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Absolute Friends Paperback – November 10, 2004

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 456 pages
  • Publisher: Back Bay Books; Reprint edition (November 10, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780316159395
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316159395
  • ASIN: 0316159395
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.5 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (73 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #396,393 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

John le Carre was born in 1931. His third novel, The Spy Who Came in From the Cold, secured him a worldwide reputation, which was consolidated by the acclaim for his trilogy: Tinke, Tailor, Soldier, Spy; The Honorable Schoolboy, and Smiley's People. His novels include The Little Drummer Girl, A Perfect Spy, The Russia House, Our Game, The Taileor of Panama, and Single & Single. John le Carre lives in Cornwall.

Customer Reviews

It went nowhere -- no plot, no substance, shoddy character development.
Anon Emus
Being familiar with the events of the time, especially in Berlin, I was captured by the story.
Friederike Knabe
This is The best Le Carre novel I have read since Smiley's people and I have read them all.
Chris Opryshek

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Bill Godfrey on March 24, 2005
Format: Paperback
As the other reviews to date indicate, you will love this book or hate it according to your particular political and religious prejudices. Broadly, committed Republicans and fundamentalist Christians will hate it and seek to dismiss it as rubbish, Democrats and liberals will see it as an attempt to alert the world to what is happening before our eyes. The five stars show where I stand. There is too much evidence of the 'war of lies' and the people behind it for the plot to be anything but dangerously credible. The denouement of the book hits like a sledgehammer.

Standing back from the politics, the plot and the narrative are as gripping as his best previous work and his command of the detailed build-up of atmosphere remains quite stunning.
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23 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Betsie's Literary Page on November 17, 2004
Format: Paperback

The U.S.-Iraq war has ended and dissatisfied with the British Government, Ted Mundy is betrayed by his English Language School partner, Egon. Egon has fled with the last of their assets, leaving him broke. Out of a job and business Mundy wanders the streets aimlessly. While at a café Mundy meets Zara, a young Turkish prostitute. Instead of taking her up on her offer, Mundy plays the Good Samaritan and offers her a meal.

Drawn to this neglected and abused woman, Mundy escorts her home, against her will. It doesn't take long for Mundy to establish himself as a father figure to Zara's eleven year old son, Mustafa, and soon enough within Zara's bed.

Although things change while Mundy is entertaining a multicultural group of English speaking tourists at Linderhof, a Bavarian Palace, where he works as a tour guide. Like a shadow from the past, Sasha shows up requesting a meet. Sasha is the son of a East German Lutheran Pastor and a middle aged double agent. Mundy agrees and follows Sasha to a secluded flat. Here Mundy's memories take over after the two men greet.

Recollections reveal who Ted Mundy really is, where he comes from, as well as his feelings. A boy born in Pakistan, an adolescent with an alcoholic father who refuses to clarify his mother's identity, and for most of life has associated himself with any cause encountered. From communism and socialism to his first meeting with Sasha in Berlin, when they were university students and at the height of the cold war.

Mundy himself is a flawed individual that has practically failed at everything: college, reporter, novelist, businessman, and radio interviewer. But has managed to succeed at one thing: a secret double agent.
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Joseph Haschka TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 10, 2006
Format: Paperback
ABSOLUTE FRIENDS is perhaps John le Carré's most elegant construct in some time. By its conclusion, it also reflects the author's anger against America's and Britain's overt justification for their current involvement in Iraq, i.e. as the front line in the war against Muslim terrorism. I doubt if it will be preferred bedtime reading for George Dubya or Tony Blair, just as CONSTANT GARDENER wouldn't find favor with pharmaceutical company CEOs.

The hero of the story, and its ultimate patsy, is Edward "Ted" Mundy, born in Lahore of a British officer in the Indian Army and a native nursemaid to an aristocratic English family on the very night that the Raj formally splintered into India and Pakistan. Ted's mother dies during childbirth. His father, the "Major", subsequently joins the new Pakistani Army, but is eventually sent back to England in disgrace after striking a brother officer. Over the decades, the younger Mundy plays cricket, drops out of Oxford, becomes a Berlin anarchist, is expelled from West Germany, and becomes a minor functionary in the British government and an MI-6/Stasi double agent. Then, after German reunification, Ted fails as an English language teacher in Heidelberg, becomes a tour guide at one of Mad King Ludwig's castles in Bavaria, and meets his final destiny as an apparent Muslim sympathizer who's fallen in love with a Turkish ex-prostitute. Mundy's largely directionless life is characterized by a lack of entrenched commitment to anything political, and, like a leaf, is blown from cause to cause by girlfriends, wife, mistress, intelligence handler, circumstance, and, above all, his "absolute friend" Sasha, a stateless, radical visionary/philosopher/anarchist, whom Ted originally meets during his youthful anti-establishment period in West Berlin.
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18 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Friederike Knabe VINE VOICE on July 1, 2005
Format: Paperback
Strong friendships in the spy business are allegedly rare and even deemed impossible to maintain. Who can you trust? What is truth? On which side is the other? Who is the enemy, yesterday, today and tomorrow? In this latest endeavor to explore the spy thriller genre beyond the cold war, Le Carre explores these and other questions. First of all, this is the story of two unlikely friends: one English, with a strong colonial background, the other German, with an East German background. They first meet in Berlin during the late 60s student rebellion. From then on they get drawn together by circumstance or design over years and decades after, until ...

The story's centre is Ted Mundy, an unidentified narrator follows him and seems to view the world more or less from the same perspective. Mundy's on and off reflections of his increasingly complicated life expose him as an accidental spy. He feels like he's having multiple personalities. Drawn by a sense of responsibility toward his student friend, he gets enmeshed deeper and deeper in political intrigues even long after the Berlin Wall comes down. Why does he continue despite the alternative of a fresh start and a small piece of personal happiness? Does he have a real choice?

Sasha, his friend and German counterpart, incorporates traits of young German rebels of the day. He also typifies a certain type of former East German refugee in the West who is torn between dream and reality: anti-west as well as anti-east. The question keeps arising whether he has any real moral standing or is a floater, a prime candidate for the double agent. Several other players who stand out in their respective roles surround the two main characters. There are several attractive women, of course, and English and American spymasters.
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