Le Carré, John (2013). A Delicate Truth. London: Penguin Books. 2013. ISBN 9780241965177. Pagine 320. 12,99 €
In un’estate di molti anni fa (doveva essere il 1988 o il 1989) mi è capitata una doppia fortuna. Era partito uno dei bandi del FIO, una specie di cuccagna per i centri di ricerca economica applicata come quello dove all’epoca lavoravo io, perché – a patto di lavorare giorno e notte – nella “finestra” consentita dai termini del bando era possibile redigere decine di schede con le analisi costi-benefici richieste per illustrare il valore economico degli investimenti pubblici proposti. La situazione di eccezionale domanda di analisi economiche “ben fatte” da parte delle amministrazioni pubbliche (a tutti i livelli: locali, regionali e persino centrali) e la reputazione che alcuni centri di ricerca avevano conquistato sul campo nelle edizioni precedenti spinse il centro di ricerca dove operavo io e un altro, solitamente concorrente, a fare cartello. E così mi trovai a seguire un lavoro a Torino con un grande economista (il cui nome ometto per pudore, ben conoscendo la sua riservatezza): il che mi dava la possibilità non soltanto di imparare sul campo cose nuove e nuove tecniche, ma anche di godere delle sue confidenze e dei suoi ricordi durante i viaggi aeree e i pasti. E questa fu la mia prima fortuna. La seconda fortuna fu che il funzionario di FinPiemonte che seguiva i nostri progetti sugli acquedotti regionali, oltre a essere molto simpatico, era un grande lettore e mi fece conoscere due autori che, se non fosse stato per i suoi consigli, non avrei forse mai letto: il primo era il Jean d’Ormesson di A Dio piacendo, che lessi in italiano nell’edizione BUR, e il secondo era il John le Carré del ciclo di Smiley, che lessi invece in originale, Non ricordo, per la verità, da dove abbia iniziato, se, come è più probabile, da La Talpa (Tinker Taylor Soldier Spy) o da Tutti gli uomini di Smiley (Smiley’s People). Fatto sta che, da allora, ho letto tutto quello che le Carré ha scritto, in genere acquistando immediatamente il libro in hardcover e divorandolo sùbito. Mi piace proprio, le Carré, anche nelle sue prove più opache (e ce ne sono state, dal giovanile A Small Town in Germany al poco riuscito Single & Single). Le Carré è un vero scrittore, non uno scrittore di genere. Detto così, è un’affermazione apodittica e soprattutto un po’ grezza. Quello che intendo dire, è che – al di là della trama, di solito avvincente come si confà al genere della spy story – la prosa di le Carré ha grande eleganza e pacatezza ed è per me un esempio e un prototipo di moderna scrittura inglese (nel senso di British, non nel senso di “di lingua inglese”: cioè nel senso per cui i Pink Floyd cantano «hanging out in quiet desperation / is the English way»). E che le sue considerazioni e riflessioni, sparse a piene mani nel contesto narrativo, come se le Carré fosse un ventriloquo (vedi, più avanti, la recensione di Mark Lawson sul Guardian) che le mette in bocca ai suoi personaggi, sono al tempo stesso ironiche e profonde. Temevo che in pochi la pensassimo così – i fan di le Carré come me, quelli che si lasciano guidare nelle proprie azioni e nei propri sotterfugi da quelle che chiamano, più o meno seriamente, “le regole di Mosca” – e che l’establishment letterario storcesse il naso di fronte a le Carré. E lo stesso le Carré ha detto di essersi sempre rifiutato di permettere al suo editore di candidarlo ai premi letterari proprio perché si sentiva respinto dall’ambiente degli scrittori veri e relegato nell’ambito della letteratura di consumo. E invece, finalmente, l’establishment letterario inglese prende coscienza dei meriti a tutto campo della scrittura di le Carré e lo propone per il Booker Prize, se non addirittura per il Nobel della letteratura. Sul primo terreno si muove, non a caso, Ian McEwan il cui Sweet Tooth è ampiamente ed esplicitamente debitore a le Carré (ne sono testimoni gli acknowledgment). In un’intervista concessa a Jon Stock pubblicata sul Telegraph il 3 maggio 2013, Ian McEwan dice:
McEwan says he is not bothered that Sweet Tooth might be categorised as genre fiction. For him, such distinctions are irrelevant. […] “In the end these things just dissolve,” he says. “The only question is how good a novel is, not whether it has spies or detectives or nurses marrying doctors. Take Conrad – we wouldn’t say of him that he’s merely a writer of seafaring yarns. What matters is whether a novelist can devise a particular and plausible world that holds us, and make a moral universe that has such a resonance that we can go back years later and find it still works. Then genre is transcended. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy holds up because it’s a brilliant novel.” Inevitably, our conversation has turned to David Cornwell, aka John le Carré, the doyen of spy writers whom McEwan thanks in the acknowledgements of Sweet Tooth. During his research for the novel, he met Cornwell for a long lunch. “Afterwards, I wrote to him and said, ‘either you’ve used this already or you’re about to, but if you’re not…’ and he wrote back saying, ‘absolutely all yours’. He told me that one of the odd things about working for Five or Six was that you never knew how stupid or clever people were. Everyone was charming but you didn’t know if they were any good at what they did. And then they would suddenly disappear and you didn’t know if they had been posted or sacked. That it should be so opaque immediately around you is very appealing to me.” Le Carré refuses to allow his books to be entered for literary prizes, including the Booker. The reason, some say, is that he has felt rejected by the literary establishment over the years. “That’s long past,” McEwan says. “I think he has easily burst out of being a genre writer and will be remembered as perhaps the most significant novelist of the second half of the 20th century in Britain. He will have charted our decline and recorded the nature of our bureaucracies like no one else has. But that’s just been his route into some profound anxiety in the national narrative. Most writers I know think le Carré is no longer a spy writer. He should have won the Booker Prize a long time ago. It’s time he won it and it’s time he accepted it. He’s in the first rank.”
Nello stesso numero del Telegraph, Jon Stock ci propone la sua recensione di A Delicate Truth: [ATTENZIONE: nelle righe che seguono c’è qualche piccolo spoiler]
In A Delicate Truth, le Carré’s 23rd and best novel in years, he has finally nailed his new target, telling a thrilling story of government cover-ups, personal conscience and public duty. Significantly, the book is le Carré’s most British for years – and his most personal. Toby Bell, a young private secretary to a New Labour foreign minister, gets wind of a counter-terrorism operation on the crown colony of Gibraltar. Bell is a “decent, diligent, tousled, intelligent-looking fellow”, who is also writing a novel. It’s almost as if le Carré, who wrote his first three books while serving as an intelligence officer, has dropped his younger self into the modern mix, to see what he would do. Blow the whistle or keep stumm?The long opening chapter, which reads in places more like Andy McNab than traditional le Carré, is a reminder, perhaps, that the lasting legacy of 9/11 for our spies has been the brutal militarisation of a once urbane profession. Le Carré is on much firmer ground when he’s in among the mandarins and nabobs of the Foreign Office. The dialogue is more credible, the characters nuanced. Sir Christopher Probyn, retired British diplomat, now living in bucolic Cornwall (where le Carré lives) is beautifully drawn. Three years after the Gibraltar operation, he too must decide whether to make amends, but does anyone at King Charles Street listen to a retired diplomat up from the country? Compared to the lean prose of The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, published 50 years ago this year, le Carré’s recent novels can seem overwritten. Some dodgy police dialogue aside (do officers really address people as “son”?), le Carré has returned in A Delicate Truth to what he does best: storytelling. Clever structuring and deft changes in tense drive the narrative along as we follow Toby’s quest to do the right thing. Le Carré has finally done the right thing, too, by fans of his early work and his belief that, post-9/11, Western governments pose as much of a threat as terrorists: armies have been replaced by private, unaccountable contractors, intelligence “product” is for sale and secret courts threaten our very freedom.
Sono particolarmente d’accordo con il giudizio che Stock dà sul primo capitolo: probabilmente era necessario all’economia del racconto, ma non è all’altezza del resto, e ha un registro stilistico e un ritmo narrativo decisamente diversi dal resto del romanzo. La recensione del Guardian (Mark Lawson il 19 aprile 2013) si spinge ancora più in là e – prevedendo che le Carré non riceverà mai il Nobel per la letteratura – lo avvicina a Graham Greene, un paragone che (se lo conosco) commuoverà l’apparentemente algido John le Carré.
Le Carré has a strong claim to be the most influential living British writer. Beyond the obvious spy-writer disciples, such as Alan Furst, Alan Judd and Charles Cumming, non-generic operators including the novelists Ian McEwan, William Boyd, Michael Frayn, Sebastian Faulks and the playwrights David Hare, Tom Stoppard and Alan Bennett have all produced espionage stories that are clearly marked by his example. Even Philip Roth, who called Le Carré’s A Perfect Spy the best post-war English novel, wrote, in Operation Shylock, a book that can be considered a homage. In an interview at around the time of his 75th birthday, Le Carré admitted that he feared producing in older age the sort of low-energy novellas that completed the shelf of his hero Graham Greene. But […] the 81-year-old Le Carré is back at full power with a book that draws on a career’s worth of literary skill and international analysis. Le Carré will almost certainly follow Greene in being denied the Nobel prize for literature, but no other writer has charted – pitilessly for politicians but thrillingly for readers – the public and secret histories of his times, from the second world war to the “war on terror”.
Di questa recensione, come ho già accennato, ho anche trovato particolarmente illuminante questo passaggio:
It’s true that the characters are unusually vocalised, almost as if an actor is auditioning behind the dialogue, but ventriloquism has always been one of the author’s central skills, making his audiobook recordings an extra treat for his readers. Every speaker has a specified accent and there is an acute ear for other verbal tells, from the casual profanity of younger characters, regardless of class, to the fact that Bell knows that he has been frozen out when the minister stops calling him “Tobe” and reverts to “Toby”.
A questo punto dovrebbe essere sufficientemente scontato che vi raccomandi vivamente la lettura del romanzo.
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Le mie sottolineature (riferimenti alla posizione Kindle):
Why not enjoy a complimentary pre-dinner aperitif in our Lord Nelson’s Snug! The exclamation mark in place of the more appropriate question mark was a source of constant annoyance to the pedant in him. 
[…] he prides himself on being the people’s scourge of Whitehall’s bureaucracy – a commendable virtue viewed from afar, but scarcely reassuring if you happen to be a Whitehall bureaucrat. 
As soon as maybe […] 
‘[…] While we re-plan. Understood?’
[…] I recommend but do not command […] 
Politicians, in his limited experience of the breed, were repeat offenders. 
[…] like many affluent people, Quinn is notoriously tight. 
Age? It depends which parts of the lady we are talking about, monsieur. 
[…] basks in the luxury of confession. 
[…] born again, not to his advantage […] 
It is a principle of Giles when negotiating never to express the smallest satisfaction. 
‘I doubt it. […]’ 
That doesn’t make him special. It simply makes you notice him. 
[…] until at some point in the interminable dawn, he discovers that an unconscious mental process has delivered him a seemingly spontaneous decision. 
[…] steak-and-kidney pie […] [2738: uno dei miei preferiti tra i piatti della tradizione inglese]
On the slow train back to London, through the hours of half-sleep in his flat, and on the bus to work on the Monday morning, Toby Bell, not for the first time in his life, pondered his motives for putting his career and freedom at risk. 
‘[…] now that our old friend Giles, alas, is no longer with us.’
‘Not with us? You mean he’s dead?’ Toby exclaimed, ignoring in his concern the implication that Oakley was in some way his protector.
But Charlie was already chuckling away:
‘Dear me, no! I thought you knew. Worse. Our friend Giles Oakley is a banker. […]’ 
If a decade of diplomatic life had taught Toby one thing, it was to treat every crisis as normal and soluble. 
For an hour after that it seemed to him that he thought of nothing but Emily: which was to say that he thought of everything from Giles Oakley’s defection and back again, but wherever he went, Emily went too. 
[…] keeping a casual eye out for the classic telltale signs: the parked car with occupants, the bystanders on street corners chatting into cellphones, the men in overalls kneeling insincerely at junction boxes. As usual, his street contained all of these and more. 
[…] the fair hair had faded to an uneasy grey. 
[…] the fine new head of darkened hair and perfect teeth. 
‘Perhaps I’ve been misled. It’s possible. Assume it. Assume you’re right in everything you say. For argument’s sake. Tell me what you know. There are bound to be contrary arguments. There always are. Nothing is set in stone. Not in the real world. It can’t be. […]’ 
‘You lied to Probyn.’
‘So would you have done. It was expedient. Or hasn’t the dear old FO heard of lies of expediency? […]’ 
[…] your normal, rootless, amoral, plausible, half-educated, nicely spoken frozen adolescent in a bespoke suit, with an unappeasable craving for money, power and respect, regardless of where he got them from. 
And from there, he wandered off into an argument with Friedrich Schiller’s grandiose statement that human stupidity was what the gods fought in vain. Not so, in Toby’s opinion, and no excuse for anybody, whether god or man. What the gods and all reasonable humans fought in vain wasn’t stupidity at all. It was sheer, wanton, bloody indifference to anybody’s interests but their own. 
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