"I hate the real world. I like the Circus and all my lovely boys." - Connie Sachs
Instead of the rugby, last night I settled in to complete my watching Smiley's People on DVD. It's years since I read any of the books, and it strikes me how much more complex and ambiguous this story is, compared to Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. The middle volume of the trilogy - The Honourable Schoolboy - was apparently considered too complex altogether by the BBC (though one wonders perhaps, whether it might also have been because, having landed Alec Guinness in the principle role, George Smiley features very little, if at all, in that volume).
Tinker, Tailor has a clear story and Smiley is clearly a reluctant but heroic figure. In Smiley's People, there is none of the unwillingness of being drawn (again) out of retirement. The gentleness, like the Lady Ann, is gone, replaced by disillusionment yet with impassive determination. He turns over apple-carts. He grills people. He reminds us that it is Karla's fanaticism that would be his downfall (with Guillam there to state the obvious corollary, for those not able to spot it for themselves). One might think spies were motivated to serve a cause; le Carré shows them as fickle and in it mainly for themselves. It's only at the end that the old Smiley seems to return, disinterested in victory.
Patrick Gowers' soundtrack is correspondingly menacing and edgier compared to the baroque elegance of Geoffrey Burgon's in Tinker, Tailor. It also looks forward to Gowers' work for the Granada Sherlock Holmes series beginning a few years later.
The ambivalence suits my mood.