Alan Judd

The Guy Who Came in from the Cold

John le Carré: The Biography


Bloomsbury 652pp £25 order from our bookshop

I confess an interest: I know and like the subject of this biography and greatly admire his literary achievements. I should also confess to having doubted the wisdom of his biographer in taking it on. Writing about the life of a living person, even a cooperative one, is difficult, especially someone as layered as David Cornwell, the real name of the author John le Carré. Also, a long and busy life brings with it a comet’s tail of living witnesses whose opinions will be varied and contradictory. Some of them will be offended to be left out, others unwilling to be identified. But Sisman pulls it off: this is a well-written and highly readable book which is neither hagiography nor hatchet job and which promises, according to his hint in the introduction (‘I hope to publish a revised and updated version of this biography in the fullness of time’), more to come.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • John Stubbs reviews Stephen Greenblatt's latest, 'Tyrant: Shakespeare on Power' ,
    • RT : What happened when US military strategist Herman Kahn - one of Kubrick’s three models for Dr Strangelove - took LSD… ,
    • 'Pollan has no doubt that the use of psychedelics could have a powerfully beneficial effect on a range of condition… ,
    • A memoir about an Untouchable family and the 'formation of modern India': 'Ants among Elephants' by @gidla_sujatha… ,
    • RT : First founded in Edinburgh in 1979, is considered a trusted independent source for reviews of new book… ,
    • 'In different ways Hatherley makes gritty Lódź and poor old which-country-are-we-in-this-week Lviv sound entrancing… ,
    • In this issue Lucy Popescu discusses the miscarriages of justice occurring in the investigation over Maltese journa… ,