The Spy Who Came in From the Cold | Study Guide

John le Carré

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The Spy Who Came in From the Cold | Chapter 12 : East | Summary



On a plane heading for Berlin, Leamas recalls how he was driving too fast to reach an important meeting with Karl Riemeck. As a result, he almost caused a serious accident with another car containing a family with four children. Leamas was severely shaken by the near hit. He also remembers to approach interrogations as Control advised by making the interrogators have to "work for it." Instead of giving them all the information straightforwardly, he should cause the East Germans to feel they have to deduce, or figure out, the truth. This way, they can feel assured of their intellectual superiority and believe they are in more in control of the situation than Leamas. He also recalls how Control said if Leamas would succeed on this assignment, it would be a major victory for the Circus.

The plane lands in Berlin, and Peters leads Leamas on a devious route to a waiting car. As Peters and Leamas are driven into West Berlin, Leamas imagines killing Peters and running away. He considers it "his last chance" to escape his mission, but does nothing. Leamas realizes a small car is following them. The two cars pass through the checkpoint at the Berlin Wall, enter East Berlin, and then drive east out of the city. Leamas asks Peters if Fiedler is going to interrogate him, but Peters offers no clues.

Fiedler is feared and disliked in the Abteilung. He is second in command after Mundt. Because Mundt is a former Nazi and Fiedler a Jew, he and Fiedler have been in conflict. Control wants Leamas to give Fiedler enough information so Fiedler can destroy Mundt. However, Leamas never expects to see Fiedler face-to-face in East Germany. The car he is in and the small car stop by a remote house in a forest. Peters takes Leamas inside; they are soon joined in fact by Fiedler.

Leamas recalls Control's advice to "always remember to dislike" his interrogators, so "they will treasure" any information he gives them. So he acts angry with Fiedler, accusing him of leaking the story of his defection to force him to go behind the Iron Curtain. Fiedler remains polite and offers Leamas some dinner. Peters leaves. Fiedler claims he had nothing to do with leaking the story. After the meal, guards lead Leamas to a bedroom, where he falls asleep.

The next morning, Fiedler enters Leamas's room and says he wants to finish the interrogation. Leamas insists he's told them everything, but Fiedler claims that Leamas told only what he was conscious of. Fielder wants more details about how files were transferred for Rolling Stone. Leamas remembers that he got the files from Peter Guillam, who used to work in West Berlin. Fiedler wonders if Guillam's involvement suggests that Rolling Stone had ties with East Germany. Leamas insists that this is impossible, because as Deputy-Controller he would have been aware of it.


In Chapter 12, le Carré demonstrates the many means of deception used in espionage. Once again, spies use various codes to communicate. Peters makes various motions, such as putting his suitcase down and removing his newspaper from under his arm. A pair of headlights turn on and off as a signal. At a certain point, Leamas sees a man on the phone watching him drive by. At the house in the forest, Fiedler stays in the car as everyone else goes into the building. Fiedler joins them 10 minutes later. All of these actions have some significance, but Leamas is not completely sure what it is. Also, le Carré indicates that Leamas is constantly deceiving Fiedler during their talks. Leamas's anger at Fiedler, his inability to remember details, and his insistence that an East German had nothing to do with Rolling Stone are all a façade presented by Leamas to make Fiedler believe that his defection is genuine.

Fiedler reinforces the two main rationales for the manipulations used by espionage. First, "the whole is more important than the individual." The second is getting good results: the end, therefore, justifies the means. Fiedler's statement reinforces the idea that, although they are on opposing sides, communists may use the same rationales as democratic capitalists to defend their often cold and callous actions. In addition, these rationales have a chilling effect. Leamas almost has a serious accident with a car containing a family, an incident which symbolizes how powerful these rationales can be when they seep into daily life and the ever-present dangers surrounding the people involved and those whose fates they can affect.

Leamas was so intent on meeting his contact Karl, who had some important information for him, that all that mattered was getting to the meeting on time. How he did this didn't matter—the end justifies the means. So Leamas drove recklessly to make sure he wasn't late. As a result, he almost had an accident, which probably would have killed five innocent people. According to the ethics of espionage, the death of these people wouldn't matter in comparison to the good of the whole. What are few individual lives when the preservation of democratic society is at stake? However, Leamas is a human being with feelings like any other, no matter how much his work may affect him otherwise. Because of this, he is terribly shaken by the near accident. The incident also demonstrates how being a spy cuts off Leamas at his peril from ordinary life, symbolized by a father performing the common, everyday activity of driving his children down a highway. Living the cold, impersonal life of a spy has started to take its toll on Leamas.

The near accident also shows how Leamas is following a set route, be it driving on an expressway and doing other tasks for the Circus. On this route, Leamas pursues his goals with a fierce determination, without thinking of the effect that doing so may have on innocent people around him. Leamas is not completely aware of why he's performing his assignments. He just does them with a blind faith in a higher power, namely the Circus. In Chapter 12, Leamas once again finds himself following a set route, not knowing completely why he doing so, as he continues to play the part of a bitter defector. He even considers killing Peters and making a run for it, but he decides almost passively to continue along his predetermined path.

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