The Secret Pilgrim Essay - Critical Essays

John le Carre

The Secret Pilgrim

Ned is a retired intelligence officer, a young man who left the Royal Navy to serve his country as a loyal knight enlisted in a crusade to rid the world of the Soviet Antichrist. This naive approach is soon replaced by a more wary regard for those with whom he must consort. He discovers he is only a pawn to be maneuvered by his superiors in response to considerations of which he is often ignorant. Moreover, he develops a considerable facility in the art of interpersonal manipulation himself. Indeed, he finds himself in danger of losing his own humanity as he strives to combat the inhumane aspects of the system he has sworn to destroy. He wonders if those designated as his opponents are not in fact compatriots in a common struggle. In other words, the right people “lost” the Cold War and the wrong people won. THE SECRET PILGRIM may prove to be John le Carre’s best work since his third novel. This is not to denigrate the body of that which came before. Few have presented the moral/philosophical ambiguities which are central to the espionage community in such an effective manner. Still, the central character of THE SPY WHO CAME IN FROM THE COLD was a man calloused by decades of a “secret” life. THE SECRET PILGRIM chronicles the circumstances which brought him to that pretty pass.

Sources for Further Study

The Atlantic. CCLXVII, February, 1991, p. 92.

Chicago Tribune. December 30, 1990, XIV, p. 1.

The Christian Science Monitor. January 24, 1991, p. 13.

London Review of Books. XIII, March 21, 1991, p. 22.

Los Angeles Times Book Review. January 6, 1991, p. 2.

The New York Review of Books. XXXVIII, March 28, 1991, p. 8.

The New York Times Book Review. XCVI, January 6, 1991, p. 3.

Newsweek. CXVI, December 31, 1990, p. 63.

Time. CXXXVII, January 14, 1991, p. 61.

The Washington Post Book World. XXI, January 27, 1991, p. 1.