George Smiley, who is released from his work as a spy for British intelligence because he is suspected of compromising secrets, if not actually working for the Russians. Smiley is pressed back into service by his old colleagues, who realize not only that is he not implicated in spying for the other side but also that he is the one man capable of exposing the “mole,” the double agent who has infiltrated “the Circus,” as British intelligence calls itself. Smiley is well into middle age and weary of Cold War spy games. He is also skeptical of his side’s morality, but he has a residual loyalty to his country and to his colleagues as well as a dogged desire to know the truth. His unassuming demeanor often leads people to underestimate him. He is married to a beautiful woman, Ann, who has had several affairs and has left him. To some of his colleagues, Smiley may seem a pathetic character, yet it eventually becomes clear that he has the best mind in the intelligence services.
Karla, the nemesis of British intelligence. He runs the Soviet spy network and is responsible for recruiting and running the mole who has ruined the British spy network in Eastern Europe. Smiley met Karla once and interrogated him, trying unsuccessfully to get his arch adversary to defect. Smiley realizes that Karla cannot be tempted or duped and that he can be defeated only if the...
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