John le Carre’s spymaster George Smiley and his adversary Karla

No writer has been more highly praised for spy fiction set in the Cold War than John le Carre, who died on December 12 at the age of 89.

The Karla trilogy pitting British spymaster George Smiley against his Soviet counterpart Karla were mammoth bestsellers, made into a movie (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) and two BBC TV series (Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and Smiley’s People).


John le Carre’s spymaster George Smiley and his faithless wife

I can’t forget John le Carre’s description of spymaster George Smiley catching a glimpse of his wife Ann cheating on him.

The scene came to my mind as I read the obituaries of John le Carre, who died on December 12 at the age of 89.


Jan Morris and Harold Evans

Two people I admire greatly died this year: the legendary editor Harold Evans and Jan Morris, the only writer I know who had written both as a man and a woman.


Can literature be a healer in a pandemic?

Hamlet tells Horatio:

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

His words seem all too true today if you substitute science for philosophy. Who ever thought a virus transmitted by a bat could disrupt the whole world?


The Narrow Road to the Deep North

Harrowing, bleak and elegiac in turns, this Booker Prize winning novel of love and war is imbued with a fatalism that strangely resonates in this time of the coronavirus pandemic.

Books Poetry

In praise of PG Wodehouse

It feels like heaven,
To be reading PG Wodehouse again,
Hailed by critics one and all,
As the Garden of Eden before the Fall,


Jan Morris’ beautiful diary

Even in her 90s, Jan Morris remains a pleasure to read. I am re-reading her book, In My Mind’s Eye: A Thought Diary, first published in 2018, when she was 91 or 92 years old. And what a pleasure it is. She is observant as ever, recording her observations in beautiful prose. Filled with fond reminiscences, gentle humour and painterly descriptions, this is a diary of a happy and fulfilled life.


Not quite limericks

There is a gentleman in Beijing
By the name of Xi Jinping
With a burning ambition
And steely determination
To be the world’s uncrowned king.


Books Poetry

Unleash the poet within

Unleash The Poet Within
Is a primer for women
To try their hand at verse,
Though why it’s male-averse
I’ve no notion
Or explanation
For. Is the author,
Wendy Nyemaster,
A literary feminist,
A versifying specialist,
Intent on a sorority
Skilled in prosody,
But absolutely no time
To teach men to rhyme?


William Dalrymple, Bengal and East India Company

Did Bengal’s last independent ruler Nawab Siraj ud-Daula bring about his own downfall and pave the way for the British conquest of India by his attack on Calcutta, destroying the city? The question came to my mind after reading William Dalrymple’s The Anarchy: The Relentless Rise of the East India Company.