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"No-Men in This No-Man's Land": British State, Nation and Political Enemy in John le Carré's 1960s and 1970s Cold-War Novels

Manning, Toby (2015). "No-Men in This No-Man's Land": British State, Nation and Political Enemy in John le Carré's 1960s and 1970s Cold-War Novels. PhD thesis The Open University.

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Abstract

This thesis examines John le Carre’s 1960s and 1970s Cold-War novels in their historical context, and devotes a chapter each to: Call for the Dead (1961), The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (1963), The Looking Glass War (1965), Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (1974), The Honourable Schoolboy (1977) and Smiley’s People (1979). The thesis argues, contra the critical and popular consensus, that far from being ‘neutral’ representations of Cold War politics, these novels give expression to a powerful liberal-national ideology. The thesis breaks down into three themes. First, le Carre’s representation of the British state is scrutinised via the intelligence services. Although le Carre’s novels have been interpreted as anti-establishment, close historicist analysis discloses a contradictory affirmation of the British establishment. The state is decried and disavowed by the novels’ protagonists for its bureaucracy, inefficiency and expedient morality, but this is a distraction from these protagonists’ actions’ defence and reassertion of the state. Second, le Carre’s representation of the British nation is examined wherein the discursive field of ‘nation’ provides insight into who and what was being fought for in the Cold War. These projections of British nationality, of a neutral ‘way of life’, also expose anxieties about British post-war social reconstruction, British Empire and British decline. The books constitute a reassertion of a conservative British nationalism, probing but ultimately reaffirming traditional class hierarchies and British ‘decency’ both at home and abroad. Thirdly, le Carre’s representation of Communism, the West’s political enemy, is analysed, offering insight into the tactical and ideological British anti-Communist effort during the Cold War. Communism is presented as an existential threat to the British society but without any clear ideological motive being revealed. In these novels a trenchant anti-Communism disproves critical claims that le Carre’s work proposes moral equivalence between East and West.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Copyright Holders: 2015 The Author
Keywords: Language, literature and linguistics; Cold War fiction; le Carre, John; British and Irish literature
Academic Unit/School: Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS) > Arts and Humanities > English & Creative Writing
Item ID: 61277
Depositing User: ORO Import
Date Deposited: 17 May 2019 12:53
Last Modified: 09 Aug 2019 06:16
URI: http://oro.open.ac.uk/id/eprint/61277
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