Fiction is fun, but don't mess with the history

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

'Absolute Friends' by John Le Carré

I picked this one up firstly because I couldn't decide which way to go in my historical reading and, secondly, because I've always enjoyed Le Carré's writing. By the time I reached the end of the book it occurred to me that this actually is a sort of historical novel. The time period begins in the mid-1960s and continues up to the present (or 2003 when the novel was written). The setting incorporates many historical events and places from those years. No historical persons appear as characters, which some will find disappointing but many others might consider a plus. The most interesting departure, however, from a "normal" historical is the author's invention of a hidden back story underlying the historical events. In this regard, Absolute Friends resembles Stone's Fall by Iain Pears - one of my favorites from 2009.

The climactic series of events in the story leads up to a fictional dénouement wherein the hero realizes how he and his absolute friend have been cleverly deceived and manipulated by the fiendish villains. At that point, the author strikes out into territory not unfamiliar to many historical novelists - the morality tale. Remember, this was written in 2003, the year of the Iraq invasion. In that and other events, Le Carré sees the work of a worldwide corporate/political conspiracy with the power to manipulate history to achieve its own nefarious ends. Had he waited a few years to see what an embarrassing botch Iraq became, Le Carré might have lowered his estimate of the omnipotence of those shadowy conspirators. To his credit, he doesn't pick sides like Tom Clancy or other flag-wavers. The bad guys are bad guys and the good guys are also bad guys.

Anyway, Absolute Friends was a good read. In future, I will continue to be tempted by post-WWII spy/crime novels, if they do a good job with the history. Are you listening, John Lawton?

No comments:

Post a Comment