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 7 : Kiever | Summary



Leamas has lunch again with Ashe, during which Leamas continues to build up the impression that he has been mistreated by the Circus. He complains about being used in Berlin as no more than office boy for the Americans and mentions that he's homeless because his previous employer gave him a lousy pension. Ashe seems to take pity on Leamas and invites him to stay at his place. He offers to introduce Leamas to some important contacts who might help him financially, including Ashe's boss, Sam Kiever. Leamas agrees, and they go to Ashe's apartment. After Ashe steps out, Leamas contacts the Circus about the upcoming meeting with Kiever. Ashe returns and introduces Leamas to Kiever. The threesome go to dinner, where Kiever talks about the political situation in West Germany and France.

After dinner, Ashe and Kiever take Leamas to a striptease club. Leamas gets annoyed at Ashe and asks Ashe why he followed him from the prison and paid for his meals. Also, Leamas glances at Ashe's club card, which has the name Murphy. Leamas asks why Ashe is using a phony name. Kiever then tells Ashe to leave, which he does. Kiever makes a proposition to Leamas. He says he has a journalistic offer, which involves Leamas's providing him with information. The assignment pays extremely well and promptly. When Leamas asks who publishes the material, Kiever gives the mysterious reply, "International clients." He offers Leamas 15,000 pounds, which he can draw on almost immediately, with more to follow. Leamas thinks to himself that the East Germans are rushing the offer, probably wanting to take advantage of his bitterness over his prison experience, his general "social resentment," and his diminished financial situation. Kiever wants Leamas to write all his reminiscences about working for the British Secret Service. They will take a flight to Holland, where they will meet the client. Kiever takes Leamas to his apartment. Early the next morning, Kiever gives a passport to Leamas and says the trip will be paid for by the firm.


During Leamas's talks with Ashe and Kiever, no one tells the direct truth. Instead, the three of them use a type of code, which involves the use of innocuous statements that must be interpreted to understand their real meaning. For example, when Ashe tells Leamas that he needs good contacts to get satisfying work, he is not really showing concern for Leamas's welfare. Instead, he's suggesting to Leamas that influential people will pay him for certain services. Ashe is not exactly sure how much Leamas understands these implications, but figures he's getting the idea. Later, Kiever apparently offers a journalistic job to Leamas. However, what Kiever is doing has nothing to do with journalism. In reality, he is offering Leamas the chance to provide classified information to the East Germans for which Leamas will be well paid.

These conversations involve layers of deception within the story. Leamas deceives Ashe by appearing oblivious to his real intent, namely to make him an informant. Eventually, Leamas appears to realize that Ashe has ulterior motives. He gets angry at Ashe and asks what he is really up to. By doing this, Leamas appears as if he's really being honest and is just starting to figure out the truth. At least, this is what Leamas wants Ashe and Kiever to believe. The fact is that Leamas has been suspicious of Ashe from the moment they met. Underneath it all, however, Leamas is still being deceptive. He does not want to give classified information for money, but instead wants to use this ruse to get rid of Mundt.

Kiever's layers of deception are more thinly disguised. At first, Kiever acts like a disinterested businessman. Eventually, he puts aside this façade and makes an offer to Leamas to provide information for money. He disguises his offer as an opportunity to do journalistic work. But Leamas and Kiever both know what is really being discussed. Kiever is asking Leamas to become a paid defector, a person who betrays his country by trading classified information, usually with another country, in return for protection, such as asylum.

It is interesting to note that Leamas makes one direct, truthful statement, specifically when he tells Kiever that everything is being paid for by the Worker State. This in fact is true. The Worker State, East Germany, is paying for Leamas's expenses. However, Leamas notes sarcastically that the Worker State is also paying for Kiever's "luxurious and expensive" flat. In doing so, Leamas is pointing out the hypocrisy of a communist government paying for an elegant apartment. This is normally something communists, who do not favor wealth and extravagance, would oppose. It reveals the contradictory layers of truth in the Cold War with countries doing things seemingly against their own interests, all in the nature of gaining the upper hand. Kiever gets angry for the first time. Leamas has broken a rule of espionage by telling the truth about some of the hypocritical actions underlying the Cold War. As a result, Kiever tells Leamas to "shut up."

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