Absolute Friends

( 39 )


An absolutely triumphant bestseller-everywhere hailed as the masterpiece toward which John le Carre has been building since the fall of communism. This thrilling tale of Joyaity, betrayal and international espionage spans the lives of two friends from the not-torn West Berlin of the 1960s to the grimy looking-glass of Cold War Europe to the present day of terrorism and uncertain new alliances-alliances that aren't always what they seem to be.

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An absolutely triumphant bestseller-everywhere hailed as the masterpiece toward which John le Carre has been building since the fall of communism. This thrilling tale of Joyaity, betrayal and international espionage spans the lives of two friends from the not-torn West Berlin of the 1960s to the grimy looking-glass of Cold War Europe to the present day of terrorism and uncertain new alliances-alliances that aren't always what they seem to be.

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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times
Unlike the great majority of best-selling writers of popular fiction, John le Carré never, ever phones it in -- not even on a secure line. He's an old pro with the ardent heart of an amateur, which is why, at the age of 72 and with four decades of critical and commercial success under his belt, he is still capable of producing a novel as odd, as ungainly, and as compelling as Absolute Friends. — Terrence Rafferty
The Washington Post
Absolute Friends is intentionally provocative, and it will win the desired outrage from those who support the Bush policies, just as it will please those who oppose them. It is a polemic, in a tradition that goes back to Shakespeare's portrait of Richard III, Swift's modest proposal and Orwell's 1984. History can decide whether le Carré is right or wrong, prophet or crank, but no one can deny that for the world's leading spy novelist, a man with roots deep in British intelligence, to take on the White House with such ferocity is a political event of note, whatever its literary merits. — Patrick Anderson
The Observer
Few could fail to be thrilled by the unbridled rage that fuels his storytelling. If he was seething when he wrote The Constant Gardener, he is now incandescent. — Robert McCrum
Publishers Weekly
Le Carré may have changed publishers, but his latest novel remains as resolutely up-to-date as ever. In place of the old Cold War games, his recent books have dealt with the depredations of international arms merchants and the impact of predatory drug manufacturers on the Third World. Now his eloquent and white-hot indignation is turned on what he sees as a duplicitous war in Iraq and the devious means employed to tarnish those who oppose it. The friends of the title are two beautifully realized characters, both idealists in their very different ways. Ted Mundy, the bighearted son of a pukka Indian Army officer, leads a life in which his inborn kindliness and lack of self-regard are turned to what he sees as good causes. With Sasha, the crippled son of an old Nazi who turns bitterly against that past only to be tormented by the rise of a new brutalism in East Germany, he forms a double-agent partnership that feeds British intelligence during the Cold War years. With the collapse of the Soviet system, Ted is at loose ends, trying both to make ends meet as a cheery tour guide for English-speaking visitors to Mad Ludwig's castle in Bavaria and to support his Muslim wife and her small son in Munich. Suddenly he hears again from Sasha, who tells him that a mysterious benefactor wishes to enlist his services as teacher and translator to counter the widespread propaganda on behalf of an Iraqi war, and he is inflamed once more with a desire to help. The grim consequences are spelled out by le Carré with a deadly fury that is startling in the context of his usual urbanity. With a largely German setting that recalls some of his earliest books, as well as the same embracing clarity of vision about human motives and failings that gleams through all his best work, this is a book that offers a bitter warning even as it delivers immense reading pleasure. (One-day laydown Jan. 12) Forecast: No reader, whatever his politics, could fail to be moved by the passion and intelligence of le Carré's latest. For those who feel as he does about the war and its consequences, this book will be a special gift. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Meet Ted Mundy, "actor, novelist, befriender, major's son, misfit, dreamer and pretender," going about his job as a tour guide in one of Mad King Ludwig's Bavarian castles when an old comrade emerges from the shadows. Sasha is a charismatic firebrand who has ruddered Mundy's eventful odyssey on two of its major courses-those of radical and spy-and is now recruiting for a bold and improbable plan to save the world. For many readers, it will be enough to say that this is excellent le Carre, with a beguilingly oblique approach to story, intriguing and morally complex characters, penetrating wit, deft turns of phrase, and a nuanced synthesis of personal and political concerns. As the catastrophe approaches, politics gains the upper hand, and it is no small surprise that the biggest villain on the present world stage turns out to be a certain "renegade hyperpower that thinks it can treat the rest of the world as its allotment." While this pointed morality may seem abrupt to readers rapt in the author's wonted, murky casuistry and all-embracing skepticism, one can hardly fault such a skilled and perceptive storyteller for bringing a conscience into the bargain. Highly recommended.-David Wright, Seattle P.L. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The collapse of the new world order catches still another of le Carre's inoffensive spies out hopelessly past his depth. Ted Mundy calls the well-nigh unrecognizable person he's morphed into since his Berlin days as student radical "Mundy Two." But in fact he's gone through more lives than a biographical encyclopedia: child of both India and Pakistan, official greeter for a British arts organization, overseas youth liaison for same, husband to a rising politico: all activities that made him a perfect choice for the role of counterintelligence agent when a well-informed Polish defector happened to fall into his hands-and, since parting ways with his government masters, co-principal of a shabby Heidelberg language school, common-law husband to a Turkish kebab waitress, and tour guide at one of King Ludwig's Bavarian castles. But the great relationship that's ordered, or disordered, his life has been with Sasha, the equally protean fellow-student turned Stasi agent turned itinerant radical lecturer. After chapters and chapters of beautifully written but frustrating flashbacks to the political and personal forces that made Ted what he is and abandoned him in the Linderhof, le Carre brings him smartly to attention with an offer of $500,000 from the mysterious philanthropist Dimitri, of the New Planet Foundation, to refurbish the language school in order to foster greater international understanding. Sasha urges the deal on Ted; his old British handler Nick Amory regards it with suspicion. Readers who remember any of the author's celebrated earlier novels (The Constant Gardener, 2001, etc.), or who've picked up a newspaper during the past two years, will know which is right, though notnecessarily why. Despite a piercing, compassionate portrait of a decent man struggling to keep up with a world in the throes of constant change, le Carre seems this time outpaced by his impossible subject: the layers upon layers of real-life duplicity in the world since 9/11. First printing of 300,000. Agent: Bruce Hunter/David Hingham Associates
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780316159395
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
  • Publication date: 11/28/2004
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 464
  • Sales rank: 452,052
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.25 (h) x 1.32 (d)

Read an Excerpt

Absolute Friends

By John le Carre

Little, Brown

Copyright © 2004 David Cornwell
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-316-00064-7

Chapter One

ON THE DAY his destiny returned to claim him, Ted Mundy was sporting a bowler hat and balancing on a soapbox in one of Mad King Ludwig's castles in Bavaria. It wasn't a classic bowler, more your Laurel and Hardy than Savile Row. It wasn't an English hat, despite the Union Jack blazoned in Oriental silk on the handkerchief pocket of his elderly tweed jacket. The maker's grease-stained label on the inside of the crown proclaimed it to be the work of Messrs. Steinmatzky & Sons, of Vienna.

And since it wasn't his own hat - as he hastened to explain to any luckless stranger, preferably female, who fell victim to his boundless accessibility - neither was it a piece of self-castigation. "It's a hat of office, madam," he would insist, garrulously begging her pardon in a set piece he had off perfectly. "A gem of history, briefly entrusted to me by generations of previous incumbents of my post - wandering scholars, poets, dreamers, men of the cloth - and every man jack of us a loyal servant of the late King Ludwig - hah!" The hah! perhaps being some kind of involuntary throwback to his military childhood. "Well, what's the alternative, I mean to say? You can hardly ask a thoroughbred Englishman to tote an umbrella like the Japanese guides, can you? Not here in Bavaria, my goodness, no. Not fifty miles from where our own dear Neville Chamberlain made his pact with the devil. Well, can you, madam?"

And if his audience, as is often the case, turns out to be too pretty to have heard of Neville Chamberlain or know which devil is referred to, then in a rush of generosity the thoroughbred Englishman will supply his beginners' version of the shameful Munich Agreement of 1938, in which he does not shy from remarking how even our beloved British monarchy, not to mention our aristocracy and the Tory Party here on earth, favored practically any accommodation with Hitler rather than a war.

"British establishment absolutely terrified of Bolshevism, you see," he blurts, in the elaborate telegramese that, like hah!, overcomes him when he is in full cry. "Powers-that-be in America no different. All any of 'em ever wanted was to turn Hitler loose on the Red Peril." And how in German eyes, therefore, Neville Chamberlain's rolled-up umbrella remains to this very day, madam, the shameful emblem of British appeasement of Our Dear Führer, his invariable name for Adolf Hitler. "I mean frankly, in this country, as an Englishman, I'd rather stand in the rain without one. Still, that's not what you came here for, is it? You came to see Mad Ludwig's favorite castle, not listen to an old bore ranting on about Neville Chamberlain. What? What? Been a pleasure, madam" - doffing the clown's bowler in self-parody and revealing an anarchic forelock of salt-and-pepper hair that bounces out of its trap like a greyhound the moment it's released - "Ted Mundy, jester to the Court of Ludwig, at your service."

And who do they think they've met, these punters - or Billies, as the British tour operators prefer to call them - if they think at all? Who is this Ted Mundy to them as a fleeting memory? A bit of a comedian, obviously. A failure at something - a professional English bloody fool in a bowler and a Union Jack, all things to all men and nothing to himself, fifty in the shade, nice enough chap, wouldn't necessarily trust him with my daughter. And those vertical wrinkles above the eyebrows like fine slashes of a scalpel, could be anger, could be nightmares: Ted Mundy, tour guide.

It's three minutes short of five o'clock in the evening, late May, and the last tour of the day is about to begin. The air is turning chilly, a red spring sun is sinking in the young beech trees. Ted Mundy perches like a giant grasshopper on the balcony, knees up, bowler tipped against the dying rays. He is poring over a rumpled copy of the Süddeutsche Zeitung that he keeps rolled up like a dog-chew in an inner pocket of his jacket for these moments of respite between tours. The Iraqi war officially ended little more than a month ago. Mundy, its unabashed opponent, scrutinizes the lesser headlines: Prime Minister Tony Blair will travel to Kuwait to express his thanks to the Kuwaiti people for their cooperation in the successful conflict.

"Humph," says Mundy aloud, brows furrowed. During his tour, Mr. Blair will make a brief stopover in Iraq. The emphasis will be on reconstruction rather than triumphalism.

"I should bloody well hope so," Mundy growls, his glower intensifying.

Mr. Blair has no doubt whatever that Iraq's weapons of mass destruction will shortly be found. U.S. Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, on the other hand, speculates that the Iraqis may have destroyed them before the war began. "Why don't you make up your stupid minds then?" Mundy harrumphs.

His day thus far has followed its usual complex and unlikely course. Prompt at six he rises from the bed he shares with his young Turkish partner, Zara. Tiptoeing across the corridor he wakes her eleven-year-old son, Mustafa, in time for him to wash and clean his teeth, say his morning prayers, eat the breakfast of bread, olives, tea and chocolate spread that Mundy has meantime prepared for him. All this is done in an atmosphere of great stealth. Zara works late shift in a kebab cafe close to Munich's main railway station, and must not on any account be woken. Since starting her night job she has been arriving home around three in the morning, in the care of a friendly Kurdish taxi driver who lives in the same block. Muslim ritual should then permit her to say a quick prayer before sunrise and enjoy eight hours of good sleep, which is what she needs. But Mustafa's day begins at seven, and he too must pray. It took all Mundy's powers of persuasion, and Mustafa's also, to convince Zara that Mundy could preside over her son's devotions, and she could get her hours in. Mustafa is a quiet, catlike child, with a cap of black hair, scared brown eyes and a raucous boing-boing voice.

From the apartment block - a shabby box of weeping concrete and external wiring - man and boy pick their way across wasteland to a bus shelter covered in graffiti, much of it abusive. The block is what these days is called an ethnic village: Kurds, Yemenis and Turks live packed together in it. Other children are already assembled here, some with mothers or fathers. It would be reasonable for Mundy to consign Mustafa to their care, but he prefers to ride with him to the school and shake his hand at the gates, sometimes formally kissing him on both cheeks. In the twilight time before Mundy appeared in his life, Mustafa suffered humiliation and fear. He needs rebuilding.

Returning from school to the apartment takes twenty minutes of Mundy's huge strides, and he arrives with one half of him hoping Zara is still asleep and the other half that she is just awake, in which case she will make at first drowsy, then increasingly passionate love with him before he leaps into his elderly Volkswagen Beetle and joins the southbound traffic for the seventy-minute drive to the Linderhof and work.

The journey is irksome but necessary. A year ago, all three members of the family were separately in despair. Today they are a fighting force bent upon improving their collective lives. The story of how this miracle came about is one that Mundy recounts to himself whenever the traffic threatens to drive him mad:

He is on his uppers. Again. He is practically on the run.

Egon, his business partner and coprincipal of their struggling Academy of Professional English, has fled with the last of the assets. Mundy himself has been obliged to creep out of Heidelberg at dead of night with whatever he can cram into the Volkswagen, plus 704 euros of petty cash that Egon has carelessly left unstolen in the safe.

Arriving in Munich with the dawn, he leaves the Volkswagen with its Heidelberg registration in a discreet corner of a parking garage in case his creditors have served an order on it. Then he does what he always does when life is closing in on him: he walks.

And because all his life, for reasons far back in his childhood, he has had a natural leaning towards ethnic diversity, his feet lead him almost of their own accord to a street full of Turkish shops and cafes that are just beginning to wake up.

The day is sunny, he is hungry, he selects a cafe at random, lowers his long body cautiously onto a plastic chair that refuses to sit still on the uneven pavement, and asks the waiter for a large medium-sweet Turkish coffee and two poppyseed rolls with butter and jam. He has barely begun his breakfast when a young woman settles on the chair beside him and with her hand held half across her mouth asks him, in a faltering Turkish-Bavarian accent, whether he would like to go to bed with her for money.

Zara is in her late twenties and improbably, inconsolably beautiful. She wears a thin blue blouse and black brassière, and a black skirt skimpy enough to display her bare thighs. She is dangerously slim. Mundy wrongly assumes drugs. It is also to his later shame that, for longer than he cares to admit, he is half inclined to take her up on her offer. He is sleepless, jobless, womanless and near enough penniless.

But when he takes a closer look at the young woman he is proposing to sleep with, he is conscious of such desperation in her stare and such intelligence behind her eyes, and such a lack of confidence on her part, that he quickly takes a hold of himself, and instead offers her breakfast, which she warily accepts on condition she may take half of it home to her sick mother. Mundy, now hugely grateful to be in contact with a fellow human being in low water, has a better suggestion: she shall eat all the breakfast, and they will together buy food for her mother at one of the halal shops up and down the road. She hears him without expression, eyes downcast. Desperately empathizing with her, Mundy suspects she is asking herself whether he is just crazy or seriously weird. He strains to appear neither of these things to her, but patently fails. In a gesture that goes straight to his heart, she draws her food with both hands to her own side of the table in case he means to take it back.

In doing so, she reveals her mouth. Her four front teeth are sheared off at the root. While she eats, he scans the street for a pimp. She doesn't seem to have one. Perhaps the cafe owns her. He doesn't know, but his instincts are already protective.

As they rise to leave, it becomes apparent to Zara that her head barely reaches up to Mundy's shoulder, for she starts away from him in alarm. He adopts his tall man's stoop, but she keeps her distance from him. She is by now his sole concern in life. His problems are negligible by comparison with hers. In the halal shop, under his urgent entreaty, she buys a piece of lamb, apple tea, couscous, fruit, honey, vegetables, halva and a giant triangular bar of Toblerone chocolate on sale.

"How many mothers have you got, actually?" he asks her cheerfully, but it's not a joke she shares.

Shopping, she remains tense and tight-lipped, haggling in Turkish from behind her hand, then stabbing her finger at the fruit - not this one, that one. The speed and skill with which she calculates impress him deeply. He may be many kinds of man, but he is no sort of negotiator. When he tries to carry the shopping bags - there are two by now, both weighty - she fights them from him in fierce tugs.

"You want sleep with me?" she asks again impatiently, when she has them safely in her hands. Her message is clear: you've paid for me, so take me and leave me alone.

"No," he replies.

"What you want?"

"To see you safely home."

She shakes her head vigorously. "Not home. Hotel." He tries to explain that his purposes are friendly rather than sexual but she is too tired to listen to him and begins weeping without changing her facial expression.

He chooses another cafe and they sit down. Her tears keep rolling but she ignores them. He presses her to talk about herself and she does so without any particular interest in her subject. She seems to have no barriers left. She is a country girl from the plains of Adana, the eldest daughter of a farming family, she tells him in her faltering Bavarian argot while she stares at the table. Her father promised her in marriage to the son of a neighboring farmer. The boy was held up as a computer genius, earning good money in Germany.

When he came home to visit the family in Adana, there was a traditional wedding feast, the two farms were declared to be joined, and Zara returned to Munich with her husband, only to discover he was not a computer genius at all, but a fulltime, round-the-clock armed bandit. He was twenty-four, she was seventeen and expecting a child by him.

"It was gang," she declares simply. "All boys were bad crooks. They are crazy. Steal cars, sell drugs, make nightclubs, control prostitutes. They do all bad things. Now he is in prison. If he would not be in prison, my brothers will kill him."

Her husband had been sent to prison nine months ago, but had found time to terrify the wits out of his son and smash his wife's face in before he went. A seven-year sentence, other charges pending. One of the gang turned police witness. Her story continues in a monotonous flow as they walk through the town, now in German, now in snatches of Turkish when her German fails her. Sometimes he wonders whether she knows he is still beside her. Mustafa, she says, when he asks the boy's name. She has asked him nothing about himself. She is carrying the shopping bags and he makes no further attempt to carry them for her. She is wearing blue beads, and he remembers from somewhere far back in his life that for superstitious Muslims blue beads ward off the evil eye. She is sniffing but the tears are no longer rolling down her cheeks. He guesses she has made herself cheer up before meeting someone who mustn't know she has been crying. They are in Munich's Westend, which hardly accords with its elegant London equivalent: drab, prewar apartment houses in old grays and browns; washing hanging out to dry in the windows, kids playing on a patch of molting grass. A boy sees their approach, breaks free of his friends, picks up a rock and advances on them menacingly. Zara calls to him in Turkish.

"What do you want?" the boy yells.

"A piece of your Toblerone, please, Mustafa," Mundy says. The boy stares at him, talks again to his mother, then edges forward, keeping the rock in his right hand while he pokes in the bags with his left. Like his mother, he is gaunt, with shadowed eyes. Like his mother, he seems to have no emotions left.

"And a cup of apple tea," Mundy adds. "With you and all your friends."

Led by Mustafa, who is by now carrying the bags, and escorted by three stalwart dark-eyed boys, Mundy follows Zara up three flights of grimy stone stairs.


Excerpted from Absolute Friends by John le Carre Copyright © 2004 by David Cornwell. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 39 )
Rating Distribution

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 39 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 24, 2008

    Vintage Le Carre...with a modern twist

    Le Carre is at his best writing about Berlin in the cold war days. The first part of Absolute Friends draws on his extraordinary experience and knowledge of cold war Berlin...and, like vintage Le Carre, it is enthralling to read. When it comes to more recent times, however, Le Carre probably does not have any experience with intelligence services--and it shows. Still, well worth reading.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 20, 2007

    Good, but different. . . . .

    At the end, I did like this book. It was not what I expected, the typical Le Carre spy story, and in some parts it was hard to follow his implications, what he was referring to. But the end makes the story clear. It is a chilling comment on current events. I have no doubt this kind of thing really happens, and isn't that exactly the kind of story we expect from Le Carre? I find I enjoyed the book more than I thought I was as I read it, and it stays with me.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 28, 2004


    A great spy novel, an eye opening and refreshing truth seeking novel about the current 'War on Terrorism' and where this is leading us and spiraling us down towards. The story might seem to jump around a bit, but like the main character it is transforming itself patiently from a closed door to an open storm, from something hidden from the surface to something that grabs you and pulls you inside.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 2, 2015


    Hey, Evie. I know it's been a while but uh, you might not even get on anymore but for what it's worth i've missed you. You might have forgotten about this book but if you see this then come and find me.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 18, 2014


    It fine
    I've been busy
    School started

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 8, 2014


    "Im sorry i havent been on
    In a while. Ill try to get on more
    But my nook is still broke and
    I dont know when ill get a new

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 22, 2013

    A must read for our times

    Is Eisehower proved right in the 21st century,`Beware of the military industrial complex`?
    LeCarre clearly thinks that the world is being perverted by unfettered capitalist neo-con religious fanatic militaristic power brokers who need purpetual fear and manipulation of the masses. Through deceit and manipulating wars,, through propaganda and rhetoric, the world has become a dangerous place for truth and intellectual freedom.
    Hang in through some early slogging as he makes his point of how easily our financial, government,economy and political systems can be subverted by the extreme right Haliburton.Tea party. Fox. Connect the dots. Remember how we originally were drawn in to Afghanistan? Covert wars sold by lies and hiding its cost.
    Eye opening,

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 18, 2012


    [~•~] The cat appears on a tree branch. "Rough day?" [~•~]

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 30, 2012

    A Classic Gem

    Well written, fascinating and VERY thought provoking.
    Makes you REALLY think about all of your personal connections.

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  • Posted December 28, 2011

    Not Good


    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 15, 2010

    John le Carre, The America Hater?

    I have read most of his books and this one was well written as usual. However, the story is anti-American and anti-capitalism. This surprised me.
    It will probably be the last le Carre book I will ever read.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 19, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Can't believe I finished this book!

    I agree that John Le Carre's works are like classical literary pieces. However, when I read a thriller/suspense/political spy novel, I expect thrills, suspense, and a politically intriguing storyline. I experienced none of these qualities with Absolute Friends. Boring and long-winded, I finished this work hoping that somewhere along the way the story will shift, the pace will increase. The characters are forgettable without an ounce of charisma. I was disappointed down to the very last page. This was my first time reading Le Carre and I doubt I will be brave enough to try again. If you're looking for rich characters against a compelling backdrop I suggest Daniel Silva and Nelson Demille.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 20, 2005

    Courtroom spy story

    If anything, the 9/11 taught the spy agencies to part with the courtroom spying game where Bond-type spies do most of their work at diplomatic receptions and balls. absolute friends by le carre, despite current topic, seems a little behind times in that respect. today's spy is as ruthless a killer as the terrorists' themselves, so why to the characters chat like linguists in love with the sound of their own voice. they belong in the the gutters of this world! an okay read from a once great author.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 17, 2004

    In the pursuit of principle: Yesterday and Today.

    <P> The U.S.-Iraq war has ended and dissatisfied with the British Government, Ted Mundy is betrayed by his English Language School partner, Egon. Egon has fled with the last of their assets, leaving him broke. Out of a job and business Mundy wanders the streets aimlessly. While at a café Mundy meets Zara, a young Turkish prostitute. Instead of taking her up on her offer, Mundy plays the Good Samaritan and offers her a meal. <P> Drawn to this neglected and abused woman, Mundy escorts her home, against her will. It doesn¿t take long for Mundy to establish himself as a father figure to Zara¿s eleven year old son, Mustafa, and soon enough within Zara¿s bed. <p> Although things change while Mundy is entertaining a multicultural group of English speaking tourists at Linderhof, a Bavarian Palace, where he works as a tour guide. Like a shadow from the past, Sasha shows up requesting a meet. Sasha is the son of a East German Lutheran Pastor and a middle aged double agent. Mundy agrees and follows Sasha to a secluded flat. Here Mundy¿s memories take over after the two men greet. <p> Recollections reveal who Ted Mundy really is, where he comes from, as well as his feelings. A boy born in Pakistan, an adolescent with an alcoholic father who refuses to clarify his mother¿s identity, and for most of life has associated himself with any cause encountered. From communism and socialism to his first meeting with Sasha in Berlin, when they were university students and at the height of the cold war. <p> Mundy himself is a flawed individual that has practically failed at everything: college, reporter, novelist, businessman, and radio interviewer. But has managed to succeed at one thing: a secret double agent. <p> John le Carré¿s book could be seen as ¿anti-American¿ if one chose to read into things and very easily find reason with phrases such as: Journalists, however, were blandly reminded that the United States reserved to itself the right to ¿hunt down its enemies at any time in any place with or without the cooperation of its friends and allies.¿ Or ¿The easiest and cheapest trick for any leader is to take his country to war on false pretenses. Anyone who does that should be hounded out of office for all time.¿ <p> But how far is America willing to go? How much are we, the people, willing to tolerate? <p> The war in Iraq, government deception and corporate misdeeds on an unsuspecting public are just some of what readers can expect. Absolute Friends is filled with engaging characters that guarantee to generate reader sympathy. The underlying layers and messages are sure to evoke much thought no matter how one feels of the ongoing war, 9/11, political views or President Bush. <p> Absolute Friends is an exceptionally powerful and spellbinding novel. Not only in its implications of democracy but also in how the threat of terrorism is being used, in our world of today. If you liked Fahrenheit 9/11, you'll like this book. This is one book you¿ll want to read or give as a gift to your favorite activist! <p> Reviewed by Betsie

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 26, 2004

    A Solid Effort by the Master

    It took some ripening to the age of 72, but master spy novelist John le Carre' has finally found his post- Cold War feet with this intelligent thriller inspired by today's headlines. Though most of the action takes place in Germany, the issues know no borders and the most compelling landscape turns out to be the human mind. The son of a con-artist and himself a former spy, le Carre' has always tended toward a jaundiced perspective -- his most enduring theme the futility of believing in anything absolute, whether religion, ideology, or the basic sincerity of our leaders. In Absolute Friends, le Carre's disgust for our President's misadventure in Iraq all but spills off the page. Perhaps at last, despite himself, le Carre' has found a cause worthy of his -- and our -- absolute disbelief.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 4, 2004

    This time the reader is out in the cold.

    Why doesn't someone tell the truth about this book? For the first half (at least) of Absolute Friends, the book is deadly dull. The author seems to be writing from a vantage point somewhere in outer space. Huge chunks of exposition posing as dialogue go on for as much as twenty pages and we are to believe that a real human being could actually speak in the stilted and bookish way described here. When Sasha begins to 'speak like a book,' this is no compliment. The novel begins to gather interest near page three hundred. Until that point, the two main characters have been entirely uninteresting to the the reader. The prose of Absolute Friends is workmanlike and droning. What interest the book generates is its distinctly unglamorous view of spying. I would have abandoned this book after fifty pages (perhaps sooner), but it has been years since I've read a Le Carre novel and I wanted to give the book a good chance. Absolute Friends provided only one enjoyment--finishing, and then closing, this book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 17, 2004

    Politically a little narrow, but as a story it is massive

    Awesome character development; you really know Mundy as if he's a close friend by the end. Le Carre probes into the darker corners of human frailty, though at times Mundy acts with a lot of backbone. Sasha...very realistic little freaky radical. Very twisty at the end...I got a little lost. But powerful nonetheless.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 11, 2004

    Le Carre turns on the 'War on Terror'

    As always, Le Carre is a good read. I have to say, I didn't think Absolute Friends to be one of his very best. A very ambitious effort, I almost felt Le Carre built up too many strands to succesfully resolve at the conclusion, which seemed more hastily put together than usual. Perhaps Le Carre felt compelled to have this in print as soon after the Iraq war as possible to emphasise its political warning. A compelling And absorbing read nonetheless - looking forward to the next!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 3, 2004

    Timely, very disturbing

    Kudos, again. Another Man From The Cold, another worthy Smiley-type. But the Cold War is over, looked back upon, almost fondly, by a younger generation, except that post-September 11th and post-Iraq, the Rules have changed, and everything has new and hidden and ugly meanings. To an American reader, we'll always be outside cousins, and so it's a nice glimpse to learn what it was like to grow up an Imperial, have a wild youth in Berlin, and then settle in to a produced middle age of sorts. A very human, dark, disturbing read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 4, 2004


    Per the copyright page this is a work of fiction; the last page even notes that the author, whose workname is 'LeCarre', finished it in June 2003. Since then we've learned that the British 'sexed up' some intel which was given to the American President, that a middle level analyst who was the leak later commited suicide, that the almighty Beeb (BBC) doesn't carefully check its sources and that its Director had to step down, that the resulting furor has caused parliamentary repercussions for the PM, and that maybe there was less or more to the story behind the Iraq War. This book though shows us the Indian Partition through the eyes of a British Army brat, who returns to the Home Counties before diving into the 60's and going lefto-wild in Berlin, before settling into a duo-trope as a government apparatchik and secret Cold Cold Warrior, before getting to the immediate, all too timely post September 11th, post War On Terror doings. All in all, masterful, ugly, haunting. One of the best.

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