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 14 : Letter to a Client | Summary

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Summary

At Fiedler's request, Leamas signs a letter with an alias to the bank in Copenhagen, asking for a duplicate bank statement to be sent to him in Paris. He also signs a similar letter addressed to the bank in Helsinki. When Fiedler mentions Leamas's involvement with Liz, Leamas threatens to not provide any more information if Fiedler or anyone else in the Abteilung mentions Liz again. Fiedler mentions ominously that "it may be too late."

Leamas and Fiedler go for a long walk, during which Fiedler talks about Mundt's work in Britain. Even though Mundt had killed some people, Leamas says the Circus did not seriously pursue him. He and Fiedler discuss Mundt's surprising ability to leave Britain by plane despite the fact that "the whole of British Security" was looking for him. Leamas plants the idea in Fiedler's mind that the British actually allowed Mundt to leave so he wouldn't reveal how badly one of their agents named Maston had handled a case. Fiedler reveals his confusion that there was no full-scale search for Mundt, as he had thought. Fiedler, though, does not seem satisfied with this answer. He asks for more information about Karl Riemeck. Leamas describes a meeting with him, Karl, and Control. Control asked Leamas to leave for fifteen minutes because he wanted to talk to Karl alone. Leamas has no idea what they talked about and doesn't care. Fiedler admits he is "beginning to like" Leamas, but still does not understand why he defected.

One evening, Fiedler gets some important news from the Copenhagen bank, but doesn't give Leamas any details. Fiedler describes Mundt's ruthless tactics to Leamas. At times, Mundt killed people before Fiedler could even interrogate them. Fiedler asked Mundt to stop this practice, but he refused. Fiedler believes Mundt killed these people to prevent them from talking. He also thinks Mundt was being paid by the Circus to be an informant. Leamas exclaims that Fiedler's theory is crazy. Having been an agent in Berlin for years, Leamas would have known if Mundt was a defector. Fiedler tells Leamas what he found out about the bank in Copenhagen: money was drawn from that bank at the same time that Mundt was visiting the city.

Analysis

In Chapter 14, le Carré interweaves the themes of political manipulation and deception through Leamas's budding relationship with Fiedler. During their talks, Leamas continues to deceive Fiedler by pretending to believe that most of Fielder's conclusions based on the information provided are false. By doing this, Leamas is manipulating Fiedler for the purposes of the Circus. However, as the previous chapter suggests, the line between deception and truth has blurred for Leamas. He has to constantly play his role, which in a way makes it become real. For example, Leamas takes long walks with Fiedler, eats and drinks with him, and tells him stories about life in the Circus. They seem like two old buddies reminiscing about the good old days, and appear to be forming a friendship. Although this friendship is based on deception, it has an authentic quality, similar to how Leamas really becomes an alcoholic in the process of pretending to be one. Indeed, Leamas may believe that feeling friendly toward Fiedler will only add to the credibility of his performance, but at the same time, he might be developing a genuine respect for Fiedler.

By showing this developing friendship, le Carré also strengthens the resemblance between Fiedler and Liz established in Chapter 13. In fact, the scene in which Leamas and Fiedler talk as they gaze at the flames in a fireplace is similar to the scene in which Liz caresses Leamas as she stares at a gas fire (Chapter 12). Soon after the fireplace scene, Fiedler is referred to as Leamas's "companion." Leamas tends to bond with outsiders—people who are part of a system and yet separate from it. Perhaps Leamas trusts outsiders more because they are not so enmeshed in the system. Both Liz and Fiedler are outsiders who have a purity and integrity about them—they state what they believe is true. Because of this, Fiedler tells Leamas the truth when he says he doesn't know how long Leamas will have to remain in East Germany. Under the circumstances, Fiedler could easily have lied to Leamas but chooses not to. And because he is so immersed in a world of deception, Leamas highly values people who tell the truth.

Le Carré thus creates more sympathy for Fiedler through his views about Mundt. Fiedler sees Mundt as a brutal man, who seems to kill without a rational explanation. This type of brutality may relate back in time to the Holocaust, which involved Nazis murdering millions of Jews. Being a Jew, Fiedler must see the connection to Mundt's methods, especially because Mundt is a former Nazi. In this way, therefore, Fiedler can be seen as a less brutal and guilty man than Mundt. Leamas most likely realizes this and finds it appealing.

When Fiedler mentions Leamas's relationship with Liz, Leamas reacts with volatility. He threatens to provide no more information if Liz is even mentioned by Fiedler again. Leamas sees the inhumanity of Liz's getting involved with his business. He loves her and is fiercely protective of her because she is innocent, outside the political manipulations and deceptions of the Cold War. Getting her involved would be an insult to her honesty and integrity.

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