George Orwell wrote that a creative writer can expect to remain at the top of form for only about 15 years. John Le Carre wrote espionage novels at a high level for nearly 60 years.

''The Spy Who Came in From The Cold, ''Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy,'' ''The Little Drummer Girl,'' ''The Night Manager,'' ''The Constant Gardener''.

Few writers have had a string of titles that so imprint themselves on the mind and have lent themselves to punning wordplay in the fidgety hands of headline writers everywhere.

Mr. Le Carre had a knack for language of every variety. His books hum with the flavorful and recondite language of espionage. He invented some of the jargon himself - the term ''honey trap,'' for instance, to denote using sex to compromise a target, made its way fro his work into the intelligence community.

He was nearly the victim of a bad bit of verbiage. Born David John Moore Cornwell, he attended Oxford and later worked for both MI5, Britain's counter-intelligence and security agency, and also I6, it's foreign intelligence wing.

MI6 wouldn't allow him to publish his first novel under his own name, so what to call himself? His publisher's suggestion included ''Chunk Smith.'' This was a bullet neatly dodged.

Mr. Le. Carre best-known spy, Smiley is among the great literary charcters of the 20th century. Alex Guineness played him in two BBC TV series, ''Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy'' and ''Smiley's People,'' and he embodied Smiley's plump and clammy constitution, which Mr. Le. Carre described in ''Call for the Dead.'' this way :

''Short, fat and of quiet disposition, he appeared to spend a lot of money on really bad clothes, which hung about his frame like skin on a shrunken toad.''

If Mr. Guiness made Smiley vaguely resemble the poet Philip Larkin, Gary Oldman gave him a bit more pained muscle in a 2011 remake of ''Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy,'' for which he was nominated for an Academy Award.

He didn't attend book parties. He did not compete for, nor accept book prizes. In 2011, when he was nominated for the Man Brooker International Prize, he asked that his name be withdrawn.

He had honors of a different sort Philip Roth called Mr. Le Carre's autobiographical novel ''A Perfect Spy'' [1986] ''the best English novel since the war.'' That's a crazy thing to say, but the novel is very good.

The Times of London ranked Mr. Le Carre 22nd on a list of the 50 greatest writers since 1945.

His privacy at his remote house in Cornwall was cemented by the fact that he owned a half-mile of the surrounding cliffside in all directions. Mr. Le Carre's essential solitude emerged often in his fiction.

An early draft of ''Tinker, Tailor,'' he has written, began with his mental image : '' a solitary and embittered man living alone on a Cornish cliff, staring up at a single black car as it wove down the hillside towards him.''

In person, Mr. Le Carre seemed like the most patrician man alive. Yet he was a critic of the British Class and education systems. ''I find our obsession with the class to be absurd,'' he told me.

''I have a right to these feelings, because I have pretended to be a gentleman for so long.''

The World Students Society thanks the author.


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