It's the oldest question of all, George. Who can spy on the spies?

— John Le Carre

The most gorgeous John Le Carre quotes that are life-changing and eye-opening

During the Cold War, we lived in coded times when it wasn't easy and there were shades of grey and ambiguity.

49

A desk is a dangerous place from which to view the world.

48

The only reward for love is the experience of loving.

32

Until we have a better relationship between private performance and the public truth, as was demonstrated with Watergate, we as the public are absolutely right to remain suspicious, contemptuous even, of the secrecy and the misinformation which is the digest of our news.

27

I think the greatest single enemy is the misuse of information, the perversion of truth in the hands of terribly skillful people.

24

Blackmail is more effective than bribery.

24

A spy, like a writer, lives outside the mainstream population.

He steals his experience through bribes and reconstructs it.

21

A good man knows when to sacrifice himself, a bad man survives but loses his soul.

20

Love is whatever you can still betray. Betrayal can only happen if you love.

18

I had two experiences of criminality: one was my conman father, the other was teaching at Eton

14

There is a terrible alienation in the ordinary man between what he is being told and what he secretly believes.

13

People are very secretive - secret even from themselves.

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About John Le Carre

Quotes 155 sayings
Nationality English
Profession Writer
Birthday October 16

Completing a book, it's a little like having a baby.

12

If there is one eternal truth of politics, it is that there are always a dozen good reasons for doing nothing.

12

Having your book turned into a movie is like seeing your oxen turned into bouillon cubes.

10

Our power knows no limits, yet we cannot find food for a starving child, or a home for a refugee. Our knowledge is without measure and we build the weapons that will destroy us. We live on the edge of ourselves, terrified of the darkness within. We have harmed, corrupted and ruined, we have made mistakes and deceived.

10

The fact that you can only do a little is no excuse for doing nothing.

9

There's one thing worse than change and that's the status quo.

9

People who've had very unhappy childhoods are pretty good at inventing themselves. If nobody invents you for yourself, nothing is left but to invent yourself for others.

8

Ideologies have no heart of their own. They're the whores and angels of our striving selves.

8

How Bush and his junta succeeded in deflecting America's anger from bin Laden to Saddam Hussein is one of the great public relations conjuring tricks of history. But they swung it. A recent poll tells us that one in two Americans now believe Saddam was responsible for the attack on the World Trade Centre.

8

The monsters of our childhood do not fade away, neither are they ever wholly monstrous.

7

A good writer can watch a cat pad across the street and know what it is to be pounced upon by a Bengal tiger.

7

Cheats, liars and criminals may resist every blandishment while respectable gentlemen have been moved to appalling treasons by watery cabbage in a departmental canteen.

6

By repetition, each lie becomes an irreversible fact upon which other lies are constructed.

6

In the last 15 or 20 years, I've watched the British press simply go to hell.

There seems to be no limit, no depths to which the tabloids won't sink. I don't know who these people are but they're little pigs.

6

For decades to come the spy world will continue to be the collective couch where the subconscious of each nation is confessed.

5

The monsters of our childhood do not fade away, neither are they ever wholly monstrous. But neither, in my experience, do we ever reach a plane of detachment regarding our parents, however wise and old we may become. To pretend otherwise is to cheat.

5

A committee is an animal with four back legs.

4

Sometimes we have to do a thing in order to find out the reason for it.

Sometimes our actions are questions, not answers.

4

I am still making order out of chaos by reinvention.

4

Tyranny is like the electric wiring in an old house.

A tyrant dies, the new tyrant takes possession, and all he has to do is drop the switch.

4

I don't think it is given to any of us to be impertinent to great religions with impunity.

4

What do you think spies are: priests, saints and martyrs? They're a squalid procession of vain fools, traitors too, yes; pansies, sadists and drunkards, people who play cowboys and Indians to brighten their rotten lives.

4

The pharmaceutical corporations are engaged in the systematic corruption of the medical profession, country by country

4

Most people like to read about intrigue and spies.

I hope to provide a metaphor for the average reader's daily life. Most of us live in a slightly conspiratorial relationship with our employer and perhaps with our marriage.

4

Writing is like walking in a deserted street. Out of the dust in the street you make a mud pie.

4

All men are born free: just not for long.

3

For better or worse, I've been involved in the description of political conflict.

3

The cold war provided the perfect excuse for Western governments to plunder and exploit the Third World in the name of freedom; to rig its elections, bribe its politicians, appoint its tyrants and, by every sophisticated means of persuasion and interference, stunt the emergence of young democracies in the name of democracy.

3

I've never been able to write a book without one very strong character in my rucksack.

3

I'm really a library man, or second-hand book man.

3

Survival...is an infinite capacity for suspicion.

3

Agents of disruption, subversion, sabotage and disinformation tunnelers and smugglers, listeners and forgers, trainers and recruiters and talent spotters and couriers and watchers and seducers, assassins and balloonists, lip readers and disguise artists.

2

...also took for granted that secret services were the only real measure of a nations political health, the only real expression of its subconscious.

2

Why did I desert Labour? Total bloody disillusionment.

The party was a corpse. It had no ideology, it became detached, old, spineless and needed to go.

2

The greatest threat to mankind comes from the renunciation of individual scruple in favor of institutional denominators. . . . Real heroism lies, as it always will, not in conformity or even patriotism, but in acts of solitary moral courage. Which, come to think of it, is what we used to admire in our Christian savior

2

When the world is destroyed, it will be destroyed not by its madmen but by the sanity of its experts and the superior ignorance of its bureaucrats.

2

It is also the pardonable vanity of lonely people everywhere to assume that they have no counterparts.

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