwells: Obviously you are incapable of defending your position based upon reason or argument. Continue to insult anyone who disagrees with you, sir; it does so enhance your reputation on the internet. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Pbsenerchia (talkcontribs) 04:05, 6 August 2011 (UTC)

I have made a 'request for comment', as some contributors suggested. unfortunately (due to lack of experience) I made this under 'John le Carre' (without the acute accent). My apologies, and if anybody can correct that mistake without altering the substance of what I wrote, you have my blessingJhunt29 (talk) 11:14, 4 September 2011 (UTC)

I've moved it and redirected Talk:John le Carre to this talk page. Favonian (talk) 11:25, 4 September 2011 (UTC)

The bureaucratic stubbornness of some people here regarding this issue is appalling, and has cost myself - and many others, I'm sure - the pleasure of a good story. The off-handed way in which it occurs is nothing short of insulting. An encyclopaedia should, above all, be user-friendly; apparently, a few short-sighted individuals have forgotten that.Vivid Trend (talk) 16:26, 16 September 2011 (UTC)

I disagree. I have not yet read (or seen) Les Miserables. I'm looking forward to reading or seeing it someday. As a consequence, I am not going to read any reviews of it, or books about it. I might read about Hugo, but if a paragraph starts to discuss Les Miserables, I'll skip over that. This has nothing to do with WP: Im sure the Encyclopedia Britannica articles on Shakespeare and his plays contain many spoilers. The burden is on fans of fiction to avoid reading material that may contain spoilers. --Noleander (talk) 16:31, 16 September 2011 (UTC)
While I overall agree with this point, the catch is that the article spoils the book *before* the title is even mentioned. Tinker, Tailor was just ruined for a friend of mine because of this error. Even if she was going to skip any reference to the book, it was too late. Unaware of this controversy, I recently tried to modify the article, and I do not think that any harm is done by removing the reference to Haydon. It must be sufficient that the article connects Kim Philby as Gerald: "Le Carré depicts and analyses Philby as Gerald, the mole hunted by George Smiley in Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (1974)" — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 08:29, 8 March 2012 (UTC)

To what extent are spoilers permissible in the biography of an author of fiction[edit]

I am seeking comment as to what extent a biography page of an author of fiction should either permit, or actively avoid, spoilers. An argument in the talk pages of the John le Carre biography page in August 2011 revolved around the inclusion of three words ("As Bill Haydon") Some contributors decried this as an unnecessary spoiler. On opposing contributor suggested their request for removal to be support for 'censorship'.The lack of more frequent complaints was cited in support of the inclusion. Detailed textual analysis of wikipedia policy statements were presented by both sides, but the underlying policy question was ( to my mind) unresolved, with the losers in that particular argument abandoning the field.Jhunt29 (talk) 11:06, 4 September 2011 (UTC)

  • Comment I think we must take special care that spoilers fulfill some encyclopedic purpose. It is hard to see how the fictional details revealed in this article do this. Martin Hogbin (talk) 15:08, 4 September 2011 (UTC)
  • Comment: It seems entirely proper to me to have the sentence "Le Carré depicts and analyses Philby as 'Bill Haydon', the upper-class traitor, code-named Gerald by the KGB, the mole George Smiley hunts in Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (1974)" in the article. Philby ended le Carré's intelligence career and he became a full time writer as a consequence. His analysis of the betrayal produced a great novel, which established his career. This is important information about the article subject. That is a truly encyclopedic purpose. If you wish to change the content guideline, then it would best to discuss at Wikipedia talk:Spoiler, and it would be wise to read all of the archives of that page first. Jezhotwells (talk) 19:21, 4 September 2011 (UTC)
You seem to be combining actual events with fictional events in a way that is not necessary. There is no problem in mentioning the effect Philby had on le Carre's career but why link it to the plot of his book. What encyclopedic purpose does that serve? Why not just say something along the lines that you have said above, 'Philby ended le Carré's intelligence career and he became a full time writer as a consequence. His analysis of the betrayal produced a great novel, which established his career'? Martin Hogbin (talk) 19:42, 4 September 2011 (UTC)
  • Comment. First, a point of information. Is this a general question or is this a specific question about the John le Carré article? A general policy question does not belong here. The policy is certainly one that permits spoilers and does not require them to be actively avoided. The posed dichotomy is flawed. Second, as to the current article, the three words actually include a wikilink to Bill Haydon; that's more than passing mention. Philby/Haydon is a significant influence/character in John le Carré's writing. The biospoils/states, "Kim Philby, the British double agent, blew le Carre (and many others besides) to the Russians. Le Carre's response was characteristically that of a deep thinker: he carefully depicted and analysed Philby in the guise of Bill Haydon...." Is that reference passing mention, too? Colin Firth, who plays Haydon in an upcoming (9 December 2011) film, has a reason to actively avoid a spoiler.[4] (Gee, is Firth's second billing a clue?) Glrx (talk) 18:52, 5 September 2011 (UTC)
  • Permit - The WP guidelines are very clear: the top priority of this encyclopedia is to provide encyclopedic content, and if that causes plot information to be "spoiled" that is acceptable. See Wikipedia:Spoiler. Also see the WP guideline on articles about works of fiction which expressly permits plot summaries. I'm not passing judgement as to whether the "Bill Haydon" material is appropriate or not for this JLC article (it may or may not be) - but the WP guidelines are clear that we cannot use "spoiling" as a reason to omit material. --Noleander (talk) 21:33, 8 September 2011 (UTC)
  • Remove. Spoilers are certainly permissible, and Philby certainly had a major impact on the author, but I see no major advantage to using the fictional character's name here. This is about the author, and would have had the same impact on the him if the fictional character had been named John Smith, or even George Smiley. We get the same result by wikilinking the novel, which has to contain the spoiler as it's a major part of the plot: "Le Carré depicts and analyses Philby as the fictional upper-class traitor, code-named Gerald by the KGB, the mole George Smiley hunts in Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (1974)". --GRuban (talk) 18:20, 9 September 2011 (UTC)

  • Remove. As the author of one much earlier comment, my bias will already be clear, but I would like to summarize ( as I see them) the salient points made by my opponents.

Wikipedia does clearly allow spoilers such as this, provided that they are germane to the biography. Wikipedia is an encyclopedia. It should be encyclopedic. Kim Philby was responsible for ending the espionage career of le Carré. His role as a model for a fictitious character is therefore important. Many people view this page. Very few complain. They must therefore be satisfied. Another dictionary of biography has included the "Philby=Haydon" observation

None of these succeed in making the point that the "Philby=Haydon" nexus improves this article. 1. The spoiler is not germane to this biography. The knowledge of the name of a fictional character does not improve my understanding of the character of the author, or importance of the author, or the life of the author, or the social milieu from which the author drew inspiration. Some authors come to be defined by one central character, and a biography could not be fluently written without mention of that character. Agatha Cristie, and JK Rowling spring to mind. It would be difficult to discuss Mark Twain, without mentioning Tom Sawyer. Arguably, George Smiley is a central fictional creation of le Carré. Bill Haydon certainly is not. 2. Wikipedia is already encyclopedic. A plot synopsis of the novel may be found at the Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy Wikipedia entry. This entry is linked in the bibliography. Unnecessary repetition is inelegant. 3. It may be true that the role of Kim Philby as a model for a fictitious character is important. This does not automatically make the name of that character important. It will, in any case be obvious to anybody who reads the book and has heard of Philby, and to anyone who has read the book and reads the biography page. The information will be of no benefit to anybody who has not read the book, and will be positively irritating to anybody who has read some of the authors books, and visits this page for the purpose of seeking insight into which other books are well regarded. (This is a purpose for which I have - more than once - used Wikipedia myself) 4. Very few readers of this page complain. Any business will tell you that the group who can be bothered complaining are the tip of the iceberg. Most readers of Wikipedia do not know how to comment. (Sad, but true) 5. Another dictionary of biography includes the "Philby=Haydon" observation: Yes, but that dictionary does not have the luxury of being part of......Wikipdia. Where a full plot synopses is only a click away for anybody who wants to write a school report, or impress their partner, without actually reading the novel.

Nobody (so far as I can see) has suggested changing the content guideline for spoilers. The My question did invite discussion on that, and I am grateful for the link provided by @jezhowells. But clearly, for many commentators (myself included) the argument that the phrase in question serves an 'encyclopedic purpose' is not accepted.

I am not quite certain how the upcoming role of Colin Firth in an upcoming movie adaptation influences any of this discussion. Thats one argument for which I have no response......

Ultimately, I view le Carré as a writer of fiction. Bill Haydon is not a defining element of his work. Kim Philby has been use a model by other authors. The writers of the Wikipedia "Philby" page evidently think that Graham Greene's fictional treatment was worth mentioning, but le Carré's was not. This (one might surmise) is because Graham Greene wrote a novel called 'The Third man' in which the fictional Philby was the central character. From this, it seems that the assertion that le Carré's analysis is in some way critically penetrating has a way to go before it achieves universal acceptance. The words "As Bill Haydon" add nothing to le Carré's biography, and ( for some readers) take much away. Some of those readers took time to comment. Accommodating their concerns would be easy, elegant, and take nothing from the encyclopedia.

Jhunt29 (talk) 14:52, 10 September 2011 (UTC)

I disagree with your points.
1. "Bill Haydon certainly is not." Yet Wikipedia has an article on Bill Haydon, so BH must be a notable character in his own right. He may not be in as many books as Smiley, but that does not mean the character is unimportant.
2. That there is a spoiler in one place is not an argument for the spoiler should be nowhere else.
3. I'm not buying the premises. BH is an important character; if he were minor, he couldn't be a significant spoiler. One who has not read the book can click on Bill Haydon and get more information. I'm not sure that a twenty year old will know about Philby. The main argument in this item is not directed at the character but rather the (irritating) notion of spoilers in general.
4. That bias exists is one of the reasons that WP does not count votes. (And that bias can go both ways.) Instead WP looks at argument.
5. That other sources include Philby=Haydon (especially when their space is limited) suggests the linkage is important. They could have said Philby=mole. Why was it important for them to use the name Haydon?
BH is a powerful character in TTSP; Philby was a powerful influence on the author. The two are linked, and it is reasonable that this article states that linkage.
Glrx (talk) 19:53, 12 September 2011 (UTC)
  • Comment: No one who wants this material removed has supported their comments with any Wikipedia policies or guidelines. The only reason so far used is Wikipedia:IDONTLIKEIT. If editors feel that WP:SPOILER should be changed to disallow spoilers on author articles, where plot summaries are common, the please start a discussion at WT:SPOILER. Jezhotwells (talk) 17:04, 10 September 2011 (UTC)
  • Comment To quote from Wikipedia:Spoiler (which @jethowells has so helpfully directed us to, many times) "editors should make sure that an encyclopedic purpose is being served. Wikipedia is not an indiscriminate collection of information". I thought this reference was implicit from my discussion above. The suggestion that Wikipedia:Spoiler would need to be changed to accommodate our proposed three word deletion is false. My arguments stand. The reference to the fictional name of this particular secondary character present in a small number of the author's novels is an irrelevant fact. It does not serve an encyclopedic purpose. It lessens the value of the article. It lacks artistic and stylistic merit. And asking other contributors to take their argument elsewhere, for the apparent reason that the writer disagrees with the alternate view... That approach has been used, in a few different ways. The discussion we are having is about the le Carré biography. Not about policy, but about the valid application of policy to this instance. If anybody is unhappy with having this discussion here, then.....dont. Any if anybody seriously believes that removal of the offending three words would be in conflict with policy, then... why don't you raise your own RFC? It is true that I do not like it To suggest that that is the only reason I have given is nonconstructive, and verges towards ad hominem. Does anybody constructively disagree with the summary of issues I generated above?Jhunt29 (talk) 11:08, 11 September 2011 (UTC)
That was pretty much my point. Although we may have a spoiler it should have some encyclopedic purpose. I cannot see what that is here. Martin Hogbin (talk) 21:42, 12 September 2011 (UTC)
Maybe I'm a bit confused. Isn't the material we are discussing the following:
His intelligence officer career was ended by the betrayal of the covers of British agents to the KGB by Kim Philby, a British double agent (of the Cambridge Five). Le Carré depicts and analyses Philby as 'Bill Haydon', the upper-class traitor, code-named Gerald by the KGB, the mole George Smiley hunts in Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (1974);
That is super relevant to this biographical WP article. The fact that Le Carre's career was damaged by Philby, a very famous spy, is a key fact of Le Carre's biography. Likewise, the consequence that Le Carre chose to repay Philby by modeling a character on him is a very essential fact about Le Carre's writing. What other article in WP would that "tit for tat" be discussed, if not this article? Or am I misunderstanding the topic of this RfC? --Noleander (talk) 00:24, 14 September 2011 (UTC)
We're discussing removal of the words 'Bill Haydon' from that sentence. We're arguing that giving away the mole's name doesn't affect the facts that the mole was modeled on Philby, while it does give away an important mystery of the book. The fact that the antagonist character was modeled after Philby is certainly important, but the name Le Carre chose for the fictional character isn't. It would have had the same impact if the mole's name were Bartholomew Throckmorton. --GRuban (talk) 18:56, 16 September 2011 (UTC)
Hmmm. I guess that the removal of only those two words "Bill Haydon" would not damage this article or deprive the user of much information (especially if there were a link to a WP article that covered it in more detail). On the other hand, is "it is a spoiler" the only reason that editors want that removed? If that is the only reason, I'm not sure that is a good policy to follow. Also, which WP articles, if any, should explain the Bill Haydon-Philby connection, if not this article? --Noleander (talk) 20:35, 16 September 2011 (UTC)
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. There there is a section specifically labeled "Plot", which goes into the book's plot in reasonable detail, including Haydon. There, anyone who reads a section called "Plot" without wanting to know the book's plot can't be helped. This John le Carre article is about the author, here the blow by blows of any one book's plot isn't that important, since he wrote numerous books. There, the article about the book, the name of the primary antagonist is certainly important. --GRuban (talk) 21:55, 16 September 2011 (UTC)

Remove in this instance. Spoilers should be used if it improves the encyclopaedic content of an article, but if there is nothing substantial to be gained by their use then it comes down to an editorial decision. I find GRubans arguement above that the removeal of the "as Bill Haydon" only will not affect the value of an article on John le Carre quite persuasive. AIRcorn (talk) 03:29, 20 September 2011 (UTC)

I think one problem with removing it is that a future editor may wish to expand upon the connection. As it stands, the three words you wish to remove wouldn't critically damage the article. However, it's a very worrying precedent to set. Editors should never feel constrained from writing about a subject because they're worried about giving away 'whodunnit'. There are an awful lot of articles which potentially give away plot elements to books or films which aren't the subject of the article.

Bill Haydon is one of the major characters created by le Carré. He has great significance in his major work(s), the Karla Trilogy. A future editor may wish to expand on the background to Haydon and should not feel constrained to beat around the bush by this discussion. You might like to note, too, that an authorized biography of le Carré is scheduled to be published in a year or two, which promises to reveal a fair bit of detail about the relationship between Philby and le Carré. You may be able to remove the offending name for now, but quite justifiably it will be featured prominently when the book is released.

If you want to take it further, you could argue the Edward VIII article should be a bit more coy, as some people may not have seen W.E. yet. Silly, yes, but this is an encyclopaedia, not a book magazine. — Preceding unsigned comment added by BearAllen (talkcontribs) 22:01, 28 September 2011 (UTC)

Is Le Carre's tradecraft jargon authentic?[edit]

I was wondering whether the spy tradecraft jargon that Le Carre portrays British Intelligence officers using in his books, such as "lamplighters", "scalphunters", "burning", "coat-trailing" etc. was actually used in MI6, or whether it is Le Carre's invention. I understand Le Carre has said that the term "mole", which he popularized, was actually used by Soviet intelligence, but how about the other terms? If we can find a source, this might be worth adding to the article. --ChetvornoTALK 00:36, 16 December 2011 (UTC)

I think they are mostly made up terms, see this source. Jezhotwells (talk) 01:55, 16 December 2011 (UTC)


"Encouraged by Lord Clanmorris (who pseudonymously wrote crime novels as 'John Bingham'), and whilst an active MI5 officer, Cornwell began writing Call for the Dead (1961), his first novel."

  • This doesn't make any sense. Where's the rest of the sentence?
  • I don't think that writing under one's legal given and surnames (John Bingham) can in anyway be considered to be writing "pseudonymosly."
  • Suggestions?

Writing Style[edit]

I don't mean to be critical, but the section "Writing Style" has seven paragraphs, each seemingly (and possibly) written by a different person. The result is a deplorable amount of redundancy and the section doesn't scan -- a pity, because the thoughts are quite good.

Perhaps someone, in honour of this beloved author, could take on the job of editing this section? (I'd do it myself, but the pressures of a day job don't leave me time.) --OldCommentator (talk) 17:22, 17 May 2012 (UTC)

Full list of novels and short stories.[edit]

It would be nice with a full list, not just a list of the best. I am just planning to start reading his books and it would be nice with a full list. --Oddeivind (talk) 07:36, 20 November 2012 (UTC)

What's missing? BearAllen (talk) 10:25, 20 November 2012 (UTC)


Someone of a professional literary bent told me recently that Le Carre was offered a knighthood a few years back but declined. Anyone know anything about this? I'm finding nothing online. That such an offer might be made seems perfectly reasonable to me, given who he is. --Michael K SmithTalk 19:01, 17 May 2013 (UTC)

According to the Daily Mail he declined a CBE. - Fantr (talk) 19:51, 17 May 2013 (UTC)

Tailor of Panama[edit]

How on earth is there not an article on The Tailor of Panama? What the hell? john k (talk) 19:19, 15 July 2013 (UTC)

Welcome to Wikipedia, the encyclopaedia that anyone can edit. Please feel free to start one yourself - or request it at Wikipedia:Requested articles. Jezhotwells (talk) 09:56, 17 July 2013 (UTC)
Yeah yeah yeah. I've not read the book. But, seriously, we have an article on every other le Carré novel. It's totally bizarre. john k (talk) 04:37, 21 July 2013 (UTC)

Sequential versus thematic ordering of novels[edit]

Following the standard of other Wikipedia articles for authors who have published related or series of novels (see, for example, Michael Connelly, Thomas Perry, John Updike, etc.), I regrouped the novels into Smiley and non-Smiley works as appears below for greater reader information. Another editor, for the subjective reason of "better in chronological order," without explanation of why it was "better," reverted my changes.

Smiley novels

Other novels

I am placing the works here as they were before the subjective reversion in the event another, nonpartial editor unknown to either the reverter or me wishes to comment.Siberian Husky (talk) 12:52, 24 March 2014 (UTC)