In honor of John le Carré’s new release, The Pigeon Tunnel, throughout the month of September I’m highlighting some trivia about his past novels.
I’m continuing my look at the release of a condensed version of “The Spy Who Came in from the Cold” in the August issue of TRUE magazine. Last post we looked at the images, this post we look at the text.
Looking at the text included, this is a harshly edited version of TSWCIFTC. For a quick example we need look no further than the first sentence given.
From the book –
The American handed Leamas another cup of coffee and said, “Why don’t you go back and sleep? We can ring you if he shows up.”
Leamas said nothing, just stared through the window of the checkpoint, along the empty street.
From the magazine abridged version –
Leamas stared through the window of the checkpoint along the empty Berlin street, then walked to the observation window and stood between the two motionless West German policeman training their binoculars on the Eastern checkpoint.
From the start they’ve already cut out most of the beginning six paragraphs. Paragraphs which set the mood for the entire novel. These editors prove to be ruthless with large sections cut completely, mixed and matched or words changed or removed for seeming no reason.
The final paragraph from the book –
They seemed to hesitate before firing again; someone shouted an order, and still no one fired. Finally they shot him, two or three shots. He stood glaring around him like a blinded bull in the arena. As he fell, Leamas saw a small car smashed between great lorries, and the children waving cheerfully through the window.
And the magazine-
They seemed to hesitate before firing again; someone shouted an order, and still no one fired. Finally they shot him, two or three shots. He stood glaring around him like a blinded bull in the arena before he fell.
They’ve removed the final line which is a crucial call back to earlier in the book when Leamas is nearly run off the road by a similar car and family.
They’ve reduced it to pure plot. A good plot to be sure, but by removing so much else of the book it loses all tension and its soul.
In conclusion, this condensed version of TSWCIFTC is an oddity in every sense of the word.
I’ve got one last oddity in my collection of odd editions of “The Spy Who.” Turn in next week for the thrilling (?) conclusion.