London, Dec 13 (efe-epa).- British writer John le Carré, who drew on his own experience as a spy to create some of the best espionage thrillers of the 20th century, has died at the age of 89.
Le Carré died on Saturday due to pneumonia at the Royal Cornwall Hospital in Truro, Cornwall, in south-west England, his family and his agent, Jonny Geller, reported Sunday. It was an illness not related to Covid-19.
Geller said le Carré was “an undisputed giant of English literature. He defined the Cold War era and fearlessly spoke truth to power in the decades that followed.”
Le Carré leaves a legacy of novels in which he examined like few others the tensions during the Cold War and the gritty reality of being a professional spy over the romance and glamor portrayed in James Bond books.
Geller said one of his most well-known novels, “The Spy Who Came in from the Cold,” “made him the most famous spy writer in the world.”
In a postcript to the 50th anniversary edition of the book, le Carré said: “I wrote ‘The Spy who Came in from the Cold’ at the age of thirty under intense, unshared, personal stress, and in extreme privacy. From the day my novel was published, I realised that now and for ever more I was to be branded as the spy turned writer, rather than as a writer who, like scores of his kind, had done a stint in the secret world, and written about it. The novel’s merit, then – or its offence, depending on where you stood – was not that it was authentic, but that it was credible.”
Le Carré was born as David John Cornwell in Poole, Dorset in 1931.
In the late 1940s he studied foreign languages in Switzerland before joining the Intelligence Corps of the British Army. Garrisoned in Austria in 1950, he worked as a German-language interrogator of people who crossed the Iron Curtain into the West.
Two years later he returned to England to study at Oxford University and began working covertly for MI5 (domestic intelligence), spying on far-left groups for possible information on Soviet agents.
After teaching at Eton College, he became an MI5 officer in 1958, and began writing his first novel “Call for the Dead.”
Two years later he transferred to MI6, working in foreign intelligence and under cover as Second Secretary at the British embassy in Bonn, Germany, and later as political consul in Hamburg.
He wrote under the pseudonym of John le Carré (John the Square) as foreign office employees were prohibited from publishing in their own names.
In 1964 he had to leave the services after his identity was revealed by double agent Kim Philby, after which he decided to dedicate himself fully to writing.
Many of his novels were adapted for the big screen, including “The Spy Who Came in from the Cold” (starring Richard Burton), “The Constant Gardner” (Ralph Fiennes, Rachel Weisz) and “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” (Gary Oldman, Benedict Cumberbatch, Colin Firth, Tom Hardy.)
“The Night Manager” was turned into a six-part BBC TV series starring Tom Hiddleston.
Earlier this year he won the Olof Palme Prize for “his engaging and humanistic opinion-making in the literary form regarding the freedom of the individual and the fundamental issues of mankind. He donated his $100,000 winnings to Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders).
Le Carré’s family said in a statement that they “all grieve deeply his passing.” He leaves behind his wife, Jane, four sons Nicholas, Timothy, Stephen and Simon, 14 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
Author Stephen King wrote on Twitter: “This terrible year has claimed a literary giant and a humanitarian spirit.” EFE-EPA