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 18 : Fiedler | Summary



In a comfortable hospital bed, Alec Leamas eats a meal as he talks with Fiedler. Leamas says he feels a little better and wonders what happened to Fiedler. Fiedler claims he was beaten by Mundt because he's a Jew. Fiedler tells Leamas that he had been accumulating evidence against Mundt for some time. Leamas's information gave him the final proof he needed to compile a report accusing Mundt of treason. Fiedler had sent the report to the Praesidium, or executive committee, and to other officials, but not to Mundt. Even so, Mundt learned about the report and immediately had Fiedler and Leamas arrested. Mundt tried unsuccessfully to get Fiedler to confess that he was working with the British Secret Service to get Mundt killed. Meanwhile, the Praesidium read the report and realized that Mundt, not Fiedler, is a possible traitor. So Mundt was arrested, and Fiedler and Leamas were released.

The Praesidium sets up a Tribunal, which will try Mundt for treason. Fiedler serves as the prosecuting attorney, and Mundt is defended by a man named Karden. Apparently, Karden has an unnamed witness who will testify on Mundt's behalf. Fiedler recalls the talk he and Leamas had about the beliefs of people working for the Abteilung versus those of the people working for the Circus. He wonders if the Circus would kill an innocent man. Leamas replies, "It depends on the need." Fiedler seems relieved by this response. He knows his side would do the same. He says, "We're all the same, you know, that's the joke."


In Chapter 18, le Carré shows the black-and-white view of the Cold War opponents through the arrest of Mundt and the release of Fiedler and Leamas. One day, Fiedler and Leamas are in prison being tortured by Mundt, and the next day Mundt is arrested and the two men are set free. This almost absurd manipulation reveals how ideology controls the Cold War. At first, Fiedler is seen as the enemy because he supposedly turned against communist ideology, and is arrested. But then Mundt is seen as the enemy for the same reason, and Mundt is arrested. The personal characteristics of Fiedler or Mundt do not matter.

This chapter also confirms earlier reports about Mundt: he is a sadistic Nazi who hates Jews and therefore kills and tortures for pleasure. Fiedler is a purist, who kills people only when he feels it's necessary for the good of the masses he serves. Also, Fiedler has been very honest with Leamas. Neither Mundt nor Fiedler is a loving human being, but a case could easily be made that Fiedler is a better person than Mundt. Indeed, Fiedler seems to have some qualms about sacrificing the individual for the good of the whole and is relieved when he learns that the Circus uses the same tactic. However, the participants in the Cold War are supposed to disregard all personal considerations. Even if Fiedler was a kind, loving person, he would be arrested and tortured by the Abteilung if he opposed communist ideology. Likewise, sadistic Mundt would be celebrated as a hero if doing so supported communist ideology. In this chapter, Le Carré points out the inhumanity of this situation in which these men are struggling with each other for a truth that is still hidden.

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