The Spy Who Came in from the Cold Additional Summary

John le Carre


(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

The Spy Who Came in from the Cold begins with a dramatic nighttime scene in which a British spy is shot down while trying to escape from East Germany. Alec Leamas, a British agent, harbors hatred toward Hans-Dieter Mundt, second in command of the Abteilung (East German intelligence service), who is responsible for the extermination of Leamas’s entire spy network. Back in England, Leamas is recruited for a sting operation against Mundt. Leamas is dismissed from the “Circus” (a special department of the British Intelligence Service) and pretends to go through a period of moral disintegration in order to make himself seem like a good candidate for recruitment as a double agent. During this period he meets Liz Gold, a shy, lonely librarian, who falls in love with him. She happens to be a member of the British Communist Party but is more interested in personal relationships than in causes.

Leamas is approached and agrees to betray his service for a price. He is taken into East Germany, where he meets Jens Fiedler, a brilliant Jewish intellectual deeply committed to Marxist-Leninist ideology. Fiedler is Mundt’s chief rival in the Abteilung. Leamas disingenuously feeds Fiedler rehearsed information intended to make it appear that Mundt has been working for the British. The zealous and ambitious Fiedler accuses Mundt of treason, and a trial is staged with Leamas as the star witness. Leamas, however, learns that George Smiley and his associates at...

(The entire section is 591 words.)