Thursday, February 24, 2011

John le Carré donates archive to The Bodleian, Oxford Univeristy. Time to start collecting his books!

A nice article in The Chronicle of Higher Education by Jennifer Howard, The Novels That Came In From the Cold:  John le Carré Gives Archives to the U. of Oxford, is worth a visit, especially if you are interested in collecting spy novels of the Cold War era.  A wonderful gift to the world class Bodleian Library at Oxford and an indication that scholars and collectors will continue to be interested in le Carré for years to come.  I wonder if the announcement will cause a run on le Carré's books or just push up the price!  Of course, another way of looking at this is Oxford still may be annoyed that The Lilly Library at Indiana University holds the Ian Flemming archive and book collection (see my previous post on Flemming) and they are pushing to acquire the archives of all Oxford associated authors or UK spy genre authors.

I'm not an active collector of the spy novel genre but I do own one first edition, first printing le Carré, A Perfect Spy, Alfred Knopf, New York, 1986 (UK Edition, Hodder and Stoughton, London, 1986).  I consider this collectible for anyone trying to build a comprehensive le Carré collection of first edition, first printings of both the UK and USA editions, or simply a collection of USA editions.  I rescued A Perfect Spy while cleaning out a family library and kept it after researching the market for the book.

From the Chronicle article:

"John le Carré is the pen name of the novelist David Cornwell, an ex-spy and Oxford graduate himself. Over a 50-year career, he has used the cloak-and-dagger—or mackintosh-and-pistol—genre to document the mind-set and casualties of the Cold War and subsequent geopolitical upheavals. He has written 22 novels, among them The Spy Who Came In From the Cold, The Tailor of Panama, and The Constant Gardener as well as the novels that put Smiley at the heart of the action." Smiley (George Smiley)  refers to the main character of many of le Carré's novels, an ordinary Oxford graduate who matches wits with a Russian spy, Karla.  While action is the hook, the history of the Cold War era and le Carré's deep understanding of the strategy, actions, and outcomes of the Cold War is the reward.  For anyone interested in immersing themselves in the history of the Cold War le Carré is a fine starting point.

le Carré is a prolific author with a new novel published late in 2010.  His Smiley Series comprises eight novels published between 1961 and 1991.  He authored fourteen other novels and a few non-fictions works and collections so far.  His books are the source for numerous big screen movies, television series, mini-series, and  films.  To be released in 2011 is Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, staring Colin Firth, of The King's Speech (subject of a recent post here).  If you are interested in collecting le Carré, you better start now as there is ample supply and the prices will sure to rise as his fame continues to grow.  Start your search for first edition, first printings of his books today!

John le Carré has a wonderful website here.  His latest book is

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