Monday, May 9, 2011

When I Was Curt With John Le Carre

John Le Carre, now almost 80 years old, is probably best known for his 1963 novel The Spy Who Came In From The Cold.  He gave what he announced would be his final interview to CBS Sunday Morning back in February (embedded below). 

I met him in person very briefly about 13 or 14 years ago when he was giving a lecture one evening at Stanford University. This was less than a decade after the fall of the Berlin Wall, and at the time his brand of spy thriller was distinctly out of fashion.  Nevertheless, I was (and still am) a big fan and was genuinely thrilled to hear him speak in person.

Before the lecture started, those of us waiting to attend were milling around out in front.  A white haired older man in a cardigan sweater came up to me and asked very politely if this was the auditorium where John Le Carre was scheduled to speak. Not wanting to get bogged down in conversation with some strange old guy (probably a spy nut!), I said "yes" a little curtly and then stared away.  But he just remained there next to me, in silence. A few awkward minutes later, the doors swung open and we all filed into the auditorium.  "I hope that guy doesn't come sit next to me," I thought to myself.  And to my relief, he did not.

When we'd all found a seat, I looked back to see that older man walking purposefully down the aisle and up onto the stage.  Yup.  That was him. John Le Carre himself. He looked then pretty much exactly as he does in this recent CBS interview, actually.


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