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John Le Carre: A Life Unmasked

Episode Guide

One of the most respected and prolific writers of his generation, John le Carre is the undisputed master of the spy novel, with over 22 bestsellers. At 79 years old, the normally guarded le Carre gives his most candid television interview to at his remote clifftop home in Cornwall.

The author describes his early life with his father, a conman and fraudster, and how the lies and deceits made him later feel born into the world of spying and betrayal.

He talks with unprecedented candour about his operations as an MI6 agent in early 1960s Cold War Germany.

He became, in effect, a 'deep cover' author, writing the successful novel The Spy Who Came in from the Cold while still working for the British Secret Service. The book took the spy genre away from the amoral world of James Bond and reflected le Carre's own ethics as a spy and interrogator of potential traitors.

He also recounts his own betrayal by notorious double agent Kim Philby and his refusal to meet Philby when invited to do so, years later, in Russia.

The programme features clips from TV and film adaptations of his books, including Alec Guinness's role as world-weary spy George Smiley. The two became close and le Carre shares some touching, hilarious memories of the great actor.

He also invites Snow into his private writing room and demonstrates his idiosyncratic methods of working - suffice to say that the computer age hasn't caught up with him yet. And le Carre reads from his celebrated Smiley novels.

John Le Carre: A Life Unmasked synopsis

John le Carre speaks with unprecedented candour about his life, and about his career as both special agent and celebrated author

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