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Lincoln College

John le Carré (1931 - )

John le Carré is the pseudonym of David John Moore Cornwell. He was born in Poole, Dorset, on October 19th 1931. He was educated at Sherborne School, then went to Berne University. After military service in Austria, he proceeded to Lincoln College, Oxford.  He then taught French and German at Eton 1956-8, before entering the British Foreign Service (1960-4) in Bonn. He became the British consul in Hamburg, a post which he then resigned to become a full-time writer. His novels typically centre on the underworld surrounding the British Secret Service.

His low-key realistic accounts of complex international espionage and intrigue reflect the unglamorous side of the spy business. However, his novels are not simple thrillers, but also explore a number of themes, including the pull of conflicting loyalties and the tension that exists between the individual and the State. His first novel, Call For the Dead, was published in 1961 and introduced the character of George Smiley. This "anti-hero" is perhaps his best-known character. He is a clever, aging British intelligence agent who appears in several of his later works, and was in fact based on the Rector of Lincoln College, Vivian Green. It was the success of his third novel, The Spy Who Came in From the Cold, written in 1963, which convinced him to concentrate on his literary career.  He continued to produce bestsellers in the same vein, including Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (1974), Smiley's People (1979) and The Russia House (1989). Many of his novels have either been serialised for television or made into successful feature films. Many think that the end of the Cold War will have removed his most fertile subject matter. However, others argue that le Carré, like any other great writer, is also a social commentator. He has also been made an honorary Fellow of Lincoln College.