John le Carré, Best-Selling Author of Cold War Thrillers, Dies at 89

LONDON — John le Carré, whose exquisitely nuanced, intricately plotted Cold War thrillers elevated the spy novel to high art by presenting both Western and Soviet spies as morally compromised cogs in a rotten system full of treachery, betrayal and personal tragedy, died on Saturday in Cornwall, England. He was 89.

伦敦——约翰·勒卡雷(John le Carré)周六在英国康沃尔去世,终年89岁。他创作的以冷战为背景的惊悚小说细致入微、情节错综复杂,将间谍小说提升到了高雅艺术的高度。他笔下的间谍无论是来自西方还是苏联,都不过是充斥着奸诈、背叛和个人悲剧的腐朽系统下的一些道德立场可疑的齿轮。

The cause was pneumonia, his publisher, Penguin Random House, said on Sunday.


Before Mr. le Carré published his best-selling 1963 novel “The Spy Who Came in From the Cold,” which Graham Greene called “the best spy story I have ever read,” the fictional model for the modern British spy was Ian Fleming’s James Bond — suave, urbane, devoted to queen and country. With his impeccable talent for getting out of trouble while getting women into bed, Bond fed the myth of spying as a glamorous, exciting romp.

1963年,他出版了畅销小说《柏林谍影》(The Spy Who Came in From the Cold),被格雷厄姆·格林(Graham Greene)称为“我读过的最好的间谍故事”。在这本书之前,现代英国间谍小说的虚构模版是伊恩·弗莱明(Ian Fleming)笔下的的詹姆斯·邦德(James Bond)——风流倜傥、温文尔雅,对女王和国家忠心耿耿。邦德才华横溢,无论是在摆脱困境上,还是跟女人上床方面,间谍活动俨然成了快活又刺激的风流韵事。

Mr. Le Carré upended that notion with books that portrayed British intelligence operations as cesspools of ambiguity in which right and wrong are too close to call and in which it is rarely obvious whether the ends, even if the ends are clear, justify the means.


Led by his greatest creation, the plump, ill-dressed, unhappy, brilliant, relentless George Smiley, Mr. le Carré’s spies are lonely, disillusioned men whose work is driven by budget troubles, bureaucratic power plays and the opaque machinations of politicians — men who are as likely to be betrayed by colleagues and lovers as by the enemy.

勒卡雷笔下的间谍是幻想破灭的孤独之辈,因为预算灾难、官僚权力和政客们的阴谋诡计而在外面铤而走险。其中的佼佼者是勒卡雷最伟大的创造——身材臃肿、衣着品味不佳、郁郁寡欢、聪明而无情的乔治·史迈利(George Smiley)。

Smiley has a counterpart in the Russian master spy Karla, his opposite in ideology but equal in almost all else, an opponent he studies as intimately as a lover studies his beloved. The end of “Smiley’s People,” the last in a series known as the Karla Trilogy, brings them together in a stunning denouement that is as much about human frailty and the deep loss that comes with winning as it is about anything.

在苏联间谍当中,史迈利有一个旗鼓相当的对手,除了意识形态上的对立,两人在其他方面几乎完全一致。史迈利像琢磨情人一样琢磨这个对手。在卡拉三部曲的最后一部《史迈利的人马》(Smiley’s People)的最后,他以一个令人叹为观止的结局让他们相聚,这个结局不仅关乎人类的脆弱,关乎随胜利而来的重大损失,也关于一切的一切。

“Thematically, le Carré’s true subject is not spying,” Timothy Garton Ash wrote in The New Yorker in 1999. “It is the endlessly deceptive maze of human relations: the betrayal that is a kind of love, the lie that is a sort of truth, good men serving bad causes and bad men serving good.”

“就主题来说,勒卡雷作品真正的主题并非间谍活动,”蒂莫西·加顿·阿什(Timothy Garton Ash)1999年在《纽约客》上写道。“而是人际关系无穷尽的欺骗迷宫:背叛是一种爱,谎言是一种真实,善者服务于恶,恶者服务于善。”

Some critics took Mr. le Carré’s message to be that the two systems, East and West, were moral equivalents, both equally bad. But he did not believe that. “There is a big difference in working for the West and working for a totalitarian state,” he told an interviewer, referring to his own work as a spy in the 1950s and early ’60s.


Mr. le Carré refused to allow his books to be entered for literary prizes. But many critics considered his books literature of the first rank.


“I think he has easily burst out of being a genre writer and will be remembered as perhaps the most significant novelist of the second half of the 20th century in Britain,” the author Ian McEwan told the British newspaper The Telegraph in 2013, adding that he has “charted our decline and recorded the nature of our bureaucracies like no one else has.”

“我认为他已经轻松地摆脱了作为一名类型作家的束缚,或许将以20世纪下半叶英国最杰出的小说家身份为人所铭记,”作家伊恩·麦克尤恩(Ian McEwan)2013年对英国《每日电讯报》(The Telegraph)说。他还表示,勒卡雷“前所未有地记录了我们的衰败,以及官僚体制的本质”。

Mr. le Carré’s own youthful experience as a British agent, along with his thorough field research as a writer, gave his novels the stamp of authority. But he used reality as a starting-off point to create an indelible fictional world.


In his books, the Secret Intelligence Service, otherwise known as M.I.6., was the “Circus,” agents were “joes,” operations involving seduction were “honeytraps” and agents deeply embedded inside the enemy were “moles,” a word he is credited with bringing into wide use if not inventing it. Such expressions were taken up by real British spies to describe their work, much as the Mafia absorbed the language of “The Godfather” into their mythology.

在他的作品中,英国情报机构,也就是MI6,被称为“马戏团”(Circus),里面的特工被称为“乔”,涉及性诱的行动被称为“蜂蜜陷阱”,打入敌人内部的特工被称为“鼹鼠”,这个用法现在被广为使用,即使不是他的发明,至少也是由他普及。这些说法,被真正的英国间谍用来描述他们的工作,就像黑手党把电影《教父》(The Godfather)中的语言吸收到他们的神话中一样。

“As much as in Tolkien, Wodehouse, Chandler or even Jane Austen, this closed world is a whole world,” the critic Boyd Tonkin wrote in The Independent. “Via the British ‘Circus’ and its Soviet counterpart, Le Carré created a laboratory of human nature; a test-track where the innate fractures of the heart and mind could be driven to destruction.”

“与托尔金、伍德豪斯、钱德勒甚至简·奥斯丁的小说一样,这个封闭的世界是一个完整的世界,”评论家博伊德·汤金(Boyd Tonkin)在《独立报》(The Independent)上写道。“通过英国的‘马戏团’及其苏联同行,勒卡雷建立了一个人性的实验室;一个可以将心与灵与生俱来的脆弱摧毁的测试轨道。”

John le Carré knew deception intimately because he was born into it. (For one thing, “John le Carré” was not his real name.) Born David John Moore Cornwell in Poole, Dorset, on Oct. 19, 1931, he had a ragged, destabilizing childhood dominated by his father, Ronald, an amoral, flamboyant, silver-tongued con man who palled around with celebrities and crooks, left trails of unpaid bills wherever he went, and was forever on the verge of carrying out a huge scam or going to jail. (He was in and out of prison for fraud.)

约翰·勒卡雷对骗术了如指掌,因为他生在一个这样的家庭。(就拿他的名字来说,“约翰·勒卡雷”不是他的真名。)他原名戴维·约翰·摩尔·康威尔(David John Moore Cornwell),1931年10月19日出生于多塞特郡的普尔,在他父亲的支配下,勒卡雷度过了一个破碎的、动荡不安的童年。父亲罗纳德(Ronald)道德沦丧、张扬、巧舌如簧,爱与名流和骗子交往,到处欠账,无时无刻不在行骗或入狱的边缘。(他因欺诈而屡次入狱。)

“Manipulative, powerful, charismatic, clever, untrustworthy,’ Mr. Le Carré once described him.


The family lurched between extremes. “When father was flush, the chauffeur-driven Bentley would be parked outside,” he said. “When things were a bit iffy, it was parked in the back garden, and when we were down and out, it disappeared altogether.” Often, debts would be called in.


“You have no idea how humiliating it was, as a boy, to suddenly have all your clothes, your toys, snatched by the bailiff,” Mr. le Carré told an interviewer.


The boys’ mother, Olive (Glassey) Cornwell, walked out of the family house and into the arms of another man when David was 5. He has little memory of it — his father intimated that she was ill, then that she had died — and he did not see her again for 16 years.

戴维5岁时,母亲奥利·康威尔(Olive Cornwell,婚前姓格拉西[Glassey])离家出走,投入了另一个男人的怀抱。他对此没有什么记忆——他的父亲暗示她病了,又死了——此后他有16年没再见到她。

As crooked as he was, Ronnie Cornwell craved establishment respectability for his children, and David was sent to prep school and then to Sherborne, a boarding school, which he hated so much, he decamped for Switzerland at age 16 and enrolled at the University of Bern to study modern languages.

罗尼·康韦尔虽然坏事做尽,但仍然渴望孩子们得到被尊重的体面,于是戴维被送进预科学校,然后送到舍伯恩(Sherborne)的寄宿学校,他对那里十分憎恶,于是在16岁跑到瑞士,并进了伯尔尼大学(University of Bern)读现代语言。

There he was recruited by a British spy working undercover at the embassy, and so his life of spying began. Except for two years when he taught at Eton, England’s premier secondary school, Mr. le Carré was a spy of some kind for 16 years, for both M.I.6. and its domestic counterpart, M.I.5.


It was not until years later that he owned up to his earlier profession — it was a relief, he said, not to have to lie about it any more — and he was always vague on the details. But while a student at Oxford, where he went after Bern, Mr. le Carré kept an eye out for possible Soviet sympathizers in left-wing groups. In 1960, he moved to Germany, posing as a British diplomat; his work included conducting interrogations, tapping phones, organizing break-ins and running agents.


Briefly, he led a triple life: diplomat, spy, novelist, writing his first book, “Call for the Dead” (1961), in longhand in red notebooks. The story of the unveiling of an East German spy operation, it was notable mostly for the introduction of Smiley and his faithless wife, Ann. (Ann was the name of Mr. le Carré’s wife at the time, though when they divorced, in 1971, it seems to have been his infidelity that was a problem, not hers).

简而言之,他过着三重生活:外交官、间谍、小说家,在红色笔记本上手写了自己的第一本书《召唤死者》(Call for the Dead, 1961)。故事揭秘了东德的间谍行动,以引入角色史迈利和他不忠的妻子安(Ann)而闻名。(安当时是勒卡雷妻子的名字,尽管他们在1971年离婚时,似乎问题来自于他的不忠,而不是她)。

Forbidden by his employers to write under his own name, the author fixed on “John le Carré.” Over the years he gave various explanations for it, finally admitting that he could not remember which, if any, were true.


“The Spy Who Came in From the Cold,” the author’s third novel, was published to instant acclaim and worldwide best-sellerdom. It was a shock of a book. Its hero, Alec Leamas, is a worn-out spy sent down a rabbit hole of deception, betrayal and personal tragedy in a mission that he thinks is one thing but that is really another. To readers used to tidy fantasy endings, the book’s conclusion is like a blow to the head.

作者的第三本小说《柏林谍影》出版后立即受到好评,并在世界范围内畅销。这是一本了不得的书。它的英雄亚历克·莱马斯(Alec Leamas)是一个筋疲力竭的间谍,被派到一个充满欺骗、背叛和个人悲剧的未知世界执行任务,而这个任务完全不是他以为的那样。对于习惯理清幻想作品结局的读者而言,这本书的结局简直就像当头一棒。

“In its way, it marked a boundary between two eras: the era of God-is-in-our side patriotism, of trust in government and in the morality of the West, and the era of paranoia, of conspiracy theory and suspicion of government, of moral drift,” Stephen Schiff wrote in Vanity Fair. As many of Mr. le Carré’s books would be, “The Spy Who Came in From the Cold” was made into a movie; Richard Burton starred as Leamas.

“它以其独有的方式标志着两个时代的边界:一个是神与我们同在的爱国主义时代,对政府和西方道德观信任的时代,另一个是疑心重重、阴谋论、怀疑政府的时代,道德沦丧的时代,”史蒂芬·希夫(Stephen Schiff)在《名利场》杂志写道。就像勒卡雷的许多书那样,《柏林谍影》被拍成电影,由理查德·伯顿(Richard Burton)饰演利马斯(Leamas)。

The success of the novel — and the fact that a British paper revealed its author’s true identity — allowed Mr. le Carré in 1964 to quit his undercover work to write full-time. He produced book after book set against the Cold War backdrop, including “The Looking Glass War” (1965); “A Small Town in Germany” (1968); the Karla Trilogy, and “The Russia House” (1989).

小说的成功——以及一家英国报纸对作者真实身份的披露——使得勒卡雷在1964年辞去了他的卧底工作,开始全职写作。他创作了一本又一本以冷战为背景的书,包括1965年的《镜子战争》(The Looking Glass War)、1968年的《德国小镇》(A Small Town in Germany)、《卡拉三部曲》和1989年的《俄罗斯大厦》(The Russia House)。

In addition to the Cold War books, his most celebrated novels include “The Little Drummer Girl” (1983), about an undercover operation by a passionate young actress-turned spy; the book performs the seemingly impossible trick of evoking genuine sympathy for both the Israeli and Palestinian points of view. ‘“The Little Drummer Girl’ is about spies,” William F. Buckley Jr. wrote in The New York Times, “as ‘Madame Bovary’ is about adultery or “Crime and Punishment’ about crime.”

除了冷战题材的作品,他最著名的小说还包括1983年的《女鼓手》(The Little Drummer Girl),讲述了一个充满激情的年轻女演员转行做间谍的秘密行动。这本书实现了一种看似不可能的把戏——让人们同时对以色列和巴勒斯坦人产生由衷的同情。“《女鼓手》之于间谍,”小威廉·F·巴克利(William F. Buckley Jr.)在《纽约时报》上写道,“就像《包法利夫人》之于通奸,或者《罪与罚》之于犯罪。”

“A Perfect Spy” (1986), Mr. le Carré’s most autobiographical work, tells the story of Magnus Pym, a double agent with a con man father modeled after le Carré’s own, and how the two deceive and are deceived by each other in an intricate skein of lies. Mr. Schiff called it “one of the most penetrating depictions in all literature of the links between love and betrayal.”

1986年的《完美间谍》(A Perfect Spy)是勒卡雷最具自传性的作品,讲述了马格努斯·皮姆(Magnus Pym)的故事,他是一名双面间谍。有一个以勒卡雷的父亲为原型的骗子父亲。故事讲述了两人如何通过错综复杂的谎言互相欺骗和被骗。希夫称它“对爱与背叛的联系做出的透彻描述,在文学作品中无出其右”。

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