Thursday, November 24, 2011

Listened to: "Absolute Friends" by John Le Carre

Listened to: Absolute Friends by John Le Carre, Overdrive download, 2005.

The best thing about this book was the narration by Le Carre himself. The novel was dandy but a great narrator improves any book.

Ted Mundy's mother died during his birth in 1947 and he was raised by a Pakistanis nurse. Ted and his military officer father left Pakistan under scandal. Ted was mostly ignored by his drunken father and once they arrived back in England Ted was sent to boarding school. Boarding school brought abuse to a kid asking about mosque time, beating shoes and clothes for snakes, and other cultural differences. Ted found solace under the tutelage of a professor of German and his athletic prowess brought success.

Ted's father died when Ted was about 18 and he enrolled at Oxford. Taking a semester in West Berlin brought Ted into contact with Sasha. Ted had explored socialism and 1960s student demonstrations while pussy whipped to a German girl in England. He and Sasha become fast friends and Ted rescues the pugnacious, but small and physically deformed, Sasha from a police beatdown during a demonstration. Ted ends up deported and the bounces around different jobs.

Ted finds work with the government and marries. While escorting a traveling acting troupe through Eastern Germany he meets Sasha again. Sasha has Ted take classified into into West Berlin. Ted becomes a spy. Ted and Sasha meet often during Ted's work as a cultural attache until the wall falls. Sasha and Ted have a minor falling out and Ted starts a language school in Leipzig.

Ted and Sasha meet up present day. Sasha knows a guy who wants to fight against corporate control of education. Ted is recruited but is very suspicious. Things happen. Things end badly. After Sasha and Ted are murdered during a raid on "terrorists" their reputations are steamrolled by the government and private interests.

1. I once asked an English exchange student if "Paki" was really an insult. He was South Asian got pissed off at me. I was serious though, I had no idea.
2. The post-death character assassination of Ted and Sasha is thorough and without defense. That epilogue is the most distressing event of the novel.

1 comment:

Alex said...

Author-as-narrator is a crapshoot. Sometimes they make the book completely, others they ruin it. David Sedaris is a good example of the former. As is Stephen King, somewhat surprisingly since he has an...odd... voice.

On the other side, Douglas Adams was brutal.