A Small Town in Germany

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A Small Town in Germany
First edition cover
Author John le Carré
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Genre Thriller
Publisher William Heinemann
Publication date
October 1968
Media type Print (Hardback & Paperback)
Pages 304 pp
ISBN 0-434-10930-4
OCLC 887880
LC Class PZ4.L4526 Sm PR6062.E33
Preceded by The Looking-Glass War
Followed by The Naïve and Sentimental Lover

A Small Town in Germany is a 1968 espionage novel by British author John le Carré. It is set in Bonn, the "small town" of the title, against a background of concern that former Nazis were returning to positions of power in West Germany.[1][2] It is notable for being le Carré's first novel not to feature his recurring protagonist George Smiley or "The Circus," le Carré's fictionalized version of MI6.


Bonn, the eponymous small town, was chosen as West Germany's capital after World War II mainly due to the advocacy of Konrad Adenauer, Chancellor of West Germany after World War II.

Plot summary[edit]

A Small Town in Germany is set in the late 1960s, in Bonn, the capital of West Germany. From London, Alan Turner, of the British Foreign Office, arrives to investigate the disappearance of Leo Harting, a minor British Embassy officer; moreover, secret files have disappeared with him. The embassy's head of Chancery, Rawley Bradfield, is hostile to Turner's investigation. Despite that, he is dinner party host to Turner and Ludwig Siebkron, head of the German Interior Ministry; the latter is close to industrialist Klaus Karfeld, who is successfully building a new political party.

Initially, Turner suspects Harting is a spy, but comes to understand that Harting was secretly investigating Karfeld's Nazi career as the war-time administrator of a laboratory that poisoned 31 half-Jews. In fact, Harting is hiding from Siebkron, and might assassinate Karfeld. To Turner's chagrin, Bradfield is unsympathetic to Harting's circumstances and uninterested in protecting him because he considers him a criminal and a political embarrassment.

Major characters[edit]

  • Rawley Bradfield - Head of Chancery at the British Embassy in Bonn
  • Leo Harting – long-term temporary employee at the British Embassy
  • Alan Turner – British Foreign Office official
  • Ludwig Siebkron – German Interior Ministry official
  • Klaus Karfeld – German industrialist and politician with a hidden Nazi past

Allusions/references to actual events[edit]

  • David Cornwell (John le Carré) worked as an intelligence officer for MI6 under diplomatic cover as the 'Second Secretary' of the British embassy in Bonn, during the period depicted in this novel.
  • At the time of publication there were worries that the extreme right was rebuilding in West Germany. However, these fears later proved to be unfounded.
  • West German Chancellor Kurt Georg Kiesinger, was, like Karfeld, a former Nazi, who had joined the NSDAP in 1933. Although Kiesinger was cleared of war crimes by the denazification courts, radical groups such as the Red Army Faction argued that an informal but powerful network of ex-Nazis, including Kiesinger, controlled the country.
  • Real locations in Bonn such as the British Embassy feature prominently.


  • The Economics Minister at the Bonn embassy was James Marjoribanks. One of the characters in Le Carré's book is also called Marjoribanks.

Release details[edit]


  • Serialised in seven episodes for BBC Radio 4, broadcast in Summer 1982.


  1. ^ "A Small Town in Germany by John le Carré". Goodreads. goodreads.com. Retrieved 16 September 2016.
  2. ^ BOSTON, RICHARD (October 27, 1968). "What Became Of Harting?". The New York Times. nytimes.com. Retrieved 16 September 2016.