John le Carre left at his death, in December 2020, a posthumous gift. The undisputed genius of literary espionage I had saved one novel ready to be reviewed. ‘Silverview Project’ (Planet / Editions 62) now reaches the hands of readers, who will immediately recognize a very familiar world. Julian, a thirty-year-old, leaves the cut-throat environment of finance in the City to open a bookstore in a small coastal town in Englanddespite his ignorance of the trade. The peace he was looking for will be altered by the meeting of a strange neighbor of Polish origin, Edward Avon, whose wife, an Arabist named Deborah, is ill. Both have a career in international espionage behind them, how could it be otherwise.
Commissioned by the father
“It’s a very classic book in a way. It’s like his first novels, short, compact. He talks about English hypocrisy and the ruling class and at the same time summarizes in that small English town the problems of the entire cosmos,” he explains. Nick Cornwell, the youngest of the author’s children, in a videoconference meeting from his home in London. He was commissioned by his father to polish the novel he had written and which he kept in 2014. Years later he had to honor that promise. “I think that if he did not want to publish it, it was because in a certain sense it is a requiem to the intelligence services in the United Kingdom, just as he had described them before. Is a novel in which no one remains intact. At the same time it is about a metaphor for British society, for the end of integrity”.
Anglo-Saxon critics have lavishly praised the impeccable style of this light work, with all the narrative ingredients of Le Carré, who published 26 novels over six decades. His advanced age – he died at the age of 89 – did not prevent him from continuing to write until the end, as he had always done, in the silent offices of his home in Cornwall or in the London neighborhood of Hampstead.
There are papers, documents, older and more recent material in the family archives, but as a complete novel this is the only one, according to Cornwell. “He was about to send it off for publication when he finished it. For some reason he put it aside. He sometimes mentioned the possibility of going back to it, as any Writer. When I went to read it, I was afraid it would be bad, but I found it perfect.” In the editing work, he adds, has wanted to interfere “the least”. “We can say that he ran the marathon and I gave him the final push to cross the finish line.”
The liberal, tolerant, anti-totalitarian future, where Britain could be more integrated into Europe, multilateralism, was fading. The society he longed for
‘Project Silverview’ is a story marked by disenchantment. The author of ‘The spy that emerged from the cold’ he had lost faith in his own country. “Or rather,” Cornwell points out, “he will say that the country had lost faith in itself. The country in which he believed in 2014 and 2016, with the Brexit above all, it was disappearing, it was evaporating. Since the end of the Cold War and already around the 2000s, with the changes after the September 11 attacks, the liberal, tolerant, anti-totalitarian future, where Great Britain could be more integrated into Europe, multilateralism, was fading. The society he longed for.” Brexit it exasperated him and hurt him deeply. In a final act of protest and rebellion, he became an Irish citizen because he did not want to give up his European identity.
Yes, I am one of many who could not do what we would have wanted for our parents in their last days, while the Prime Minister was drinking wine in Downing Street
No nostalgia for the past
The palpable political anger in his writings and public statements in recent years did not embitter his character in private life. “My father was always on guard, even with his negative emotions. He leaned on the more compassionate side. On a private level he tried to calm things down. When he thought something was wrong, he argued, and if he was wrong, he apologized.” Nor was he nostalgic for the Cold War, the period that defines his literary career. “I think he was the least nostalgic person I’ve ever met. The Cold War marked his life, but he hated it for everything that was done wrong at that time. Thought there was a chance we did not know, or could not take advantage of. He always looked to the future, he wanted a better future, rather than a better past. ”
The name that forms part of the title of the novel, Silverview, is the English translation from the German of the house in Weimar where the philosopher Frederick Nietzsche he spent the final years of his life. Cornwell doesn’t quite know why his father chose him. “Perhaps his intention was to snatch that figure from those who want to make a worse world.” Silverview is also the name of the house where the enigmatic Pole lives with his wife, who is dying of cancer, the illness that killed the writer’s wife two months after he succumbed to pneumonia. They were very hard times for the family, Cornwell acknowledges excitedly, when they were in full confinement. “Yes, I am one of many who could not do what we wanted for our parents in their last days, while the Prime Minister drank wine in Downing Street. That’s something I’m still angry about.”
Publishers: Planet / Editions 62
Translations: Ramon Buenaventura / Nuria Pares
304 / 240 pages. €20.90