John Le Carre, who used to write spy thrillers before he started in his current job as a writer of anti-Capitalist rants disguised as novels, discusses his politics (more than his books) in this rancorous Guardian interview that would make a Naipaul proud. If you sift through the strident attacks (on Blair, the US, anti-egalitarian establishments, public schools) there are some interesting bits, like this one where he talks about movie adaptations of his books.
[…] it is unusual for Cornwell to feel other than mauled when his books hit the screen.
“I have been through the sheep dip with movies before but, like everybody else, I blame myself. I have written what I thought were very attractive books that have broken down badly for film. If they weren’t satisfactory movies, I was part of the process that made them unsatisfactory. I don’t feel that I was used or traduced, but many weren’t very good. Some, though, were. The film of The Spy Who Came In from the Cold was pretty good. Tinker Tailor was really good.” He understandably forbears from naming those sheep-dip adaptations, but The Russia House, The Little Drummer Girl and The Tailor of Panama are surely contenders.
And now, in Cornwell’s estimation, the adaptation of The Constant Gardener is really good, too.
Le Carre is not a ranter. His willingness to make political statements out of his books makes their literary quality suffer – the writing is too strident and lacks the flair that’s needed to make the politics palatable. A flair that Kurt Vonnegut, for instance, had loads and loads of.
“What do you want to talk about? Politics? Our president is a complete twit. I’ll talk about the death of the novel. I’ll talk about anything you want.”
You may not know from the interview, but Cat’s Cradle and Slaughterhouse Five are perhaps the best examples of overtly political books with literary merit – they are great reads even if the politics is unpalatable.