Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Tinker, Tailor—and Notes Taker

We watched the last disk of John Le Carré’s Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy with Alec Guinness working in splendid company. The book was published in 1974, made into the miniseries in 1979; the Cold War was still lingering on, in other words, and the Tenth Crusade had not yet begun. The experience of that series, which I followed up with starting to read an old copy of Smiley’s People (1979), left its mark on my sleeping self. The works of Le Carré serve as reminders of how society operated at certain levels in the twentieth century, best rendered as dark, dark. It occurred to me this morning, shaking off the shadows as the sun labored to shine, that in the very far away future, by contrast, the twentieth will be remembered as a fabulous and magical time owing to the Twins: Technology and Oil.

Another note occurred as we were watching the segment where the “mole” offers an explanation for his treason to Queen and Country to George Smiley. In the 1970s, quite obviously, the great paralysis that had gripped the world with the Capitalist-Commie polarization, lasting from 1945 right up to the fall of the Berlin Wall, had temporarily preserved a widespread perception that civilization was still something real—rather than, let us say, a lifestyle choice; and that it mattered which side you were on though both were monstrous. That civilization was in major crisis, and right on the brink of a precipice, was clearly present in Le Carré’s mind. But it still mattered enough to write about. Interesting how, since then, everything has…how should I put it? Well, how everything since has come so visibly unraveled.

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