The Looking Glass War

Infobox Book |
name = The Looking Glass War
title_orig =
translator =


image_caption =
author = John le Carré
cover_artist =
country = United Kingdom
language = English
series =
genre = Spy novel
publisher = William Heinemann (UK) & Putnam (USA)
release_date = June 1965
media_type = Print (Hardback & Paperback) & Audio Cassette
pages = 246 pp (hardback edition)
isbn = ISBN 0-434-41200-7 (UK hardback edition)
ISBN 0-698-10218-5 (US hardback edition)
preceded_by = The Spy Who Came in from the Cold
followed_by = A Small Town in Germany

"The Looking Glass War" (1965), by John le Carré is a spy novel about a British Intelligence agency, known as 'The Department ' and its attempts to infiltrate an agent to East Germany.

Plot introduction

John le Carré has stated that (i) this novel is his most realistic portrayal of the intelligence world as he knew it and (ii) that may have been one reason for its relative lack of success. Le Carré's most famous character, George Smiley, appears in the book, but only in a supporting role.

Plot summary

An undefined Intelligence organisation, based in Blackfriars road, London and named throughout the book as "The Department" had much success running agents against the Nazis during the Second World War but has been resting on its laurels since, with such tasks being taken on by the more favoured and experienced Circus, led by "Control" and his right hand man George Smiley. The Department expends most of its energies on administrative tasks and on a bureaucratic turf war with the more professional "Circus."

After The Department comes across rather uncertain and weak evidence that Soviet missiles were being placed near Rostock, on the West German border, the head of the Department, LeClerc, seizes the opportunity to re-live old times, and decides to send an agent across the border to discover the truth without involving the Circus, thus trying enhance the Department's status. The Department reactivates one of its WWII agents, a naturalised Pole called Fred Leiser. Leiser is retrained and infiltrated across the border into East Germany to investigate the missiles.

However, the clumsiness of the inexperienced Department's operation, coupled with errors on the part of Leiser (including his killing a young East German border guard and taking far too long over transmissions), lead the East Germans to determine almost immediately that security had been breached and set out to find Leiser's location. As a result, Circus agent George Smiley informs LeClerc and his colleagues about the killing of the East German sentry and that the East German Security were looking for Leiser. He tactfully convinces LeClerc to abandon this operation, with Leiser still trapped in East Germany. The story comes to its tragic but inevitable end when, Lesier, not knowing the fate of the operation, continues with his mission and as a consequence of Smiley's intervention, receives no response to his transmissions. He follows the 'War Rules' and plays out the losing game to the end, and due to his prolonged and slow transmissions, the East German Security determines his location and captures him. Leiser's fate is unknown, although disowned by the British and following the killing of the East German guard, and illegally entering East Germany, it can be assumed that he would be executed.

Characters in "The Looking-Glass War"

*Fred Leiser – British spy of Polish background, main protagonist
*LeClerc – head of "The Department"
*Avery – LeClerc's younger assistant
*George Smiley – Circus officer

Film, TV or theatrical adaptations

A film of the novel was released in 1969, starring Christopher Jones as Leiser, Ralph Richardson as LeClerc and Anthony Hopkins as Avery. It was directed by Frank Pierson.

Release details

*1965, UK, William Heinemann ISBN 0-434-41200-7, Pub date ? June 1965, Hardback
*1965, USA, Putnam Pub Group ISBN 0-698-10218-5, Pub date ? June 1965, Hardback
*1965, USA, Coward-McCann, Inc., New York, Book Club Edition, Hardback
*1966, UK, Pan, ISBN0-330-20210-3, London, Paperwork
*1985, UK, G K Hall & Co ISBN 0-8161-4040-5, Pub date ? April 1986, Hardback (Large Print)
*1991, UK, Hodder & Stoughton Ltd ISBN 0-340-55813-X, Pub date 21 November 1991, Hardback
*1991, UK, Hodder & Stoughton (Coronet) ISBN 0-340-55446-0, Pub date 21 November 1991, Paperback
*1992, USA, Ballantine Books ISBN 0-345-37736-2, Pub date ? March 1992, Paperback
*1999, UK, Hodder & Stoughton ISBN 1-84032-108-3, Pub date 22 February 1999, Audio Cassette (read by John le Carré}

External links

*imdb title|id=0066001|title=The Looking Glass War


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