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TINKER TAILOR BUREAUCRAT

As anyone who has read his books will know, John le Carre is a wonderful writer and past master of psychological suspense amongst dusty files and ugly office furniture. The new film of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is one of the best spy movies I\’ve ever seen. I\’m afraid that Gary Oldman blasts Alec Guinness off the screen in his performance as Smiley. I\’ve read the book, watched the TV series and still I was rivetted by all the reptilian plotting and treachery. The Daily Mail columnist Peter Hitchens hates the movie and lists a long list of crimes against it – but a movie is not a book. There are flaws and failures of imagination and yet it still kept me with it.
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I\’ll have to declare an interest here as my mother worked for the CIA in the 50\’s, 60s and early 70s. Yes, one day I might write about it although hers was very much a desk job and related to the fact that in those pre-internet days, the Iron Curtain was a barrier to words and ideas as well as to people.
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One of the things they capture beautifully in the movie is that sheer heaviness of information. It was something that had to be stored on paper or recorded on huge reels of magnetic tape. Everything weighed a lot. A portable typewriter was a couple of kilos. A filing cabinet was a solid thing that could crush you if all the file drawers came out at once. Everything took a lot of time and effort. My first four books were typed and retyped on a portable Olympia typewriter with much use of Tippex. Then a big wad of paper had to be packaged up and sent to an agent. If you wanted to steal information, you had to physically pick it up and walk out with it.
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Nowadays information is a light, ethereal creature that scampers all over the globe in microseconds. Then it clumped about in books and notebooks and all the modelling and processing happened in fallible easily tired human brains.
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How on earth did we do it?

2 Comments

  1. Thankyou for helping out, great info .

    1. Patricia says:

      I have to say, thinking of how it was when I was young makes me feel like a real dinosaur sometimes!

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