Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Spy Fiction and the International Criminal Court

The International Criminal Court has already made a few appearances in cinema but to my knowledge it has not previously been dealt with in modern fiction writing. A couple of paragraphs in John Le Carré’s latest book, A Delicate Truth, change that.

Here is the passage in question :

Le Carré is writing about an anti-terrorist operation in Gibraltar involving British agents who are providing back-up to American paramilitaries (some call them ‘contractors’) who are being directed by right-wing extremists. The suggestion seems to be that the British are happy enough to let the Americans do the dirty work because they are not as vulnerable to prosecution by the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

The book itself is a good read. As Fintan O’Toole points out in his review in The New YorkReview of Books, it is a departure for Le Carré who has built his career writing about cold war espionage where the morality of the two sides was blurred. It was always a good antidote to James Bond. Now, to the extent that there was any lustre to the British spies, Le Carré strips it away to paint a portrait of a nasty and unprincipled Foreign and Commonwealth Office, although one where individual diplomats (they aren’t really spies) take the high road. It involves essentially treasonous conduct, but Le Carré seems to be saying that in a world where governments indulge in renditions and targeted assassinations there is little choice for those who aspire to live according to principles.

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