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Great acting, doubtful plot: Tom Hiddleston as Jonathan Pine in the BBC’s adaptation of “The Night Manager” (©BBC/The Ink Factory/Des Willie)

The approval of former MI6 agent John le Carré has not guaranteed the authenticity of the BBC’s dramatisation of The Night Manager. Those who know about the Middle East could barely make it through the first episode.

My colleague Peter Beaumont, the Guardian’s Jerusalem correspondent, was in Tahrir Square during the revolution. He turned off The Night Manager when a murderous member of the Mubarak oligarchy ordered an improbably large assortment of weapons from a villainous English arms dealer. Mubarak had no shortage of weapons in 2011; he just could not persuade his forces to use them. The notion that his cronies would be trying to buy more rather than trying to persuade the army to fight comes from a definition of “realism” so capacious it includes Eurofighters on sale on the black market, and governments so unconcerned by weapons proliferation that they keep their inspectorates in cold, understaffed offices.

I shouldn’t have been surprised. Le Carré’s post-Cold-War politics are best described as more Pilgerish than Pilger. Connoisseurs of his public statements can tick every space on the bingo card. Le Carré believes that corporations brainwash the bovine masses (check) on behalf of the imperial American hegemon (check) which is itself controlled by a conspiracy of right-wingers (check) who are pulling our puppet strings at the behest of — guess who? — the Jews (full house!). Or as le Carré explained, the neoconservatives are “appointing the state of Israel as the purpose of all Middle Eastern and practically all global policy”.

Then there is the self-pity, that most deplorable affectation of Western intellectuals, who have never once faced the smallest threat of persecution or punishment for their writing. At one point during the last decade, le Carré compared himself to the German-Jewish diarist Victor Klemperer, who miraculously survived life under the Nazis. Liberals of a certain age remember that when the Ayatollah Khomeini’s assassins imitated the Nazis and threatened Salman Rushdie’s life the Klemperer de nos jours opined that Rushdie had brought death on himself by insulting the great religion of Islam.

Rushdie once told me that he did not think  le Carré scrabbled for excuses for those who would murder his fellow writers because he was a supporter of religious totalitarianism. Rather, he could not forgive Rushdie for writing an unfavourable review of The Tailor of Panama in which he said le Carré could not create convincing female characters. I am not sure this explanation helps le Carré, and he still cannot create convincing female characters.

After writing his three great novels — The Spy Who Came in From the Cold, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and The Perfect Spy — it is easy to agree with the conclusion of Private Eye’s critic, who said le Carré had become “his own tribute band”. You know now how his books will go. There is a decent Englishman. He comes across skulduggery. He is persuaded to fight it by an honest spy, who teaches him tradecraft, but instead finds he must fight Western corporations and governments whose cynicism knows no limits. In the case of The Night Manager, the reason, of course, why the British government is unconcerned by illegal weapons sales is that MI6 is in the pay of the villainous arms dealer.

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Marc Salzberger
May 13th, 2017
7:05 AM
I've always enjoyed le Carre's novels, not least Our Game where he had the uncanny nose and good luck to set it in the troubled Caucasus just before the Chechen war started, I think. Also I remember him somewhere referring to an elevator "judding" to a halt at a floor. Perhaps I've wrongly attributed that coinage to him; it is apt. And finally, I've often referred to his perfect summation of the Soviet collapse: the red knight bled to death inside his armor. I am however surprised and disappointed to hear off his unhappiness with Israel. And of his attack on Rushdie for insulting "one of the world's great religions." Arabic architecture is considered one of the world's five great styles. I agree with that because I can see it is true, at any rate to my eyes. But why Islam should be respected as one of the world's great religions when it is transparently Mohammed's invention to make his followers jump through his hoop, and die for him, is incomprehensible. Not devout myself I am not an anti religionists in the way of a Christopher Hitchens either. I can understand not wanting to hurt the feelings of a devotee of any faith, for the same reason one does not hurt the feelings of a mother of an ugly child. But to spring to the defense of any faith because it is "one of the great religions," makes no sense. Islam is an important religion in that it has over a billion followers. But that does not necessarily make it a "great religion." The more I read about it the more it seems a deliberate scam. And why le Carre has decided Israel is the villain in its conflict with Palestinians is also incomprehensible. He is no fool. He, like I saw Arafat refuse the Jewish offer of 95% of the West Bank and Gaza, with a swap for the rest, and the Arab part of Jerusalem for their capital, and a multi billion dollar kitty to compensate the displaced Palestinians. Arafat, before the TV cameras said: his bottom line was the right of return (that still holds with Abbas). He patently refused to accept a Palestinian homeland that did not allow millions of Palestinians to make their homeland in Israel. Then I understood: the Palestinian's leadership was not a homeland or peace, but an endless fight until the Jewish state is expunged. How a sensible and fair man can come to the support of such a side and such a cause, beats me.

March 13th, 2017
3:03 AM
What an idiotic review. To treat the idea that to question the blind allegiance to Israel as it becomes blind to it's own ideals must be based in anti-semitism is truly bizarre. Look up the word "PinkWashing" sir, and take a moment to read a little bit more widely. Israel has been lost to it's own Right Wing, and no amount of foreign aid can prevent a country from destroying itself through military excess. This kind of 'up is down' theorizing is as usual, the sign of a mind unwilling to change it's position based on facts that are well known. At the same time that the Army refused to attack the civilians in Tahrir square, indeed acted specifically as a peacekeeping force, there were thousands of street level political types, from the entire spectrum of the Muslim Brotherhood to local organized crime. These would have happily accepted the gift of military weapons from a corrupt oligarch, and the ensuing mass murders would have destroyed the semblance of democracy that they have in Egypt.

Lawrence JamesAnonymous
August 28th, 2016
2:08 PM
Le Carre should be commended rather than condemned for his views on America's Cold War and post-Cold War 'imperialism'.It has, by hook and by crook, supplanted its British counterpart in Asia, the Middle East and Africa. This, for all its flaws, was driven by a moral urge to improve the lives of its subjects and endeavoured to treat them decently and fairly. Britain would never have extended protection and patronage to the likes of Mobutu. Moreover, American imperialism in action in Afghanistan and the Middle East has not created an equivalent of the Pax Britannica,quite the contrary.

July 23rd, 2016
3:07 AM
Since the early 1980s Bill Haydon has been writing Le Carres novels.

Gabriella Allon
July 22nd, 2016
2:07 PM
Agreed JLC's early stuff was great but got increasingly long winded and verbose. Best spy writers currently are Daniel Silva and Charles Cumming. Silva is stupendous - and, yes the good guy is an Israeli.

April 20th, 2016
7:04 PM
What JLC hates about us Jews is our success against his chosen people--the Muslims; hell's bells even our terrorists are better than theirs!

Empress Trudy
April 18th, 2016
8:04 PM
He must have had some input into that notorious spy drama "Spooks" aka "MI-5" in the US. Where every bad thing ever perpetrated in the world is bu those nefarious Jews and/or Israelis.

April 18th, 2016
12:04 PM
Leftist John le Carre can be forgiven for echoing the growing and pervasive anti-Semitism found in most corners of current British society. But 33 years ago in The Little Drummer Girl, despite his Palestinian sympathies, le Carre created a brilliantly clever Israeli plan devised, naturally, by Jews, to find and kill -- if you'll pardon the redundancy -- a murderous Palestinian terrorist.

April 1st, 2016
7:04 PM
Le Carre's typical left-wing fascism and anti-Semitism is not new or merely 21st century. It was obvious in the odious and anti-Semitic The Little Drummer Girl (made into a film with Diane Keaton). Jonathan Maze's take "brutal colonial power" is something one hears from anti-Semitic Leftists all the time. Think he's confusing the Jew among the nations with Britain for one. One also hears it from Hamas and other jihad groups but I'm sure Maze will tell us it's just a meaningless coincidence, not even an admission of coincidence for that matter.

steve baker
March 30th, 2016
10:03 AM
Rushdie has done remarkably well for a second-rate writer with one book notable only for having outraged a few medieval mullahs. He has lived the life of a celebrity ever since his fatwa, including having been married to one of the most beautiful women in the world. To hold him up as a hero is an insult to those who have fought and died protecting our civilization.

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