James Bond is no spy. This was the decades-old declaration of John Le Carré, a thriller-writer of the period of Ian Fleming but who preferred a slightly different writing style. Anita Singh digs up a BBC interview with Le Carré from the 1960s in which Le Carré declares that he "dislike[s] Bond," who is not so much a spy as "some kind of international gangster." He has no "political context. It's of no interest to Bond who, for instance, is president of the United States or who is president of the Union of Soviet Republics." In fact, says Le Carré, the success of the Bond franchise is built entirely on the "consumer goods ethic." Here's the idea:
That everything around you, all the dull things of life, are suddenly animated by this wonderful cache of espionage--the things on our desk that could explode, our ties which could suddenly take photographs. These give to a drab and materialistic existence a kind of magic which doesn't otherwise exist ... a base, a low magic. They even are a kind of social soporific because they convince us that the material things which so desperately need animation are themselves in fact sufficient.
Singh also uncovers a section of the interview in which Le Carré goes so far as to suggest the character itself is a consumer goods-driven simpleton, "neo-fascistic and totally materialist"--a man who "would have gone through the same antics for any country, really, if the girls had been so pretty and the Martinis so dry." At another point Le Carré complains about the public making a competition out of the writings of the various spy-novel writers. "One is drawn into a race which for my part I find abhorrent," he says. "It isn't a question of knocking other people," he continues, before noting: "I don't happen to like Fleming."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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