Business of the day:
✔︎ Passport ?
✔︎ Rail tickets ?
✔︎ Air tickets ?
✔︎ Know where I’m going ?
✔︎ Think I know how to get there ?
✔︎ Why am I bringing € ?
Basel — here we come.
Thought of the morning:
Since we are going to stop overnight in edgy Crouch End, and that will likely involve eating and slurping at the Maynard, I still maintain it would have been as quick, and not cost more, to have done it by Eurostar and TGV-Lyra.
But what do I know?
Bitter almonds, sour grapes, and a strong dose of Branch Corbynian Kool-Aid.
It is so instructive to see the self-confident storm-troops of Momentum take over a constituency Labour Party. Even one where the “Zombie Blairites” have built membership, canvassed relentlessly, won successive borough, London and parliamentary elections with ever-increasing majorities (and, yes, Hornsey and Wood Green, it is you of whom I speak). And not even a nod of acknowledgement to the service — some of it going back four or more decades — of the discarded remnants of the Ancien Régime.
Off with their heads!
Book of the last evening
A Legacy of Spies found its place on the shelf around 10:20 pm last evening.
As all the reviews say, it is somewhere between impressive and a masterpiece.
Two thoughts stick with me:
It is very much a tidying up of the unfinished. I don’t immediately see any of the star turns from the previous career of George Smiley who do not get another outing. The back-story of Peter Guillam is a masterly way into the story.
The other is the moment when Guillam tracks Smiley to Freiburg (not as the casual reviewer mistook, Basel). It is also the moment in the whole saga when George Smiley opens up, and so steps out of his established character:
… as if the thought has only now come to him, though I suspect it has been between us all this while:
‘I believe you came to accuse me of something, Peter. Am I right?’ And while it is my turn to hesitate: ‘Was it for the things we did, would you say? Or why we did them at all?’ he enquired in the kindliest of tones. ‘Why did I do them, which is more to the point. You were a loyal foot soldier. It wasn’t your job to ask why the sun rose every morning.’
I might have questioned this, but I feared to interrupt the flow.
‘For world peace, whatever that is? Yes, yes, of course. There will be no war, but in the struggle for peace not a stone will be left standing, as our Russian friends used to say.’ He fell quiet, only to rally more vigorously: ‘Or was it all in the great name of capitalism? God forbid. Christendom? God forbid again.’
A sip of wine, a smile of puzzlement, directed not at me, but at himself.
‘So was it all for England, then?’ he resumed. ‘There was a time, of course there was. But whose England? Which England? England all alone, a citizen of nowhere? I’m a European, Peter. If I had a mission – if I was ever aware of one beyond our business with the enemy, it was to Europe. If I was heartless, I was heartless for Europe. If I had an unattainable ideal, it was of leading Europe out of her darkness towards a new age of reason. I have it still.’
A silence, deeper, longer than any I remembered, even from the worst times. The fluid contours of the face frozen, the brow tipped forward, shadowy eyelids lowered. A forefinger rises absently to the bridge of his spectacles, checking that they are still in place. Until, with a shake of the head as if to rid it of a bad dream, he smiled.
‘Forgive me, Peter. I am pontificating. We have a ten-minute walk to the station. You will allow me to escort you?
Is this the creation or the creator speaking to the reader? Beside from the true John le Carré, we may also hear the Hampstead liberal intellectual, David Cornwall. “Freiburg” — “free town” — home of Hannah Arendt, Walter Benjamin, Max Weber, and even the enduring Wolfgang Schäuble. Not to forget Berthold Schwarz who first concocted gunpowder in Germanic lands. Even in that we may have something told us.