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John le Carre's classic novels deftly navigate readers through the intricate shadow worlds of international espionage with unsurpassed skill and knowledge and have earned him -- and his hero, British Secret Service agent George Smiley -- unprecedented worldwide acclaim.Rounding off his astonishing vision of a clandestine world, master storyteller le Carre perfects his art John le Carre's classic novels deftly navigate readers through the intricate shadow worlds of international espionage with unsurpassed skill and knowledge and have earned him -- and his hero, British Secret Service agent George Smiley -- unprecedented worldwide acclaim.Rounding off his astonishing vision of a clandestine world, master storyteller le Carre perfects his art in Smiley's People. In London at dead of night, George Smiley, sometime acting Chief of the Circus (aka the British Secret Service), is summoned from his lonely bed by news of the murder of an ex-agent. Lured back to active service, Smiley skillfully maneuvers his people -- the no-men of no-man's land -- into crisscrossing Paris, London, Germany, and Switzerland as he prepares for his own final, inevitable duel on the Berlin border with his Soviet counterpart and archenemy, Karla.


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John le Carre's classic novels deftly navigate readers through the intricate shadow worlds of international espionage with unsurpassed skill and knowledge and have earned him -- and his hero, British Secret Service agent George Smiley -- unprecedented worldwide acclaim.Rounding off his astonishing vision of a clandestine world, master storyteller le Carre perfects his art John le Carre's classic novels deftly navigate readers through the intricate shadow worlds of international espionage with unsurpassed skill and knowledge and have earned him -- and his hero, British Secret Service agent George Smiley -- unprecedented worldwide acclaim.Rounding off his astonishing vision of a clandestine world, master storyteller le Carre perfects his art in Smiley's People. In London at dead of night, George Smiley, sometime acting Chief of the Circus (aka the British Secret Service), is summoned from his lonely bed by news of the murder of an ex-agent. Lured back to active service, Smiley skillfully maneuvers his people -- the no-men of no-man's land -- into crisscrossing Paris, London, Germany, and Switzerland as he prepares for his own final, inevitable duel on the Berlin border with his Soviet counterpart and archenemy, Karla.

30 review for Smiley's People

  1. 4 out of 5

    Candi

    "Like an archaeologist who has delved all his life in vain, Smiley had begged for one last day, and this was it." Smiley’s People is the extremely satisfying conclusion to John le Carré’s Karla trilogy. Having finished the first in the trilogy (Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy) in March and the second (The Honourable Schoolboy) in April, I was able to sink into this installment with reasonable ease. Although once again presented with a fairly large cast of characters, I was more readily able to wrap "Like an archaeologist who has delved all his life in vain, Smiley had begged for one last day, and this was it." Smiley’s People is the extremely satisfying conclusion to John le Carré’s Karla trilogy. Having finished the first in the trilogy (Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy) in March and the second (The Honourable Schoolboy) in April, I was able to sink into this installment with reasonable ease. Although once again presented with a fairly large cast of characters, I was more readily able to wrap my head around the spy world in general. I’m feeling quite comfortable in le Carré’s realm now! With less action per se than The Honourable Schoolboy, this novel was not without its generous share of tension. The interactions and dialogue were the highlights of this book, and the spotlight on George Smiley himself was the main attraction. Smiley is a man that I warmed to almost immediately with my first ever introduction to him in Call for the Dead and he has been growing on me ever since. In fact, I would say that I have grown to esteem the man quite highly. He is someone I would like to have standing by my side in my darkest days. Even more than before, the reader is able to worm his or her way into Smiley’s psyche and truly understand the workings of his conscience. We recognize the harsh demands that the moral complexities of the intelligence world place on a man after so many years in the field. "He was not at peace; he was not, in a single phrase, definable as a single person, beyond the one constant thrust of his determination. Hunter, recluse, lover, solitary man in search of completion, shrewd player of the Great Game, avenger, doubter in search of reassurance—Smiley was by turns each one of them, and sometimes more than one." Once again, I cannot emphasize enough the true mastery of this author’s writing. This is a literary spy novel brimming with intelligence and chockfull of memorable characters – both the good and the bad and those in between. I loved how the ending played out in this one. With a le Carré novel, you never can be sure who will win – or if anyone at all truly triumphs in the game of espionage. "On Karla has descended the curse of Smiley’s compassion; on Smiley the curse of Karla’s fanaticism… We have crossed each other’s frontiers, we are the no-men of this no-man’s-land."

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jaline

    If you have ever been curious about exploring John Le Carré’s writing, this Trilogy (titles listed in order in the next paragraph) from his George Smiley series would be a great place to launch from. I learned in the author’s notes that his intention was to continue the conflict story between George Smiley and the head of Russia’s most top secret intelligence agency for several novels. However, T.V. and movies got in the way – the key characters had become so closely associated with the actors w If you have ever been curious about exploring John Le Carré’s writing, this Trilogy (titles listed in order in the next paragraph) from his George Smiley series would be a great place to launch from. I learned in the author’s notes that his intention was to continue the conflict story between George Smiley and the head of Russia’s most top secret intelligence agency for several novels. However, T.V. and movies got in the way – the key characters had become so closely associated with the actors who played them that John Le Carré started to lose sight of his own vision of them. He then decided to close that arc with this novel, although there are still two more books in the George Smiley series. I can’t wait to find out what they are about! For this trilogy summary, I am going to borrow some Paulingo (Paul’s lingo): It’s the bottom of the 9th and the score is 0 – 0. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is on second base and The Honourable Schoolboy is on first. Along comes Smiley's People and John Le Carré hits it out of the ballpark and brings them all home in a 3 – 0 win for the good guys! This story is remarkable as the plot is both intricate and meticulous while at the same time filled with intrigue and fascinating characters who carry it forward. This was a truly memorable story and although I would love to write more, it would be impossible without spoilers. I thoroughly enjoyed everything about this novel and highly recommend this Trilogy to anyone who wants to refresh their acquaintance with George Smiley et al, or for those who are new to John Le Carré’s writing and not sure where to start.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Warwick

    What is so exhilarating and fulfilling about reading le Carré is the sense of genuine intelligence at play, both in the characters and in the author. There are different ways of trying to convey great cleverness in a literary character: one approach is to give them superhuman deductive skills à la Sherlock Holmes, you know – I perceive, sir, that you have recently returned from a hunting excursion in Wiltshire and that your wife's tennis partner owns a dachshund called Gerald — But my dear fello What is so exhilarating and fulfilling about reading le Carré is the sense of genuine intelligence at play, both in the characters and in the author. There are different ways of trying to convey great cleverness in a literary character: one approach is to give them superhuman deductive skills à la Sherlock Holmes, you know – I perceive, sir, that you have recently returned from a hunting excursion in Wiltshire and that your wife's tennis partner owns a dachshund called Gerald — But my dear fellow, how could you possibly?! — Quite elementary; the leaf that adheres to your left boot-sole is unmistakably from a holm oak, one of the rarest English trees, a fine specimen of which grows outside Wiltshire's best-frequented hunting lodge; you may perhaps have glanced at my recent monograph on the subject in the Evening Post which proved so useful in the recent unpleasantness concerning the Prince-Bishop of Montenegro… And so on. Don't get me wrong, I love this stuff – but it's a game, it's amusing, it's manifestly nonsense. The thrill of what le Carré does in the Karla trilogy – and I don't believe anyone does it better – is of a completely different order. You believe it: the leaps of intuition are logical and motivated, and just slightly out of your reach, so that you constantly feel both flattered to be keeping up and somewhat awestruck at how they always make the connections a bit faster than you do. It's rather like how I feel when I play through top-level chess games, the sense that you can just about follow why they're doing what they're doing; the deceptive conviction, as you watch an unexpected rook sacrifice, that it all makes perfect sense and that you would undoubtedly have thought of the same move yourself. This is hard to do as a writer. Because writers are often not that smart, even when they're talented. Le Carré writes as though he's smarter than all his readers, and when I read him I'm convinced. The thrills in these books come not from action sequences, but from the plausibility of the dialogue: I was more on edge during Smiley's calm ‘interrogation’ of Toby Esterhase here than I've been in any number of car chase or bomb-defusion scenes. What to say next? How to press them in exactly the right way, without scaring them off? In a sense this book is composed simply of a number of these intense, magesterially-written duologues stacked together, a stichomythic layer-cake: Smiley and Lacon, Smiley and Mikhel, Smiley and Esterhase, Smiley and Connie, Smiley and Grigoriev, Smiley and Alexandra…and always, at the end, the prospect of somehow reaching the the endgame conversation, between Smiley and Karla. (It would be quiet and undramatic, and fascinating.) But then again, the whole trilogy is that conversation being played out. These dialogues are stitched together with a prose style that is economical and unclichéd. The plot is thick and chewy and le Carré does not cheat with his exposition. Perhaps overall The Honourable Schoolboy was my favourite – I just love the oblique portrayal of foreign reporting – but this is a stupendous end to a brilliant trilogy. A lot of books are clever – ‘oh that's clever,’ you might say after a literary trick or a narrative sleight-of-hand. These books are intelligent. That's rare enough in fiction as it is, and the fact that it comes in so-called genre fiction just shows how distracting such ghettos can be.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Chloe

    Note for completists: This is the third of the Karla books, preceded by first Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and then by The Honourable Schoolboy. While it is possible to read these books out of order and still enjoy them, the later books are informed by the events that come before and definitely spoil salient plot points of those novels. Life has not been overly kind to George Smiley. Devoted husband to a faithless wife, dedicated servant to a government that does not admit he exists, archnemesis Note for completists: This is the third of the Karla books, preceded by first Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and then by The Honourable Schoolboy. While it is possible to read these books out of order and still enjoy them, the later books are informed by the events that come before and definitely spoil salient plot points of those novels. Life has not been overly kind to George Smiley. Devoted husband to a faithless wife, dedicated servant to a government that does not admit he exists, archnemesis to his Soviet doppelganger, betrayed by his closest friend- Smiley has been through much in his years of service. Smiley's People finds the former spymaster once more cast out of the Circus of British intelligence, yet another sacrifice to the twisting winds of political favoritism. Prematurely aged and tired from a life lived in the shadows, Smiley doesn't quite know how to go about existing without subterfuge. Yet when his old acquaintance Lacon shows up requesting Smiley's help investigating the murder of a friend and former asset, Smiley laboriously pulls himself from his over-stuffed easy chair, smoothes rumpled clothes over his mammoth stomach, puts on his horse blanket of a jacket, and tromps dutifully back into the world of intrigue that is his life. At stake is the opportunity to finally take down Karla, the Soviet spymaster who has bedevilled Smiley for decades in the great and secret chess game they have played against one another. Working unofficially, completely off the books and deniable, Smiley must piece together Karla's plan before more of his friends end up dead on a rainy night. Fortunately, Smiley has built up all the resources he would need over a lifetime of intelligence work. In the spy game, all the fancy gadgets and gizmos in the world will never compare to a solid piece of human intel, and Smiley knows just who to ask to get the information he requires. Visiting retired Circus personnel, from the senile research assistant who helped compile nearly all of the known data on Karla to the disgraced lamplighter Toby Esterhase, who can still muster more than a few surveillance teams if there's the chance for personal glory and a return to the game, Smiley pieces together the bits of story he needs in order to weave a trap of his own and conclusively win in the battle of wills that he and Karla have fought for nearly their whole lives. This is what le Carre excels at: the slow and methodical piecing together of events, some decades old, into a coherent conspiracy that has a very real effect on the present. Field work doesn't play too large of a part in Smiley's methodology. He already has most of the puzzle pieces in his hands, it just takes a careful review for Smiley to uncover the importance of each nugget of knowledge. Some readers deride this as moving too slowly, but to them I recommend the works of Robert Ludlum. Smiley is British, and if Monty Python taught us anything it's that the Brits love their dry subtlety. The reader is left even more in the dark than Smiley himself and half the fun of the book is trying to trace those connections between events and characters and (possibly) beat Smiley to his final showdown with Karla. A fantastic end to this trilogy, Smiley stands out as one of my favorite spies ever (above Valerie Plame but below the Wen Ho Lee). Le Carre proves once again why he is the grandmaster of this genre with this carefully crafted, delicately paced thriller that delivers the perfect conclusion to a rivalry that is far more interesting than any battle between Bond and SPECTRE ever was.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Manny

    The conclusion of the trilogy that starts with Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy; but, while that book is about betrayal, this one is about manipulation. The heartbreaking message is that, when you want to manipulate someone, the most effective approach is not to try and exploit their weaknesses. Needless to say, that can work too. But the very best way is to exploit their kindness, their decency, and the things that make them a worthwhile human being. It's been done in many other books too, of course, The conclusion of the trilogy that starts with Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy; but, while that book is about betrayal, this one is about manipulation. The heartbreaking message is that, when you want to manipulate someone, the most effective approach is not to try and exploit their weaknesses. Needless to say, that can work too. But the very best way is to exploit their kindness, their decency, and the things that make them a worthwhile human being. It's been done in many other books too, of course, though rarely as well as le Carré does it here.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Krissa

    This book changed my life. My dad, sick of hearing me make fun of his spy novel proclivities, bet me $50 that I would love this book. It was a safe bet, too. If I loved it, I owed him nothing other than the smug satisfaction of having been right. If I hated it, he'd give me $50. I loved it. I love the entire trilogy, in fact, but since I read this one first, out of order (tsk tsk dad) it has the special place on my favorites shelf. And even though I now own THREE copies, this edition was my fathe This book changed my life. My dad, sick of hearing me make fun of his spy novel proclivities, bet me $50 that I would love this book. It was a safe bet, too. If I loved it, I owed him nothing other than the smug satisfaction of having been right. If I hated it, he'd give me $50. I loved it. I love the entire trilogy, in fact, but since I read this one first, out of order (tsk tsk dad) it has the special place on my favorites shelf. And even though I now own THREE copies, this edition was my father's, which he then bequeathed to me after I raced through the entire Le Carre canon with incredible enthusiasm. He always meant to inscribe this edition to me, but he passed away before we had the chance. It's perhaps the most treasured book I own because it was his.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Lewis Weinstein

    The best of the best ... everything a spy novel could possibly be ... Smiley vs Karla ... a weakness, a mistake, a brilliantly orchestrated response ... and of course the bridge into West Berlin. Smiley's People is also a master class in writing ... when to expand, when to move quickly, setting a scene, using peripheral characters. I think I'll read it again. But for now, I will go into my class next week at Oxford - British Spies in Fact and Fiction - as prepared as I can be and ready to learn m The best of the best ... everything a spy novel could possibly be ... Smiley vs Karla ... a weakness, a mistake, a brilliantly orchestrated response ... and of course the bridge into West Berlin. Smiley's People is also a master class in writing ... when to expand, when to move quickly, setting a scene, using peripheral characters. I think I'll read it again. But for now, I will go into my class next week at Oxford - British Spies in Fact and Fiction - as prepared as I can be and ready to learn more.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Abubakar Mehdi

    Smiley’s People is the last book in the “Karla Trilogy”; a series that describes the world of espionage during the Cold War. The story starts with a revelation by a ‘lost-agent’ recently resurfaced that at the very top of Circus (British secret service) there is a KGB agent, a mole spying for the Russians. And he is there for decades. Dangerous, resourceful and one of their own, this double-agent is capable of wrecking havoc if he isn’t caught immediately and off-guard. Here Smiley is called bac Smiley’s People is the last book in the “Karla Trilogy”; a series that describes the world of espionage during the Cold War. The story starts with a revelation by a ‘lost-agent’ recently resurfaced that at the very top of Circus (British secret service) there is a KGB agent, a mole spying for the Russians. And he is there for decades. Dangerous, resourceful and one of their own, this double-agent is capable of wrecking havoc if he isn’t caught immediately and off-guard. Here Smiley is called back from Retirement to spy on a spy, to draw a web inside the web and then patiently wait for him to walk into the trap. From the offset the language of the book has marked “British-ness” to it, the slang, the jargon and even the sense of humour. As the story proceeds, the thrill of the game intensifies and one cannot help but admire Le Carré’s mastery. The second book, though not as a charming as the first one, had a very different tone and setting. I found it slightly ‘dragging’ at times, but the writing was so enchanting that one can hardly complain. The third and the final book, pits Smiley and his arch-rival Karla against each other. The story, unlike the first two books, kicks off from a very thrilling start and keeps the reader on edge. Le Carré has a singular talent for story telling, and a keen eye for the details. He registers every flinch of fingers, every shift in tone of voice or demeanour and then describes it so perfectly that the reader can visualize the whole scene. His insights on the thoughts of a mind under extreme duress, the art of interrogation and reading of small signs in one’s body language are worth an entire book in itself. There are some recurring themes present throughout the trilogy. Themes like Betrayal, Sexual frustration, promiscuity and love. There is a general mood of futility to the storyline, a sense of unending trepidation and unrequitedness. Maybe its not unique to just this series but is true for most of his fiction (A most wanted man, our kind of Traitor…) where there are no complete victories. The success is always short of triumph, always incomplete or inadequate. But what really piqued my attention was how painfully all the romantic entanglements concluded, and how pessimistic a view the author takes to such storylines. Ricky Tarr, Smiley, Jerry and Karla, all of these men were hopeless lovers, and love was their downfall. Love, in Le Carré’s fiction proves to be, as Karla called it, “an illusion”. This series is often remarked as the Magnum Opus of John Le Carré. In the tradition of Greene and Chandler, Le Carré’s fiction is a departure from the glint and glamour of Fleming’s Bond series, which gained immense popularity during the cold war period, but which also lacked the grim and nonchalant realities of espionage. Le Carré is the real deal. The dark chocolate; bitter and unsavoury on the first bite but with an intoxicating after-taste that stays with you for a long time.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Barbara K

    And so we have come to the conclusion of the Karla trilogy, in which John le Carré pits quiet, self-effacing George Smiley of the Circus, the British espionage agency, against Karla, his ruthless Soviet counterpart. In the first book, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, we learned how Karla used a "mole" placed in the Circus decades before to threaten both Smiley's intelligence service and his marriage. An unbiased judge would probably give that round to Karla. The middle volume, The Honourable Schoolb And so we have come to the conclusion of the Karla trilogy, in which John le Carré pits quiet, self-effacing George Smiley of the Circus, the British espionage agency, against Karla, his ruthless Soviet counterpart. In the first book, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, we learned how Karla used a "mole" placed in the Circus decades before to threaten both Smiley's intelligence service and his marriage. An unbiased judge would probably give that round to Karla. The middle volume, The Honourable Schoolboy, has the two spymasters squared off against each other again, this time via intermediaries (some innocent, some less so), in an exotic locale. Count this one a draw. So how will events play out in the final volume? Given le Carré's preference for harsh realities to sugar coated endings, it's best not to anticipate, but just go along for the tension-filled ride. Of course, with Smiley that tension more often takes the form of a chess match than a horse race, but it is no less thrilling for that. Having learned of a potential crack in Karla's personal world through the Russian émigré community in Paris, the supposedly retired Smiley turns to old Circus colleagues to create a snare that will finally put an end to Karla. Smiley's strategy requires the use of the ailing Connie Sachs' prodigious memory, Toby Esterhase's spycraft and connections, and Peter Guilliam's current location in Paris, as well as Oliver Lacon and Saul Enderby's grudging bureaucratic support. There are, as always, keenly described new characters including my favorite, the marvelous feisty, resilient Madame Ostrakova, who sets all the pieces in motion through her awareness that things may not be as they seem. One of le Carré's techniques that I've appreciated over the course of the three books is to provide external commentary in the form of retrospective discussions by those who work at the Circus as to the wisdom or significance of events. A sort of Greek chorus that adds a nice bit of texture to the narrative. Although it was satisfying to bring the Karla series to a conclusion, I am delighted that two novels featuring Smiley remain. One each to savor in October and November.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Steve

    The last book of le Carre's Karla series might be the best. I turned to this book after watching the recent -- and excellent -- film adaptation of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (I read the book many years ago). I don't know why it took me so long to finish this series, since I also loved the second book, The Honorable School Boy. Maybe I just didn't want the series to end. In this chapter Smiley finally goes on offense against his nemisis, the Soviet spy master, Karla. But it takes him over half The last book of le Carre's Karla series might be the best. I turned to this book after watching the recent -- and excellent -- film adaptation of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (I read the book many years ago). I don't know why it took me so long to finish this series, since I also loved the second book, The Honorable School Boy. Maybe I just didn't want the series to end. In this chapter Smiley finally goes on offense against his nemisis, the Soviet spy master, Karla. But it takes him over half the book to realize that he has the silver bullet. The problem is that to use it is to lose something of himself. There is a cost. A human factor. But Duty and Revenge place Smiley, a good man, on the iron path. As with all le Carre novels, there is meticulous attention to detail, coupled with first rate character development (all of the characters). The atmosphere is heavy, ominious, layered with parnoia. Little scenes, like kids bashing a car by a lake, suggest much more about the moral state of Modern Man. We are living on the edge of an abyss, le Carre seems to suggest, so much so that the one constant, Duty (nod to Conrad), can even betray us. There are passages in Smiley's People that rival the best of Henry James, Joseph Conrad, and Graham Greene. It's Literature that just happens to be genre fiction as well.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jason Koivu

    Smiley comes out of retirement was his people come under attack in this aptly named conclusion to the Karla trilogy. This is fantastic stuff! Taut tension, high stakes, personal vendettas...ah, it's all wonderful. The characterizations and conversations are finessed with an admirable subtly. The Cold War settings descriptions put you in the middle of these depressingly drab locations. John le Carré is on fire in Smiley's People! It's far more cerebral cold war spy novel than say Fleming's stuff. T Smiley comes out of retirement was his people come under attack in this aptly named conclusion to the Karla trilogy. This is fantastic stuff! Taut tension, high stakes, personal vendettas...ah, it's all wonderful. The characterizations and conversations are finessed with an admirable subtly. The Cold War settings descriptions put you in the middle of these depressingly drab locations. John le Carré is on fire in Smiley's People! It's far more cerebral cold war spy novel than say Fleming's stuff. This means more talk, less action. That's going to bore some readers. It almost bored off this reader, but I held in there and, man, the payoff... Tremendous!

  12. 4 out of 5

    Woman Reading

    4.5 ☆ rounded up Our future was with the collective, but our survival was with the individual, and the paradox was killing us every day. In Smiley's People, George Smiley is no longer the Chief of the British Secret Service. Smiley had "retired" several times before from the Circus, but this stint - going on 3 years - has the scent of permanence. But is a peaceful and uneventful retirement possible when a spy's skill is revealed by the combination of longevity and faultless memory? On the surfa 4.5 ☆ rounded up Our future was with the collective, but our survival was with the individual, and the paradox was killing us every day. In Smiley's People, George Smiley is no longer the Chief of the British Secret Service. Smiley had "retired" several times before from the Circus, but this stint - going on 3 years - has the scent of permanence. But is a peaceful and uneventful retirement possible when a spy's skill is revealed by the combination of longevity and faultless memory? On the surface, Smiley appears an unlikely hero for machinations in international espionage; no 007 is he. His physique is far from athletic, and weaponry isn't part of his arsenal. Nor is Smiley a ladies' man; the reality is worse as he's the cuckold. It's loving the living which is sometimes a bit of a problem. When they made love, he knew he was the surrogate for all the men who hadn't rung. ... "To be beautiful and Ann is one thing," she had said to him not long ago; "to be beautiful and Ann's age will soon be another." And to be ugly and mine is another again, he thought furiously. And as Smiley advanced in years, his perspectives had changed. All his professional life ... he had been the witness, or victim -- or even reluctant prophet -- of such spurious cults as lateralism, parallelism, separatism, operational devolution, and now ... integration. ... Each had gone out with a whimper, leaving behind it the familiar English muddle, of which, more and more, in retrospect, he saw himself as a lifelong moderator. He had forborne, hoping others would forbear, and they had not. But today, peering calmly into his own heart, Smiley knew that he was unled, and perhaps unleadable; that the only restraints upon him were those of his own reason, and his own humanity. As with his marriage, so with his sense of public service. But however unprepossessing, his facade cloaks formidable mental acuity and an exceptional instinct for executing tradecraft. Two events in continental Europe grow in significance and may mean an opportunity for Smiley to vanquish a longtime foe. ... it was just possible, against all the odds, that he had been given, in late age, a chance to return to the rained-out contests of his life and play them after all. He realized he had no real name by which to address his enemy: only a code-name, and a woman's at that. He read as far into his own past as into Karla’s, and sometimes it seemed to him that the one life was merely the complement to the other; that they were causes of the same incurable malady. Smiley's People is the final installment in le Carré's Karla trilogy. It can be read as a standalone, although one's emotional response would be heightened with knowledge of the preceding stories, especially with Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (which should be read in its published sequence). My attention was caught from the beginning. And the need for sleep and other obligations prevented me from finishing this in two instead of three days. It's been interesting to see how le Carré's style had altered with each subsequent book. Smiley's People was somewhat akin to a police procedural as Smiley followed his crumb trail of clues. But unlike police detectives and as an old-hand at espionage, Smiley faced dangers that were far more personal in nature. Compared with Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, there was less of the cerebral puzzle aspect and more acerbic wit (which delighted me in Agent Running in the Field, my first le Carré novel). There were no hot military action scenes reminiscent of The Honourable Schoolboy but nonetheless death made its presence known in Smiley's People. One hallmark of le Carré's books is a bittersweet flavor, because nothing in life, especially in the dirty milieu of espionage, is free. We have crossed each other's frontiers, we are the no-men of this no-man's land.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jamie

    A deeply introspective slow burn with a deliberate, measured pace, much like Smiley himself, that nonetheless delivers an incredibly taut end-game. Smiley remains a puzzling figure. Understated and unassuming, possessed of a particular brilliance and practicality which sadly he doesn't seem capable of leveraging in his personal affairs. "I have destroyed him with the weapons I abhorred, and they are his. We have crossed each other's frontiers, we are the no-men of this no-man's land." Whether le C A deeply introspective slow burn with a deliberate, measured pace, much like Smiley himself, that nonetheless delivers an incredibly taut end-game. Smiley remains a puzzling figure. Understated and unassuming, possessed of a particular brilliance and practicality which sadly he doesn't seem capable of leveraging in his personal affairs. "I have destroyed him with the weapons I abhorred, and they are his. We have crossed each other's frontiers, we are the no-men of this no-man's land." Whether le Carré's spy stories are realistic I'll never know, but they sure as hell are believable, in every glorious detail.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    This is my absolute favorite le Carre novel--and in my view the best of the Karla Trilogy. All the cerebral incisiveness of Tinker, Taylor, married to a well-constructed, suspenseful, and active plot. A real crescendo of a novel.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Sara

    Some faces, as Villem had suggested this morning, are known to us before we see them; others we see once and remember all our lives; others we see every day and never remember at all. And, so it is with literary characters, some are so like us that we know them instinctively; some are not like us at all but completely unforgettable; and others are forgotten the moment we close the pages of the book. George Smiley is of the second sort, he wiggles his way into your sensibilities and lodges him Some faces, as Villem had suggested this morning, are known to us before we see them; others we see once and remember all our lives; others we see every day and never remember at all. And, so it is with literary characters, some are so like us that we know them instinctively; some are not like us at all but completely unforgettable; and others are forgotten the moment we close the pages of the book. George Smiley is of the second sort, he wiggles his way into your sensibilities and lodges himself in your mind and heart, and while you might forget the details of the book over, say, the course of 39 years, you do not forget George...you never forget George. Perhaps one reason for this is that Smiley is the moral man, the man with a conscience in the midst of all the greed and corruption and self-interests. Smiley was in all the other novels up to Smiley’s People, he led the charge in most of them, but they were just as centered around other characters: Bill Haydon, Jim Prideaux, Jerry Westerby. He isn’t in this novel, he is this novel, and John le Carre performs open heart surgery on him, and we see his bones and blood. While reading this, it seemed to me that every word written before it was just preamble to this, just groundwork to knowing and understanding the cost to a man’s life if he stands outside the group and does what he believes to be the moral thing. Here we see the toll that this Cold War (how aptly named!) has had on both Smiley and his counterpart, Karla. We watch them perform the last steps in the last dance and marvel that they have survived so long in a world that kills off and uses up men as if they were straw dogs. If we could not see before how perverse this world is, we can see it clearly here, for both men have a weakness and that weakness is love. This is the saddest and most despondent I have felt reading a Smiley book. I think le Carre has posed the age old questions: Who can you trust? Can lies and deceit ever be the right thing? Are there ever winners in international intrigues? Why do men do it; what motivates them? What is the personal cost when you do the wrong thing, even for the right reason? And, in the end, what difference does one man make; are we all just disposable? As a society, we might not like the answers.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Bettie

    Revisit via film Description: John le Carre's classic novels deftly navigate readers through the intricate shadow worlds of international espionage with unsurpassed skill and knowledge and have earned him -- and his hero, British Secret Service agent George Smiley -- unprecedented worldwide acclaim.Rounding off his astonishing vision of a clandestine world, master storyteller le Carre perfects his art in "Smiley's People." In London at dead of night, George Smiley, sometime acting Chief of the Cir Revisit via film Description: John le Carre's classic novels deftly navigate readers through the intricate shadow worlds of international espionage with unsurpassed skill and knowledge and have earned him -- and his hero, British Secret Service agent George Smiley -- unprecedented worldwide acclaim.Rounding off his astonishing vision of a clandestine world, master storyteller le Carre perfects his art in "Smiley's People." In London at dead of night, George Smiley, sometime acting Chief of the Circus (aka the British Secret Service), is summoned from his lonely bed by news of the murder of an ex-agent. Lured back to active service, Smiley skillfully maneuvers his people -- "the no-men of no-man's land" -- into crisscrossing Paris, London, Germany, and Switzerland as he prepares for his own final, inevitable duel on the Berlin border with his Soviet counterpart and archenemy, Karla THE KARLA TRILOGY: 3* Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy(1974) 3* The Honourable Schoolboy(1977) 4* Smiley's People (The Karla Trilogy #3) (1979) GEORGE SMILEY: 3* Call for the Dead(1961) CR A Murder of Quality 3* The Spy Who Came In from the Cold(1963) The Looking Glass War 3* Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy(1974) 3* The Honourable Schoolboy(1977) 4* Smiley's People (The Karla Trilogy #3) (1979) TR The Secret Pilgrim 3* The Constant Gardener 3* A Delicate Truth 5* The Night Manager

  17. 5 out of 5

    Cphe

    Normally pretty stingy with handing out 5 star ratings but this was a terrific read and a satisfying conclusion to the Karla trilogy. Such an interesting character George Smiley, a master spy wonderfully depicted in this conclusion. An espionage novel that ticked all of the boxes that I look for in this genre. A novel of disillusionment, betrayal and love. Another from the Boxall 1000 list, time and money well spent.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Greg

    I've been watching Roberto Rossellini's The Age of the Medici this afternoon. Or about the middle two and a half hours of the four hour long 'mini-series'. I've been really enjoying it and surprisingly I haven't gotten too distracted watching it (this is something of a rarity for me in the past two years or so, I can probably using my fingers and toes all of the movies I've been able to make it through since the start of 2009). It's made me wonder though why the thought of watching movies leave I've been watching Roberto Rossellini's The Age of the Medici this afternoon. Or about the middle two and a half hours of the four hour long 'mini-series'. I've been really enjoying it and surprisingly I haven't gotten too distracted watching it (this is something of a rarity for me in the past two years or so, I can probably using my fingers and toes all of the movies I've been able to make it through since the start of 2009). It's made me wonder though why the thought of watching movies leave me so blah lately. Partly, I think I might have overdosed on movies in my maniacal attempt to watch the entire Criterion Collection, when I would watch up to three movies a day and feel extremely anxious if anything was going to come between me and the times I designated as 'must watch more films' time. Instead I've traded in obsessive movie watching with abnormally large amounts of reading for embarrassingly abnormal amounts of reading, no movies, and a handful of tv shows that I half heartedly try to keep up with. On of the plus sides of almost never watching movies anymore is that the ones I do find myself actually watching probably are more impressive to me than they would be if I were watching a lot of films. Unlike many of my goodreads.com friends, I can't talk intelligently about movies, there are things I like and things I don't like and even though I have somewhat pretentious, or snobbish, or highbrow tastes I can do little to articulate why I like a movie. Part of it is that movies don't inspire my thoughts like books do, another is that I don't think I really get or like the principle language of film. The more literary directors, like Bergman I could probably talk about but it would be using the language of books to say what I like or how I think the film works. That is what I'm enjoying about The Age of the Medici the way that Rossellini is moving the story and ideas along not by action but by words. The film is visually interesting with the lavish depiction of Renaissance Florence, but the narrative moves like a cross between the party goers of James Joyce's "The Dead" and the espionage novels of John Le Carre. Le Carre writes the anthesis spy novel's as compared to someone like Robert Ludlum or what I imagine Ian Fleming's novels to be like. His hero in this trilogy of novels is George Smiley, a person who is the exact opposite of what the movie version of James Bond is. Smiley is a short fat man. He's unremarkable looking. He has a beautiful wife who is always openly sleeping with other men (she has at least 11 regulars she is sleeping with and a second tier group that she can turn to). When Smiley is at his best in working a case the description of him is bored looking and at times other characters aren't sure if Smiley is awake or asleep. With all of these not so appealing traits he is also one of the most effective caseworkers in The Circus (the British Intelligence or Spy business). There is some action that occurs in the Smiley books but it is almost always told in dialog. Rarely does the reader see the big events, rather they are presented them the same way that Smiley receives most of them through briefings, reports conversations and interrogations. Le Carre does a fantastic job at creating a lush espionage world through mundane activities. There are no racing speed boats and high speed car chases through exotic streets, instead there are subtle moves and operations set up to try to out maneuver the Soviet spymaster Karla. In a TV analogy the espionage world of Le Carre in the Smiley novels (of which, I should have mentioned earlier, this is the conclusion to a trilogy) is like "The Wire" or, sort of, "Homicide", as opposed to any of the hour long police procedurals with their fast resolution and instant results (and I guess that makes Smiley sort of a fat, short, white Lester). The slow meticulous unfolding and the little details in both the shows mentioned and the Smiley novels might seem a little labored at points but their end payoff is greater than the 44 minute resolution of "CSI" or say a James Bond film. I wasn't sure where I was going with this review at the start, it was actually going to be a review for Crumley's The Last Good Kiss, but instead Smiley's People seemed a better move to come off of my ramblings about movies with. Sorry I'm too lazy to get the accent over the final E in the authors name.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Constantinos Capetanakis

    In memoriam, as Mr. Le Carre has now left the building. This is only one, and perhaps the most representative, sample of his genius, perception and empathy. Had it not been for the ever-annoying prejudices which also afflicted masters like Graham Greene, Mr. Le Carre's oeuvre would have been recognized in its truest merits. Not that it hasn't but still, he was not a spy writer. He was a great writer. In memoriam, as Mr. Le Carre has now left the building. This is only one, and perhaps the most representative, sample of his genius, perception and empathy. Had it not been for the ever-annoying prejudices which also afflicted masters like Graham Greene, Mr. Le Carre's oeuvre would have been recognized in its truest merits. Not that it hasn't but still, he was not a spy writer. He was a great writer.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Calzean

    This is probably the most fulfilling of the Smiley stories. But it does follow the usual format. Something happens. Smiley is pulled out of retirement. He talks to his old contacts/colleagues. He reads a lot of files. There are lots of words as the story rolls slowly along. Then in the last 20 pages the denouement occurs where the final act is not known till the last page.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Roman Clodia

    On Karla had descended the curse of Smiley's compassion; on Smiley the curse of Karla's fanaticism. I have destroyed him with the weapons I abhorred, and they are his. We have crossed each other's frontiers, we are the no-men of no-man's-land. My first comment on this - the third part of the provisional 'Karla trilogy' - is the utter and beautiful restraint of le Carré: not so much in the writing which is detailed and precise, but in the depths of what is not said. Le Carré shows complete con On Karla had descended the curse of Smiley's compassion; on Smiley the curse of Karla's fanaticism. I have destroyed him with the weapons I abhorred, and they are his. We have crossed each other's frontiers, we are the no-men of no-man's-land. My first comment on this - the third part of the provisional 'Karla trilogy' - is the utter and beautiful restraint of le Carré: not so much in the writing which is detailed and precise, but in the depths of what is not said. Le Carré shows complete confidence in his readers to read skilfully and with intuitive feeling and so doesn't spell out the emotional substance that comprises this story. While on the surface this follows a triumphal arc as Smiley's arch nemesis is finally defeated to the satisfaction of the Circus, ultimately Smiley - and, thus, we - question the very nature of that climax, imbuing it with a bitter irony that is wholly at odds with Enderby's dangling of a knighthood for Smiley's catch. This is a book filled with old, weary and wounded Cold War warriors, culminating in the pathetic image of Karla himself as a small man, undistinguished and alone on a dark street. The reflections that bond Smiley and Karla are subtly but insistently drawn and culminate in the image of the cigarette lighter transferred from one to another and then left lying, abandoned, on the street. Another very bleak piece of storytelling from le Carré, then - downbeat but beautifully controlled and presented.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Jen

    The first thing I have to say is IF YOU HAVEN'T READ THE FIRST TWO BOOKS IN THE TRILOGY, DON'T EVEN THINK ABOUT READING THIS BOOK! Okay, sorry 'bout the all caps, but you cannot possibly read this book in isolation and enjoy it in the way that it was meant to be savored and enjoyed. This is the ultimate book in a trilogy, and all the pieces come together, characters deepen, brief glimpses of characters and places make sense, and the hard work that you've done to get to this point because of le Ca The first thing I have to say is IF YOU HAVEN'T READ THE FIRST TWO BOOKS IN THE TRILOGY, DON'T EVEN THINK ABOUT READING THIS BOOK! Okay, sorry 'bout the all caps, but you cannot possibly read this book in isolation and enjoy it in the way that it was meant to be savored and enjoyed. This is the ultimate book in a trilogy, and all the pieces come together, characters deepen, brief glimpses of characters and places make sense, and the hard work that you've done to get to this point because of le Carre's dense, dense writing finally pays off. This is great stuff. The Smiley trilogy (Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy; The Honourable Schoolboy and this one) require so much work to get through and understand. le Carre does almost all showing and no telling and because of this I spent about 2/3 of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy just wondering what the heck was going on. Once I got to this book, I was throwing the lingo around like the best of those "circus" spies and saying things to my husband like, "I'm not sure if I like the housekeepers or the lamplighters better, but I sure know that Connie Sachs is brilliant!" I think he had to pick up the books just to understand me. So, to the story in this one. A murder in the middle of the night spurs a phone call to retired British secret agent George Smiley. He's grumpy and irascible, but no one works the pavement like him. MI6 promises to deny everything if anyone suspects that they're involved, so George has to go it alone (along with the help of his other retired friends) as he works along the skeins of a very tangled cobweb. Fortunately, the skeins seem to lead to his archnemesis Karla. If you're at all interested in Cold War history, real, gritty spy stories and just amazing dialogue, these are your books. Please read them!

  23. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    From IDMb: Called out of retirement to settle the affairs of a friend, Smiley finds his old organization, the Circus, so overwhelmed by political considerations that it doesn't want to know what happened. He begins to follow up the clues of his friends past days, discovering that the clues lead to a high person in the Russian Secret service, and a secret important enough to kill for. Smiley continues to put together the pieces a step ahead or a step behind the Russian killers. A movie was made bas From IDMb: Called out of retirement to settle the affairs of a friend, Smiley finds his old organization, the Circus, so overwhelmed by political considerations that it doesn't want to know what happened. He begins to follow up the clues of his friends past days, discovering that the clues lead to a high person in the Russian Secret service, and a secret important enough to kill for. Smiley continues to put together the pieces a step ahead or a step behind the Russian killers. A movie was made based on this book and it's available at YouTube, with Alec Guinness, Curd Jürgens, Eileen Atkins. Duration: 360 min. in 6 episodes Some trivia about this series may be found here.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Maureen

    By the time I reached the end of this book, I cared so deeply for the characters whom John LeCarre had created that I could not believe it was over. I immediately started reading it again. This is definitely a book not to be read out of sequence, because the deeper nuances of the characters will be lost without having read the earlier books. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and highly recommend it.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Nigeyb

    'Smiley's People' is wonderful. Having been a little disappointed in the previous book 'The Honourable Schoolboy' (George Smiley #6) (1977), I am delighted to report that 'Smiley's People' is a return to peak Smiley. My experience is that the more Smiley appears, the better the book, and so it is with 'Smiley's People’ which is about 90% Smiley. 'Smiley's People' is also the final part of the Karla trilogy. Smiley, now in his twilight years, displays his customary thorough, cerebral, unrelenting 'Smiley's People' is wonderful. Having been a little disappointed in the previous book 'The Honourable Schoolboy' (George Smiley #6) (1977), I am delighted to report that 'Smiley's People' is a return to peak Smiley. My experience is that the more Smiley appears, the better the book, and so it is with 'Smiley's People’ which is about 90% Smiley. 'Smiley's People' is also the final part of the Karla trilogy. Smiley, now in his twilight years, displays his customary thorough, cerebral, unrelenting methods and finely honed powers of deduction, which cut through a complex and intriguing plot to finally draw Karla out, for a finale worthy of this superb trilogy. Thankfully for me there’s still one more Smiley book to go - 'The Secret Pilgrim' (George Smiley #8) (1991) - and better still Smiley is set to return for the first time in 25 years in 'A Legacy of Spies', a new novel by John le Carré that is scheduled for publication on 7 September 2017. 5/5

  26. 4 out of 5

    Douglas

    This was stunning - quite possibly a perfect novel. It would almost be an insult to describe it as a great example of its genre, for le Carre is such a splendid writer that he elevates his tales of espionage to the level of true literature. While other of his works exhibit the slight flaw (in the case of Tinker, Tailor it was more than slight) of an overly-complex plot, here le Carre keeps things just simple enough that the reader can keep up without too much difficulty. The "tradecraft" is stil This was stunning - quite possibly a perfect novel. It would almost be an insult to describe it as a great example of its genre, for le Carre is such a splendid writer that he elevates his tales of espionage to the level of true literature. While other of his works exhibit the slight flaw (in the case of Tinker, Tailor it was more than slight) of an overly-complex plot, here le Carre keeps things just simple enough that the reader can keep up without too much difficulty. The "tradecraft" is still here, and indeed has rarely been more exhilarating, but the result of this more straightforward narrative is that the reader can engage more fully with the beauty of the writing. There is imagery here that is so lucid that as a reader you cannot help but share it with the person nearest you (in my case, it was my girlfriend). The psychological torments of George Smiley are described in such bitter detail that my stomach churned, my mind fraught with the possibility that things could still go horribly wrong. It is truly an incredible book, and my only regret is that for the reader uninitiated with John le Carre's writing I would not recommend this as the starting point. Though I think it would be possible to follow along and enjoy it as a standalone novel, it ultimately was written as the conclusion to a trilogy. I cannot help but feel that I would not have experienced the full emotional impact if I were not familiar with the previous episodes which inform the feelings contained therein. Regardless, whether a fan of espionage thrillers or simply of literary fiction in general, "Smiley's People" deserves to be held in the highest regard. It is a masterpiece.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Scotchneat

    Just re-read this one after many years. I forgot how awesome this book is. Le Carre was at the top of his game. First, there's Smiley, his heavy-lidded contemplation of what makes people tick. Then there's his people--the lamplighters, the mothers, the housekeepers and the wranglers. The lead-up to the big catch is perfectly done. It's funny, and suspenseful and gives you a thrill without big shoot-em-ups or special effects. Maria Ostrakova is a wonderfully drawn character who carries the early p Just re-read this one after many years. I forgot how awesome this book is. Le Carre was at the top of his game. First, there's Smiley, his heavy-lidded contemplation of what makes people tick. Then there's his people--the lamplighters, the mothers, the housekeepers and the wranglers. The lead-up to the big catch is perfectly done. It's funny, and suspenseful and gives you a thrill without big shoot-em-ups or special effects. Maria Ostrakova is a wonderfully drawn character who carries the early part of the story well. And then there's the tensely beautiful scene with Connie Sachs from whom Smiley gets the connection he needs to root out his old foe. There's something else in this era of Le Carre books - that kind of tatty dignified honour coming out of the war, contrasted with awful betrayal under a veneer of old boy. I read this book and Le Carre's others pretty much as they came out. And since I was still in elementary school/junior high around this time, they really made an impression on me about how smart people (and Smiley's spies are smart people) think, and how cool it is to be flip under pressure, and how heartbreaking it can be to be an idealist. I'm glad for the reminder.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Darwin8u

    "He looked across the river into the darkness again, and an unholy vertigo seized him as the very evil he had fought against seemed to reach out and possess him and claim him despite his striving, calling him a traitor also; mocking him, yet at the same time applauding his betrayal. On Karla has descended the curse of Smiley's compassion; on Smiley the curse of Karla's fanaticism. I have destroyed him with the weapons I abhorred, and they are his. We have crossed each other's frontiers, we are t "He looked across the river into the darkness again, and an unholy vertigo seized him as the very evil he had fought against seemed to reach out and possess him and claim him despite his striving, calling him a traitor also; mocking him, yet at the same time applauding his betrayal. On Karla has descended the curse of Smiley's compassion; on Smiley the curse of Karla's fanaticism. I have destroyed him with the weapons I abhorred, and they are his. We have crossed each other's frontiers, we are the no-men, of this no-man's land." A near perfect ending for one of the, if not THE, best trilogies ever. Is there a better summation for the place we find ourselves HERE and NOW in this the 21st century? Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy was a fantastic spy novel that owed lots to Greene; The Honourable Schoolboy was another fantastic spy novel that owed lots to Conrad; but with Smiley's people, you read it and realize John le Carré owes nobody nishto now.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Bradley West

    I've read a couple hundred spy novels, and this is my all-time favorite. Maybe it's because of the build up from the predecessors, "Tinker, Tailor" and, to a lesser extent, "The Honourable Schoolboy" but actually it's because le Carre is at the top of his game. He masterfully introduces the bit players via other bit players one instrument at a time until the orchestra is roaring away. By this late date, George Smiley (operating as "Max") and Alec Guinness were interchangeable in both le Carre's I've read a couple hundred spy novels, and this is my all-time favorite. Maybe it's because of the build up from the predecessors, "Tinker, Tailor" and, to a lesser extent, "The Honourable Schoolboy" but actually it's because le Carre is at the top of his game. He masterfully introduces the bit players via other bit players one instrument at a time until the orchestra is roaring away. By this late date, George Smiley (operating as "Max") and Alec Guinness were interchangeable in both le Carre's and my minds, which made it very easy to understand motive and extrapolate beyond the words on the page. Meanwhile, le Carre's command of detail unpaints every decrepit waterfront warehouse, loosens the planks on treacherous docks and leads us inexorably to a scene of death and redemption. And he repeats this trick scene after scene until the inevitable climax in Berlin. I recently bought the BBC's mini-series. If it is even half as good as this book, it will make for six hours of fascinating viewing.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    A stunning work, even better than the excellent Tinker, Tailor. Smiley's intelligence is portraid in the cracks in between action. The progress of his investigation is subtle; this isn't anything like a modern spy thriller. No car chases, no galavanting around the world. Although this is a book that's ostensibly about the cold war, its themes still resonate. How far is too far when it comes to pursuing enemies? What really differentiates us? I don't want to say too much, but I can't recommend thi A stunning work, even better than the excellent Tinker, Tailor. Smiley's intelligence is portraid in the cracks in between action. The progress of his investigation is subtle; this isn't anything like a modern spy thriller. No car chases, no galavanting around the world. Although this is a book that's ostensibly about the cold war, its themes still resonate. How far is too far when it comes to pursuing enemies? What really differentiates us? I don't want to say too much, but I can't recommend this book highly enough. My advice: read Tinker, Tailer and this, and skip The Honorable Schoolboy. Could be my favorites of 2011.

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