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.
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)