Literature Was John le Carré’s Great Cause—He Considered Being a Writer of Spy Fiction a Serious Responsibility

From a story in the New Yorker by Jennifer Wilson headlined “John le Carré’s Search For a Vocation”:

The summer I finished writing my dissertation, the C.I.A. tried to recruit me—as a spy. The call came in the middle of the afternoon, as I was working on a chapter about Tolstoy and midwifery. An older woman with an eerily friendly voice started going over what the training for a job in clandestine affairs would entail. I stifled a laugh. I didn’t know what was harder to believe: that anyone thought I could keep a secret or that a degree in Russian literature would qualify me to parachute out of a plane. Was I interested in learning more? O.K., I said, mostly out of nosiness, or at least that’s what I told myself. They would be in touch, she said.