The Night Manager

(Literary Masterpieces, Critical Compilation)

John le Carré began looking for a new emphasis for his espionage fiction in his previous two novels, The Russia House (1989) and The Secret Pilgrim (1991). The Night Manager, his thirteenth novel, looks beyond the end of the Cold War to the burgeoning business of illegal anus dealing. Le Carre’ vividly depicts an intelligence establishment bored by the mundane post-Cold War world and confused by the murky morality of contemporary geopolitics.

The Night Manager tells two parallel stories. One deals with the exploits of Jonathan Pine, soldier turned hotelier turned spy, and his struggles to understand his contradictory, potentially self-destructive nature. The other recalls the complexity of the George Smiley novels, particularly Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (1974), in examining the political and bureaucratic infighting among various elements of British and American intelligence. The two stories converge in a series of betrayals.

While working in the Queen Nefertiti Hotel in Cairo, Jonathan Pine meets Sophie, a mysterious Egyptian, when she asks him discreetly to photocopy some incriminating documents stolen from her lover, Freddie Hamid, a sleazy playboy and co-owner of Jonathan’s hotel. Although he promises not to, he makes additional copies and patriotically turns them over to British intelligence. Soon after Jonathan and Sophie become lovers, she is brutally murdered. Jonathan retreats from the pain of his guilt to the Hotel Meister Palace in Zurich, where suddenly appears Richard Onslow Roper, the international arms dealer Jonathan knows to be responsible for Sophie’s death, since the stolen documents related to his dealings with Hamid. Seeing Jed, Roper’s mistress, Jonathan begins falling in love again despite himself.

The orphaned son of an army sergeant and a German mother, Jonathan had left the army after killing terrorists during a top- secret operation in Northern Ireland. Seeing Roper reminds him of the impossibility of fleeing the consequences of his actions, and he volunteers to work with British intelligence to entrap the arms dealer. Leonard Burr oversees the operation known as Limpet, aimed at convincing Roper and his cohorts that the hotelier is a fellow criminal so that he can infiltrate their operation.

After escapades in Cornwall and Quebec, Jonathan lands at Hunter’s Island in the Caribbean, posing as a cook. Rescuing Roper’s son, Daniel, during a staged kidnap-ping, Jonathan is severely beaten by one of the supposed kidnappers. Roper takes him to his home on a nearby island so that he can be nursed back to health. In the Roper enclave, Jonathan is unable to escape the suspicions of Corkoran, Roper’s vicious, jealous henchman. Matters are complicated by Jonathan’s dangerous affair with Jed and Corkoran’s awareness of it.

Using extraordinary ingenuity, Jonathan sends the British proof of Roper’s inroads into the international business establishment and details about major shipments of arms and drugs. After Burr’s enemies in British intelligence betray Jonathan, Burr must choose between capturing Roper and saving his agent.

The Night Manager revolves around a series of betrayals. Sophie betrays Freddie because her moral sense is outraged by his greedy involvement in arms smuggling. Why Jonathan betrays her is less clear. His only explanation to himself is one of misguided patriotism: “I was One of Us-Us being Englishmen of self-evident loyalty and discretion. Us being Good Chaps.” As an outsider to a world of privilege he secretly admires, Jonathan both longs to fit in and defiantly states his class consciousness. When Sophie asks if he was at schOOl with a British acquaintance, Jonathan replies, “I wasn’t at that kind of school.” Part of his motivation for revenge against Roper is that his adversary, like Freddie, has resorted to crime despite coming from a world of privilege.

Jonathan betrays Sophie before falling in love with her, but his guilt is compounded by his failure to tell her of his love, creating a nagging sense of incompleteness: “Look at himself how he might, he saw nothing but half-measures, failures and undignified withdrawals, and Sophie was the monument to all of them.” These failures include a marriage during which his inadequacies made his wife suspect him of homosexual leanings. He denies himself passion until Sophie, only to see her murdered because of him; he gets a second chance with Jed, only to create circumstances that will destroy them both.

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(The entire section is 1875 words.)