02 November 2009


I've just caught up with le Carré's Absolute Friends, two pals who meet again in the looking-glass of Cold War espionage and, what le C captures so well, today's unipolar world of terror, counter-terror and the war of lies.

What brought me close to tears comes near the end when the author summarises the fall-out.

In my Hong Kong days I got to know a couple well, a New Zealander who got himself too deep into the dark side and his entirely innocent much younger Thai wife.

I knew nothing about what he did except that I wanted to know nothing, and he made sure that any 'advice' I could provide by way of ... well, no need say more because it doesn't affect my reference to the text I'm quoting.

Whatever my pal was up to, a wheel came off that particular operation and he had to make some very difficult decisions very fast, including sending his wife and child back to some safety of her family in Thailand.

In retrospect, everything had been suspiciously easily arranged - papers, permissions etc - and then the whole thing went from red sector to his director-in-field being removed and I heard only fragments after that.

But news did seep back about his poor darling innocent wife and I can only quote le Carré's brilliant cold prose by way of hinting at what her fate might have been:

"Zara, who significantly had fled with her son on the very day of the siege, was arrested on arrival and was presently being questioned.

There was speculation that she had only been allowed to return to her homeland because Turkish interrogation methods were known to be robust ...

Recent reports from Turkish police sources indicated that Zara, though a tough nut to crack, was beginning to see the wisdom of cooperating with the forces of justice."

That was pretty much the agonised assumption around the FCC bar.

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