John le Carré dies aged 89 - spy novel also dead?

Bestselling author John le Carré has died in Cornwall at the age of 89. Le Carré, whose real name was David Cornwell, once worked for secret services himself and garnered international fame with his spy novels from the 1960s onward, in which betrayal and loyalty were key themes. Commentators discuss whether Le Carré's work and the spy novel in general have retained their relevance since the end of the Cold War.

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Plenty of material to go on

The fall of the Berlin Wall did nothing to stop Le Carré, historian Andrei Muraru writes on

“John le Carré continued to think up dirty secrets involving espionage - be it in the pharmaceutical industry, the arms or drug trade, the underworld, the war against Terror or the absurd pro-Brexit campaign. 'Spying and novel writing are made for each other. Both call for a ready eye for human transgression and the many routes to betrayal,' the British author once said. He was a keen explorer of the world after World War II. He was a chronicler of the Cold War world, but in a certain sense also of today's confused and divided one.”

Echo24 (CZ) /

Still waiting for great hacker novels

The end of the Cold War also marked the end of the classic spy novel, Echo24 laments:

“Of the four great authors in this genre, only eighty-two-year-old Frederick Forsyth is still alive. What's more, the spy's job description has also changed. In an age of ubiquitous cameras and readily-available DNA analyses, it's becoming more and more difficult to deploy agents using a foreign identity. Information is now collected digitally by hacking databases. ... In literary terms, this new era is still waiting for its own Forsyth or le Carré. But that doesn't mean that the fame of the old classics will fade. The mastery of these books remains.”