What are some quotes from A Perfect Spy?

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poetrymfa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

John le Carré's novel A Perfect Spy tell the story of a British intelligence officer (who is also a double agent for the Czechoslovak secret service) named Magnus Pym who is being pursued by his fellow intelligence officers. The novel non-linearly details both this manhunt and Pym's life leading up to this point, including his childhood with his con-man father Rick, his years as a student and lover, and his entry into the world of being a spy. While Pam had indeed managed to shape himself into the perfect spy over the course of his life's work, he has sacrificed his sense of identity in the process. As a result, he is an unreliable narrator who wrangles with his conscience and different selves. 

Ultimately, the novel tackles the themes of love and betrayal, the nature of personal identity, and the overlap between spies, conmen, artists, politicians, and the clergy. Pym is a traitor to his country within this novel, and this is largely an extension of a childhood that was filled with deception. His evolution as a double agent seems inevitable given the artifice on which the rest of his life was predicated. 

A few quotes from the novel which highlight these themes are:

“You could be the perfect spy. All you need is a cause.” 

“There were half a dozen reconstructed Pyms wandering the streets of Graz that night, Tom, and there isn’t one of them I need now feel ashamed of, or wouldn’t happily embrace as a long-lost son who had paid his debt to society and come home, if he knocked on Miss Dubber’s door at this moment and said, Father, it’s me.”

“Sometimes we have to do a thing in order to find out the reason for it. Sometimes our actions are questions, not answers.”

"Betrayal can only happen if you love."

Read the study guide:
A Perfect Spy

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