John le Carré, Narrator

It is rare for an author to also be a good reader of their own work. However, remembering Adam Sisman’s discussion of John le Carré’s theatrical bent and abilities as a mimic in his book John le Carré: The Biography it’s not entirely surprising that le Carré’s narration of his novels is excellent.

Single & Single, a novel that is not among many critics or fans top ten le Carré novels, becomes utterly compelling as he takes on the voices of the characters he created. The opening scene, with a lawyer out of his depth in a foreign country and facing a brutal death, is perfectly pitched with le Carré slowly raising the tension and panic in the lawyer’s voice. Throughout the story he does an excellent job of distinguishing the various characters through vocal tone or dialect.

Looking into le Carré’s history of reading his own work, I found an article that states that he typically does his own abridging.  Knowing that fact makes me feel much less guilty about listening to an abridged work of his. It’s also apparent that a lot of the abrigement is removing unnecessary clutter that isn’t needed in something being read out loud.

Listening to le Carré read it’s clear that he is that type of writer who hears his characters voices in his head and it shows why his dialogue is so strong. It also clarifies why Alec Guinness’ portrayal of Smiley could have thrown him off his game. For a writer such as him, not being able to hear a character’s voice could easily make it difficult to write.

Le Carré has also read a few other books not his own. He’s read an abridged version of both Treasure Island and Robert Graves’ Goodbye To All That for the BBC and Darkness at Noon by Arthur Koestler.

From the previously referenced article and a couple other sources I came up with the list below. At this point it appears he’s narrated nearly all of his novels. It looks like several of these readings are available on Audible or in an excellent collection of 16 titles from Bolinda

John le Carré read audiobooks

R – Read by le Carré

RCall for the Dead (3 hrs)

RA Murder of Quality (3 hrs)

RThe Spy who came in from the Cold (3 hrs)

RThe Looking Glass War (3 hrs)

RA Small Town in Germany (3 hrs)

The Naive and Sentimental Lover

RTinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (3 hrs)

The Honourable Schoolboy

RSmiley’s People (3 hrs)

RThe Little Drummer Girl (6 hrs)

RA Perfect Spy (6 hrs)

RThe Russia House (3 hrs)

RThe Secret Pilgrim (9 hrs)

RThe Night Manager (5 hrs)

ROur Game (5 hrs)

RThe Tailor of Panama (5 hrs)

RThe Constant Gardener (6 hrs)

RSingle and Single (6 hrs)

RAbsolute Friends (6.5 hrs)

The Mission Song

RA Most Wanted Man (6 hrs)

ROur Kind of Traitor (5 hrs)

RA Delicate Truth (10.5 hrs)

RThe Pigeon Tunnel (10 hrs)

A Legacy of Spies

To help tracking these down, below are some of the publishers that put them out.

From a company called Listening for Pleasure le Carré read –

  • Call for the Dead (3hr)
  • A Murder of Quality (3hr)
  • The Spy who Came in from the Cold (3hr)
  • A Small Town in Germany (3hr)
  • The Lookingglass War (3hr)
  • Smiley’s People (3hr)
  • The Little Drummer Girl (6hr)
  • A Perfect Spy (6hr)

Random House Audio –

  • The Russia House (3hr)
  • The Secret Pilgrim
  • The Night Manager (5hr)
  • Our Game (5hr)
  • The Tailor of Panama (5hr)

Time Warner Audio Books –

  • Absolute Friends (6.5 hr)
  • Single & Single (6 hrs)
  • The Looking Glass War

Simon & Shuster Audio –

  • The Constant Gardner (6hr)
  • A Most Wanted Man (6hr)

Random House Audio –

  • A Delicate Truth (10.5 hrs, unabridged)
  • The Pigeon Tunnel (11.5 hrs, unabridged)
  • A Legacy of Spies (TBD hrs, unabridged)

4 thoughts on “John le Carré, Narrator

  1. Pingback: Le Carré, Revisited  – Spy Write

  2. Henry Hochfelder

    The web-site indicates that Le Carre has not narrated The Honourable Schoolboy. Yet, there is an out of print audio-cassette set advertised on Amazon claiming to contain Le Carre’s narration of the Tinker Tailor trilogy which, of course includes The Honourable Schoolboy. Can you clarify, please. (N.B. I possess all of his narrations barring The Honourable Schoolboy and The Naive and Sentimental Lover.)

    1. Hi! I have Not seen anything about Honourable Schoolboy being recorded by le Carré. Do you have a link to it you can share so I can check it out? Sometimes they list le Carré as narrator even when he’s not the reader.

      1. Henry Hochfelder

        Hi Jeff. Thanks for taking the trouble. I’m afraid i don’t have the IT ‘smarts’ to send you a link, but I can tell you that Amazon list it as the ‘Smiley versus Karla Le Carre Giftpack’ comprising Tinker Tailor, Honourable S and Smiley’s People) on audio cassette (unavailable) and the blurb specifically refers to Le Carre being the narrator. I suspect you’re right and that it’s an inaccuracy, but anything you might uncover would be interesting. Many thanks. Henry.

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