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'One of his most enthralling creations' Daily Telegraph Broke and working as a tour guide in Germany, rootless Englishman Ted Mundy catches a glimpse of an old friend hiding in the shadows. A friend he thought was lost to him. A friend who took him from radical 1960s Berlin to life as a double agent. Now, decades later, the Cold War is over and the war on terror has beg 'One of his most enthralling creations' Daily Telegraph Broke and working as a tour guide in Germany, rootless Englishman Ted Mundy catches a glimpse of an old friend hiding in the shadows. A friend he thought was lost to him. A friend who took him from radical 1960s Berlin to life as a double agent. Now, decades later, the Cold War is over and the war on terror has begun. Sasha has another mission for them both, but this time it is impossible to tell the difference between allies - and enemies. Set in a world of lies and shifting allegiances, Absolute Friends is a savage fable of our times.'Thoroughly gripping' Sunday Times


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'One of his most enthralling creations' Daily Telegraph Broke and working as a tour guide in Germany, rootless Englishman Ted Mundy catches a glimpse of an old friend hiding in the shadows. A friend he thought was lost to him. A friend who took him from radical 1960s Berlin to life as a double agent. Now, decades later, the Cold War is over and the war on terror has beg 'One of his most enthralling creations' Daily Telegraph Broke and working as a tour guide in Germany, rootless Englishman Ted Mundy catches a glimpse of an old friend hiding in the shadows. A friend he thought was lost to him. A friend who took him from radical 1960s Berlin to life as a double agent. Now, decades later, the Cold War is over and the war on terror has begun. Sasha has another mission for them both, but this time it is impossible to tell the difference between allies - and enemies. Set in a world of lies and shifting allegiances, Absolute Friends is a savage fable of our times.'Thoroughly gripping' Sunday Times

30 review for Absolute Friends (Penguin Modern Classics)

  1. 5 out of 5

    Supratim

    I recently finished a non-fiction book on espionage The Unending Game: A Former R&AW Chief’s Insights into Espionage which had multiple references to John Le Carre novels. The author, a former head of RAW, the Indian secret service clearly is a fan of Le Carre’s writing and his realistic portrayal of the spycraft. Prompted by the said references, I finally started reading this book (had owned for a long time, but never got around to reading it.) I cannot claim to be an expert on Le Carre’s work, I recently finished a non-fiction book on espionage The Unending Game: A Former R&AW Chief’s Insights into Espionage which had multiple references to John Le Carre novels. The author, a former head of RAW, the Indian secret service clearly is a fan of Le Carre’s writing and his realistic portrayal of the spycraft. Prompted by the said references, I finally started reading this book (had owned for a long time, but never got around to reading it.) I cannot claim to be an expert on Le Carre’s work, but I do know that his novels transcend the limitations of thrillers and occupy a niche in the realms of literary fiction. The friends mentioned in the title are Ted Mundy, son of a drunk British soldier, born 1947 in newly created Pakistan; and Sasha, refugee son of an East German Lutheran pastor, an incorrigible anarchist. The two men would meet in an anarchist commune in Sixties West Berlin, and become close friends only to lose touch. Mundy would drift apart, lead many lives and finally settle down. But, Sasha would again enter his life in the backdrop of Cold War Espionage, and Mundy’s life would change radically. Circumstances will again drive them apart, but Sasha would suddenly turn up again in Mundy’s life (during the Iraq War) with an offer to transform the world. Now I shut my big mouth, lest I give away anything interesting. I liked the way the narrative would reveal the character of Ted Mundy, starting from his present life as a tour guide in Germany, we go on a flashback to his back and understand the factors and situations that molded the person. This novel is not just a superbly written thriller. The author, as usual, has done a splendid job of exploring the human psyche and themes such as friendship, ideology, love, family, deception, betrayal, disillusionment, guilt and injustice. The narrative is extremely gripping, the characters well fleshed out and realistic, and the twist shocking. What struck me about the novel was the author’s rage and condemnation of the Iraq War, how a certain “hyperpower” was conducting the war on terror, with Britain being an ally to this injustice. I had read earlier in some article that Le Carre was a staunch critic of America’s war on terror, but I understood the extent of the author’s rage in this novel. If you read the book or read about the book , then you will realize what the author feels about the USA. I did a quick research and it seems that the book received a frosty reception on both sides of the Atlantic. The Times Literary Supplement (TLS) called this book “.. little more than agit-prop.” A New York Times reviewer dismissed Absolute Friends, describing the book as “a clumsy, hectoring, conspiracy-minded message-novel meant to drive home the argument that American imperialism poses a grave danger to the new world order.” If you can overlook the author’s opinions of the USA, then this novel is actually a good spy thriller.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Quirkyreader

    Oh my, this book had me hooked from the start. I wanted to finish it in one sitting, but work got in the way. This offering from 2003 is classic Le Carre. But, he did traverse a bit into John Fowles territory for a microsecond. And after reading this story, it is building up my hopes for the next book in Le Carre’s back catalogue. Also if you are a big fan of Le Carre’s spycraft, this story will not disappoint.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Nigeyb

    I'm a big fan of John le Carré and I am steadily working my way through all his novels. Absolute Friends (2003) is another masterclass from JLC. A really satisfying and provocative trawl through the post war intelligence world which brings the reader right up to the War on Terror. The absolute friends of the title are Ted Mundy, a rootless English man, and his East German friend, Sasha, the crippled son of a Lutheran priest with family links to the Nazis - beyond that, the less you know the bette I'm a big fan of John le Carré and I am steadily working my way through all his novels. Absolute Friends (2003) is another masterclass from JLC. A really satisfying and provocative trawl through the post war intelligence world which brings the reader right up to the War on Terror. The absolute friends of the title are Ted Mundy, a rootless English man, and his East German friend, Sasha, the crippled son of a Lutheran priest with family links to the Nazis - beyond that, the less you know the better. The plot is hard to second guess and full of surprises. As with many of his books, in addition to being an engrossing and credible thriller, Absolute Friends also offers interesting moral and ideological insights, and peerless characterisation. To say JLC is angry and appalled by the war on Iraq, and the war on terror, would be an understatement, and his righteous indignation shines through so much of this wonderful novel. 5/5 Absolute Friends is a superbly paced novel spanning fifty-six years, a theatrical masterstroke of tragi-comic writing, and a savage fable of our times, almost of our hours. The friends of the title are Ted Mundy, British soldier's son born 1947 in a shining new independent Pakistan, and Sasha, refugee son of an East German Lutheran pastor and his wife who have sought sanctuary in the West. The two men meet first as students in riot-torn West Berlin of the late Sixties, again in the grimy looking-glass of Cold War espionage and, most terribly, in today's unipolar world of terror, counter-terror and the war of lies.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Susan Hampson

    Friends come and go in your life but on rare occasions there is a special bond between two people, a friendship that lasts over decades. That was how it was with Ted Mundy and Sasah. Mundy I felt was a man who didn’t seem to belong anywhere, like he had no roots that he felt at home with, so when he met Sasah it seemed like he had an anchor, somewhere he could keep returning to and knew who he was. The friendship began in student days where they took part in the normal radical demos in the 1960’ Friends come and go in your life but on rare occasions there is a special bond between two people, a friendship that lasts over decades. That was how it was with Ted Mundy and Sasah. Mundy I felt was a man who didn’t seem to belong anywhere, like he had no roots that he felt at home with, so when he met Sasah it seemed like he had an anchor, somewhere he could keep returning to and knew who he was. The friendship began in student days where they took part in the normal radical demos in the 1960’s. It was a few years later that the two would meet again. Sasah had discovered about his father’s past that tainted his own life and Ted had married, got a son and was teaching. Sasah was eager to recruit Ted into the world of cold war antics of spying. Sasah was playing both sides as a double agent himself. Quite a chunk of the story is set in Germany, where information is passed back and forth from East to West but even the Berlin Wall can’t keep the pair apart. Sasah in the East and Ted in the West. These are the days of thriving spies, that seemed to be in sheer abundance, at a time not too long after the great war and yet long enough to have built this divide in Germany. It seems that Ted Mundy isn’t always a lucky man to be a round for people who know him. When the wall comes down it leaves Ted and Sasah in a kind of no-man’s land as far as spying goes. With the wall gone Germany had once again united leaving them sort of out of the loop. The story really does make you feel like you are back in time as John le Carré brings it all to life. There is rather a lot of characters in the story, with leaps in time and changing attitudes created by Governments and politicians. I know that the end of the story is a little divided by the how the readers feel. I really liked how it all came together at the end. This is my first book, by this author, but a couple of other titles have piqued my interest. A fascinating story of espionage, friendship and loyalty. Thanks to Penguin Press for an e-copy of this book which I have reviewed honestly

  5. 4 out of 5

    Joni Dee

    If you follow my reviews you know by now that i'm a le Carré fanatic ... In Absolute Friends Le Carré returns to the same formula that has worked in so many of his books, with one distinctive above all - a perfect spy. In this excellent spy thriller, we learn about the relationship between Ted and Sasha (operator-agent as well as friends) through their years old relationship as students, through their cordial correspondence, and at the end through current events. Le Carré is demonstrating the Ame If you follow my reviews you know by now that i'm a le Carré fanatic ... In Absolute Friends Le Carré returns to the same formula that has worked in so many of his books, with one distinctive above all - a perfect spy. In this excellent spy thriller, we learn about the relationship between Ted and Sasha (operator-agent as well as friends) through their years old relationship as students, through their cordial correspondence, and at the end through current events. Le Carré is demonstrating the American monopoly over the war on terror, with a blunt disregard to human rights, while he is weaving the long lasting relationship between the two individuals, which survived through the cold war, the iron curtain and the new espionage world. an enjoyable Le Carré that will get a grip over you, until you reach the (somewhat) disappointing conclusion (that prevented me from awarding the book 5 stars).

  6. 5 out of 5

    Susan Emmet

    Maybe a "5" is too high a rating...amazing?...maybe not. But I give it a 5 for Le Carre's tightrope walk from fiction to non-fiction. This novel rings all kinds of bells, historic and political. And he takes 'em all on - the pseudo-liberals and conservatives, Islamist terrorists, the CIA, the British Secret Service, communists, the HUGE money corporations with hands in pies everywhere - all the stuff that was - and has - "come true" sadly, but expectedly. Keep thinking about Eisenhower's warning ab Maybe a "5" is too high a rating...amazing?...maybe not. But I give it a 5 for Le Carre's tightrope walk from fiction to non-fiction. This novel rings all kinds of bells, historic and political. And he takes 'em all on - the pseudo-liberals and conservatives, Islamist terrorists, the CIA, the British Secret Service, communists, the HUGE money corporations with hands in pies everywhere - all the stuff that was - and has - "come true" sadly, but expectedly. Keep thinking about Eisenhower's warning about the military-industrial complex and the squelching of radical viewpoints and the "spin" of journalists beholden to governments or ideologies. So struck by Ted Mundy (the man of many Mundys) and his "absolute friend" Sasha as they navigate years of espionage and inquiry and idealism and failure - as they are handed from one handler to the next. Many reviewers object to the last ten pages. I don't. They couldn't have ended up anywhere but dead by the hands of Ultimate J, just as they are supposedly embarked on forming an alternate, radical new form of education, the Counter-University. There are books, but the online piece is key. I so fear the online piece of modern life and learning. All the little children wed to their phones and pads and laptops, tapping away to gain knowledge with no knowledge or desire to test the sources they find. Maybe that's the key: the ability to challenge, to question, to ask many times over what is truth - and lie.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jim

    Read it and weep, Robert Harris. This is how to write a spy thriller. Le Carre's strength, or one of them (and there are many) is his characterisations which, in less skilled hands, could be the ludicrous caricatures I mentioned above. He makes them believable though. As he does the situations. You really begin to believe that the world of espionage works exactly as portrayed here. His heroes tend to be offbeat misfits who can't seem to settle in a normal life and, from the novels I've read so f Read it and weep, Robert Harris. This is how to write a spy thriller. Le Carre's strength, or one of them (and there are many) is his characterisations which, in less skilled hands, could be the ludicrous caricatures I mentioned above. He makes them believable though. As he does the situations. You really begin to believe that the world of espionage works exactly as portrayed here. His heroes tend to be offbeat misfits who can't seem to settle in a normal life and, from the novels I've read so far, tend to end up dead in the end. As he did here. The only thing I dislike about reading Le Carre is my inability to find authors who are writing with similar panache. It really does highlight the shortcomings of Robert Harris, Robert Wilson and the like who are undoubtedly good authors but don't reach this kind of level. And I couldn't tell you why.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Mark

    Calling John le Carre a spy novelist is liking calling Shakespeare a jingle writer. Nevertheless, there was something about this book that bothered me enough to knock one star off my otherwise high regard, and I think I can discuss it without issuing a spoiler alert. First, the basics: Ted Mundy is a Brit who almost falls into the spy trade after he renews his acquaintance with old student friend, the enigmatic and charismatic Sasha. Together, they had played street revolutionaries in Berlin in t Calling John le Carre a spy novelist is liking calling Shakespeare a jingle writer. Nevertheless, there was something about this book that bothered me enough to knock one star off my otherwise high regard, and I think I can discuss it without issuing a spoiler alert. First, the basics: Ted Mundy is a Brit who almost falls into the spy trade after he renews his acquaintance with old student friend, the enigmatic and charismatic Sasha. Together, they had played street revolutionaries in Berlin in the 60s, and when Mundy meets Sasha again years later, a meeting Sasha has cleverly arranged, he discovers Sasha has become a spy for the East Germans (though he's a double agent) and Mundy becomes his one and only go-between for years thereafter. In the process, gentle Ted loses his wife and his son and all manner of other normality while leading his double and sometimes triple life. The buildup of Ted's and Sasha's relationship and the umbilical connection they have is wonderfully described and propels the novel along nicely. But the real question le Carre wants to ask is: What happens to two old spies when the reason for their existence no longer exists (i.e., the crumbling of the Berlin Wall)? The answer he comes up with is gripping, mysterious, but in the end, I thought, a little over the top. In some ways, this novel seemed as much a way for le Carre to express his disgust with the Iraq war through his characters as it was a story driven by its own imperatives. Nevertheless, I recommend it.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Lisabet Sarai

    Less morally ambiguous than many of le Carre's books, ABSOLUTE FRIENDS makes it very clear who is the enemy. Gripping, moving and as tightly written as all his novels, taking in a huge sweep of history. This is literature - not just spy fiction!

  10. 4 out of 5

    Yvann S

    "Leaving the envelope to mature for a week or two, therefore, he waits until the right number of tequilas has brought him to the right level of insouciance, and rips it open." Ted Mundy, Pakistan-born English major's son, Germanophile and student rebel, has just about settled into mediocrity at the British Council when a trip in his guise as head of Overseas Drama and Arts (particular responsibility: Youth) becomes an exercise in secret police evasion. A figure from his past appears and he is rec "Leaving the envelope to mature for a week or two, therefore, he waits until the right number of tequilas has brought him to the right level of insouciance, and rips it open." Ted Mundy, Pakistan-born English major's son, Germanophile and student rebel, has just about settled into mediocrity at the British Council when a trip in his guise as head of Overseas Drama and Arts (particular responsibility: Youth) becomes an exercise in secret police evasion. A figure from his past appears and he is recruited into double agency. I got to page 260 out of 400 of this. The first 200 pages were really promising - fascinating character development, a cold open that leaves us desperate to get back to it, great student riot atmosphere... and then we get into the spying proper and it bored me to anger. Seriously, I got so angry with the dull plot, dire characters and chronically self-indulgent writing ("redux" 4 times in 2 pages??) that I decided I would rather play Bubble Shooter on my phone than continue reading it. Scathing criticism indeed. The writing is exceptional and so consistent that I struggled to find a quote for the top of this review and shan't waste more time trying to find any more - rather than good writing with exceptional one-liners, this is excellent writing with an unfortunate dollop of smug. The page that finally made me lose my temper was one in which Ted was named "Mundy redux" 5 times over a double page. I don't know what redux was supposed to mean, given that we are already so hopelessly entrenched in Ted's multiple personalities, but it struck me as so pompous, so "I require my readers to have advanced degrees, otherwise they're not good enough", that I was genuinely angry. The characters are impossible to relate to - Ted is dull, mediocre, apathetic; no wonder his wife finds someone else. Sasha is fiery and contrary, but implausibly so. And no one else gets much of a look-in, as this is about the two absolute friends and not anyone else. So character development for the support cast is woeful. And as for the plot - Ted's childhood: fascinating. Student days: engrossing. Berlin riot participation: page-turning. Settling into middle-class mediocrity in Britain/spying: urgh. Bubble Shooter was more exciting.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Christine Zibas

    The old spy game is taken up a notch in Le Carre’s “Absolute Friends.” Here the intrigue and spying are not merely about competing Cold War ideologies, but the friendship of two men who came of age and connected as friends amidst the radical student movement of the 1960s in West Germany. The friendship continues throughout the novel, as the friends meet and drift apart again over the years, but never lose the ultimate bond (estranged boyhoods and youthful idealism) that united them in the first The old spy game is taken up a notch in Le Carre’s “Absolute Friends.” Here the intrigue and spying are not merely about competing Cold War ideologies, but the friendship of two men who came of age and connected as friends amidst the radical student movement of the 1960s in West Germany. The friendship continues throughout the novel, as the friends meet and drift apart again over the years, but never lose the ultimate bond (estranged boyhoods and youthful idealism) that united them in the first place. As this political thriller opens, Sasha (the crippled son of a German traitor whose life he is always trying to atone for) comes looking for his old friend Ted Bundy (son of an old Colonial officer serving in India during the time of the partition with Pakistan). By now they are middle aged men and have a long history together. After setting the scene of the present day, the book harkens back to their shared past, recounting their early days as radical college students in Germany. After they part company in West Germany, Sasha leaves with his radical theories for what he believes is a more egalitarian society, defecting to the East. As he learns more of his own father’s history and experiences the brutality of life in East Germany, Sasha soon realizes his defection is an ideological mistake, and thus decides to correct it by becoming a double agent for the West, while “working for the Stasi (East German intelligence).” Meanwhile Ted has returned to England and found a good life for himself--a wife he loves, the birth of their first child, and a job with the British Council, working with traveling arts groups who journey across the Iron Curtain in a gesture of friendship and cultural exchange. Just as he comes to recognize his own happiness with life as he knows it, he is recruited into the world of intrigue and deception by none other than Sasha himself. True to the friendship, Ted too, soon becomes a double agent, ultimately succeeding brilliantly and becoming a valuable asset to British intelligence, even as his personal life falls apart. With the fall of the Berlin Wall, everything changes yet again, and the two friends, no longer needed in the roles they played as Cold War spies for so many years, drift apart again. When Sasha comes looking for Ted this time, it’s with a proposition that appeals to both their idealistic tendencies…but is it legit? Sasha has always been blind-sighted by his own idealism, and Ted is finally reconnecting with a new family life as an ex-pat, working in Germany as a guide to British tourists after the failure of his English school. Ted is wary of the offer, and he soon discovers he’s in too deep. More than that, he keeps trying to discern whether Sasha, too, has changed and is lying to him. As with any true spy story, there are multiple layers to all these situations, but when the one true friendship is tested, there’s no going back. Le Carre has brought this spy tale up to the present day and the Iraq War for his finale, and shown just how dated the rules of Cold War spying have become. The enemy is no longer the “other,” and what does friendship and loyalty mean in the end? Le Carre tackles the big questions, never shying away from what makes us uncomfortable as a society. He’s as meaningful and brilliant a writer as ever, and “Absolute Friends” proves that.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Jeff

    I’m going to do the same review for “The Mission Song” and “Absolute Friends” because these books have so much in common. They both show a great writer having stumbled on his own frustration at international politics. Both books are suffused with anger that does not characterize Le Carre’s other works, and this anger impedes the storytelling and changes thematic representation to Neanderthalic proselytizing. In the past Le Carre has dealt with subjects before that he finds offensive (“The Night I’m going to do the same review for “The Mission Song” and “Absolute Friends” because these books have so much in common. They both show a great writer having stumbled on his own frustration at international politics. Both books are suffused with anger that does not characterize Le Carre’s other works, and this anger impedes the storytelling and changes thematic representation to Neanderthalic proselytizing. In the past Le Carre has dealt with subjects before that he finds offensive (“The Night Watchman” and “The Constant Gardener” are excellent examples) without going over the top. His two latest works are clumsy in their indictment of society to the extent that Le Carre has ceased to be a great writer and has become an average polemicist. This is a shame. His works would be much more powerful and effective if he didn’t take his rage to extremes. When one goes too far in any direction most people stop listening, and I’m afraid that Le Carre has lost his voice. Hopefully he will continue writing and his next work will contain the trenchant social and political analysis that his earlier works had.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Gram

    A Le Carre novel in which the author wears his heart determinedly on his sleeve. There are reviews on Goodreads which explain the plot far better than I could. All I'll say is that I read one review of "Absolute Friends" in "The Guardian" newspaper and it was obvious the reviewer hadn't a clue what Le Carre was talking about and possibly skipped large sections of the story. I prefer the reviews on this website. This tale of friendship between Ted and Sasha, two street fighting men from the 1960 A Le Carre novel in which the author wears his heart determinedly on his sleeve. There are reviews on Goodreads which explain the plot far better than I could. All I'll say is that I read one review of "Absolute Friends" in "The Guardian" newspaper and it was obvious the reviewer hadn't a clue what Le Carre was talking about and possibly skipped large sections of the story. I prefer the reviews on this website. This tale of friendship between Ted and Sasha, two street fighting men from the 1960's who become double agents in the Cold War and then confused participants in "The War On Terror". Although not without humour, overall, it's a depressing tale, but one that's worth reading because Le Carre does a better job on the history and politics of the past 60 years than most of the authors of "factual" history books can hope to achieve. This is far removed from George Smiley territory as it details the confusion which has existed since the fall of the Communism and the rise of espionage being carried out by private firms working within the State (any State) intelligence apparatus. The effortless writing is, as always, a joy to read.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Stefan

    Absolute Friends was the story of a complicated friendship spanning much of the twentieth century. The psychological depth of this friendship was reason enough to read this novel. The issues discussed, events mentioned and locations described gave me much food for thought. The intelligent, well-paced and insightful story was gripping and authentic in the way few thrillers are today . But I was most touched by the power of the story’s cynical conclusion: it forced me to soberly consider the treme Absolute Friends was the story of a complicated friendship spanning much of the twentieth century. The psychological depth of this friendship was reason enough to read this novel. The issues discussed, events mentioned and locations described gave me much food for thought. The intelligent, well-paced and insightful story was gripping and authentic in the way few thrillers are today . But I was most touched by the power of the story’s cynical conclusion: it forced me to soberly consider the tremendous unforeseen implications of the War on Terror. Well worth rereading.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Gwen

    I decided to read other reviewers here on Goodreads before I gave my stars. Turns out they didn't change my first instinct to give it a solid four. Was hard for me to buy the (spoiler alert) probability that Mundy would take up with Sasha a THIRD time in response to his appeal to save the world having had two prior undesirable outcomes. But I could get past it in view of so many salient themes to the modern setting. I found it interesting that it was copywritten 2003, which explains all the refe I decided to read other reviewers here on Goodreads before I gave my stars. Turns out they didn't change my first instinct to give it a solid four. Was hard for me to buy the (spoiler alert) probability that Mundy would take up with Sasha a THIRD time in response to his appeal to save the world having had two prior undesirable outcomes. But I could get past it in view of so many salient themes to the modern setting. I found it interesting that it was copywritten 2003, which explains all the references to the Iraq war being declared "over," is if it was fair to render some hindsight in novel form. If those characters only knew...... One thing missing in the reviews I've read (admittedly only a few): Didn't anyone notice the recurring aspect of Blackwater-esque elements in the wars? And the anarchist's horror at the capitalism therein? Corporate mercenaries involving themselves in--or downright sponsoring--wars between states for the sole purpose of their bottom lines, is portrayed here with all the poignancy and disgust appropriate to a war trumped up on false pretenses. Yes the main characters are flawed, human, and compelling, as they can only be in the translucent world of spyhood and survival. Which makes the rather whiplash ending so tragic and affecting. Few works have left me with a sense of futility and despair so complete. Brilliant.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    I listened to this long book on CD on a trip and, though I found it interesting enough to finish listening to it, am pretty sure that, had I read it in book form, I wouldn't have had the patience to finish it. Starting out with the appealing depiction of a British spy living happily in retirement with a Turkish woman and her son while working as a tour guide in Germany, the main character--Ted Mundy--winds up being called back into action by his old friend and fellow spy, Sasha. The flashback wh I listened to this long book on CD on a trip and, though I found it interesting enough to finish listening to it, am pretty sure that, had I read it in book form, I wouldn't have had the patience to finish it. Starting out with the appealing depiction of a British spy living happily in retirement with a Turkish woman and her son while working as a tour guide in Germany, the main character--Ted Mundy--winds up being called back into action by his old friend and fellow spy, Sasha. The flashback which recounts their radical youth in Cold War Germany and then their career as spies for the British government and the Stasi, is extremely lengthy, made even longer perhaps by the fact that Sasha, though as important to the plot as Mundy, never becomes a fully-realized or sympathetic character in the book. Fast forward to the American war against Iraq after 9/11: Ted Mundy reluctantly reconnoiters with the still-idealistic Sasha to fight global imperialism as spies once again. The outcome is disastrous for the two men, but gives Le Carre the opportunity to vent his rage at American imperialism, the war in Iraq, and the complete moral bankruptcy of spying when, if you believe him, all world powers are in collusion against the forces of good.

  17. 5 out of 5

    David Highton

    Another demonstration of how good a writer John Le Carre is - a narrative which spans forty years from the late Sixties onwards. The novel features Ted, a Pakistan-born Englishman who moves though a minor public school and a year at Oxford to join with student anarchist Sasha during a gap year in Berlin. In a later phase, Cold War espionage provides their continued relationship, and after a gap of 15 years they meet up again in a confusing alliance against US imperialism.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Denise

    Fiendishly clever, packing a punch, and with nothing as black and white as it might at first glance seem - exactly what one expects of John le Carré. While this decades-spanning story took a while to really get going, requiring a little more patience than some of his other novels, it certainly delivered in the end.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Boadicea

    In this his 19th novel, John le Carre brings his superb skills as a master storyteller of the spy thriller genre; on this occasion, utilising the backdrop of the latter half of the 20th century referencing the Germany he knew so well in the Cold War. However, we are also treated to the story leading up to unification as well as the situation in 2003 when Germany opposed the invasion of Iraq by British & American forces in pursuit of supposed "Weapons of Mass Destruction ", when the novel commenc In this his 19th novel, John le Carre brings his superb skills as a master storyteller of the spy thriller genre; on this occasion, utilising the backdrop of the latter half of the 20th century referencing the Germany he knew so well in the Cold War. However, we are also treated to the story leading up to unification as well as the situation in 2003 when Germany opposed the invasion of Iraq by British & American forces in pursuit of supposed "Weapons of Mass Destruction ", when the novel commences. We first meet the parody of a naive colonial Englishman, Ted Mundy, standing on a soapbox in a Bavarian castle working as a tour guide, wearing a bowler hat & an elderly tweed jacket, emblazoned with a Velcro-attached Union Jack flag to his breast pocket. He's broke, on the run from debtors of his defunct English language school after his partner, Egon, vanished with the assets, & thoroughly annoyed by the Gulf War. Then, out of the blue, his great friend, Sasha, arrives, to whisk him off on another idealistic adventure, but this one offers so much more.... But, as always with JLC, there is always so much more! There's a great backstory of a childhood spent in Pakistan after partition of India; a military father banished from the service following a court-martial; mother & twin sister who perished at birth; followed by a public boarding school education in the country, described as "a rain-swept cemetery for the living dead powered by a forty-watt bulb." Then, his solace in German extension lessons from a left wing German refugee, which allows him to go to Oxford on a scholarship to read German. Here, he comes under the influence of a female Hungarian firebrand, Ilse, who espouses many radical causes. He becomes her willing partner to everything, including her bed. He heads off to Germany for his 2nd year with an introduction to Sasha, Ilse's ex-boyfriend, in West Berlin, who is a leading light of the radical left student movement, living in a commune. Multiple adventures then ensue, not all involving the authorities, but he gets seriously "eingebläut" following 1 rally when he saves Sasha's life! i.e. he gets a full work-over by the West German police! There then follows a 10 year hiatus in their friendship as they follow different directions with Ted failing in several career paths before he obtains a job at the British Council responsible for Youth cultural experiences. At which point, Sasha & Ted are re-acquainted with Sasha, again creating a change in Ted's career path...before perestroika causes the implosion of the East German Communist party, causing Sasha to disappear from Germany as an ex-Stasi agent & Ted is forced into early retirement from his espionage work. I am not going to divulge the ending apart from to conclude that the familiar tragic themes of love, loyalty, loss & betrayal are present & I was heartbroken! It seemed appropriate that I was reading the last chapter listening to Arvo Pärt's Spiegel im Spiegel. Overall, this book is a great read, lighter in tone than others I have read by the same author but still offers plenty of gritty polemics on the politics of student movements in the 1960s in Europe. The shenanigans of the Iraq war & the manipulation of public opinion in its occasion is discussed as well as the pending threat of indoctrination by corporate militaristic organisations, all pertinent to the world still in 2019. i.e Blackwater, Chelsea Manning. Probably, 4.5 stars for this one; but it will be re-read possibly in a couple more years rather than TLDG, which remains as the "gold standard "! And yes, pretty please, make a film of it- Florence Pugh would make a great Ilse, I am sure that she could master a Hungarian flavoured English accent! Ideally directed by Joe Wright, score by Dario Marinelli in my ideal Utopian world!

  20. 5 out of 5

    David Lowther

    Absolute Friends is one of Le Carré's best 21st. Century novels. Spanning a life time from the blood soaked streets of India and Pakistan after partition to the freezing Cold War before settling into the horrors of the war against terror, the narrative follows the fortunes and misfortunes of one Ted Mundy, Oxford drop-out, 60s anarchist, unqualified schoolteacher, British Council guide and spy. Mundy is a man you can't help liking, for all his shortcomings, yet you feel throughout that it won't Absolute Friends is one of Le Carré's best 21st. Century novels. Spanning a life time from the blood soaked streets of India and Pakistan after partition to the freezing Cold War before settling into the horrors of the war against terror, the narrative follows the fortunes and misfortunes of one Ted Mundy, Oxford drop-out, 60s anarchist, unqualified schoolteacher, British Council guide and spy. Mundy is a man you can't help liking, for all his shortcomings, yet you feel throughout that it won't end well for him. What were his politics, left. right or centre? and who were really his masters? and was he a double or even triple agent? Much of the latter part of the story takes place against the backdrop of the US/UK led invasion of Iraq in 2003, reminding the British reader of the lies and tragedies which followed that most unnecessary of wars. Mundy is not dim but neither does he have a spy's instincts and we spend pages, wondering like him, what is really going on? Le Carré, the finest writer of espionage fiction since the middle years of the 20th. century uses his acerbic prose with its usual ingredients of wit and sarcasm, to enthral us with a morality tale for the ages. David Lowther. Author of The Blue Pencil, Liberating Belsen and Two Families at War, all published by Sacristy Press.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Tim

    Absolute Friends is almost autobiographical; Le Carre, himself an agent of Cold War espionage, made a career out of writing spy thrillers and must have been as shocked as anyone by the sudden collapse of the Iron Curtain. Like the protagonist, the English ex-spy Mundy, he must have struggled at first to find himself in this wholly changed landscape, and perhaps struggled to come to terms with it. This book covers that transition from Cold War to War on Terrorism, looking at the world through eye Absolute Friends is almost autobiographical; Le Carre, himself an agent of Cold War espionage, made a career out of writing spy thrillers and must have been as shocked as anyone by the sudden collapse of the Iron Curtain. Like the protagonist, the English ex-spy Mundy, he must have struggled at first to find himself in this wholly changed landscape, and perhaps struggled to come to terms with it. This book covers that transition from Cold War to War on Terrorism, looking at the world through eyes of complex and confused characters from the world of espionage. At times a gripping spy thriller, at times a slow pontification on 70s-era radicalism, but always brilliantly written and absorbing.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Teressa

    As a huge fan of 1984, I appreciate many of the Orwellian themes Le Carre develops here. It was also interesting to read about Iraq from the position of hindsight (Le Carre published this in 2003). I enjoyed the careful character development of both Sasha and Mundy as much as I enjoyed the author's excellent, terse prose. Really, the man is a wonderful writer! So why did I give this a three instead of a four? Or even a five? Le Carre's anger was palpable, to the point I felt he was proselytizing As a huge fan of 1984, I appreciate many of the Orwellian themes Le Carre develops here. It was also interesting to read about Iraq from the position of hindsight (Le Carre published this in 2003). I enjoyed the careful character development of both Sasha and Mundy as much as I enjoyed the author's excellent, terse prose. Really, the man is a wonderful writer! So why did I give this a three instead of a four? Or even a five? Le Carre's anger was palpable, to the point I felt he was proselytizing. A little restraint would have went a long way. I got tired of listening to long philosophical and political polemic,especially in the middle of the book, where I was sorely tempted to put the book down for good. Happily, it was the only thing I had left to read at the beach, so I stayed committed. Although I had guessed the ending by the early 300's, I still loved the denouement of the final chapter. There are so many salient criticisms of our current cozy military-industrial complex that would make Orwell proud. Good food for thought for all Americans. Rarely has a book left me such a feeling indignation, despair, and futility. I'm a sucker for a realistic ending, but if you like happy, fairy tale endings or clear distinctions between good and bad, this is probably not the book for you. If you like to explore moral, political, and philosophical grey areas-- and you can get past Le Carre's mini-tirades--then you will probably be a fan with some reservations, like me.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Clara

    1.5 The very first pages and the last ones were the best. But the middle was just meh. It was entertaining enough to keep me reading, but I thought about DNF it like four times. It reads fast though. I didn’t like the characters, I wasn’t interested in what they talked about and I wish some things were explained better. But I was told this isn’t his best books, and that some are great. So I’ll give them a shot. __________________________________________________ Las primeras páginas y las últimas fuer 1.5 The very first pages and the last ones were the best. But the middle was just meh. It was entertaining enough to keep me reading, but I thought about DNF it like four times. It reads fast though. I didn’t like the characters, I wasn’t interested in what they talked about and I wish some things were explained better. But I was told this isn’t his best books, and that some are great. So I’ll give them a shot. __________________________________________________ Las primeras páginas y las últimas fueron las mejores. Pero todo el medio me pareció meh. Fue lo suficientemente entretenido como para seguir leyendo, pero pensé en dejarlo como cuatro veces. Lo bueno es que se lee rápido. No me gustaron los personajes, no me interesaba lo que hablaban y me hubiera gustado que algunas cosas hayan estado mejor explicadas. Pero me han dicho que este no es el mejor de sus libros, y que tiene algunos excelentes. Así que les voy a dar una oportunidad.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Gina

    Absolutely heartbreaking. Le Carre at his best--on a par with The Honourable Schoolboy, Little Drummer Girl, and Perfect Spy. Set in Berlin of the '60s, East Germany just before the fall of the Wall, and in the unified Germany just after the invasion of Iraq. Ted Mundy and Sasha, the friends of the title, find out that the rules of the game, post-Cold War, have irrevocably changed.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Amyem

    http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/1... I own a copy and bookcrossed a copy http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/1... I own a copy and bookcrossed a copy

  26. 4 out of 5

    Dexter Meyers

    John LeCarre could absolutely be my friend

  27. 4 out of 5

    Don

    This is, I think, the very best of Le Carré’s novels that I have read – and I have read most of them. The characters, major and minor, are as well drawn as ever (with the failings and foibles of the two ‘Friends’ of the title sympathetically set out), the geographical context always convincing, and the scope of history (from the Independence of Pakistan through the Cold War – largely as seen through German eyes – to the fall of the Berlin Wall and up to 9-11 and the paranoia that it led to) sple This is, I think, the very best of Le Carré’s novels that I have read – and I have read most of them. The characters, major and minor, are as well drawn as ever (with the failings and foibles of the two ‘Friends’ of the title sympathetically set out), the geographical context always convincing, and the scope of history (from the Independence of Pakistan through the Cold War – largely as seen through German eyes – to the fall of the Berlin Wall and up to 9-11 and the paranoia that it led to) splendidly broad. Le Carré’s anger at the direction being taken by western politics, and the ever-growing influence of corporate materialism on the so-called democracies of Europe and the USA, is brilliantly expressed. It seems that the author is speaking through the rhetoric of the shadowy Dmitri: ‘[The corporations’] one aim is to perpetuate the insane concept of limitless expansion on a limited planet, with permanent conflict as its desired outcome’. Here the political message of The Constant Gardener, The Mission Song, A Most Wanted Man, and others – and the rage against corruption, incompetence and self-interest of all kinds expressed in most of his books – is stated most explicitly and cogently. Regrettably for us all, le Carré’s vision of world affairs remains valid today. If anything, it has just become plainer for us to see. By the way, ‘Absolute Friends’ is also an extremely good spy story.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Margaret Carpenter

    This one was up there with the Karla books. Phenomenally well-executed. Le Carré’s books aren’t spy stories, they’re stories about spies. They’re for those of us who have wondered what it is like to live a life of deception and intrigue, a life that is not your own. The answer is compromise, dissonance, loss of self. Le Carré's characters are all forced to develop identity after identity for the sake of survival and the cause they have been caught in. They find themselves in the same position as This one was up there with the Karla books. Phenomenally well-executed. Le Carré’s books aren’t spy stories, they’re stories about spies. They’re for those of us who have wondered what it is like to live a life of deception and intrigue, a life that is not your own. The answer is compromise, dissonance, loss of self. Le Carré's characters are all forced to develop identity after identity for the sake of survival and the cause they have been caught in. They find themselves in the same position as Mundy, who is "made up of all the odd bits of of his life that are left over after he has given the rest of himself away." Good side, bad side, there are no winners. Le Carré makes this painfully clear time after time.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Kenneth

    I rate this novel as "average" considering the body of work accomplished by this master. The story friend of the rekindled friendship between the two main characters held my interest, but the whiny politics of the two was rather grating. I found the end came crashing down hard, but I wasn't complaining as that meant that the book was over.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jim McCoy

    this book was back and forth. i started to get into the story then there were times it was dull and put it down for a while. the long philosophical monologues and stream of consciousness of Mundy lost my attention. The ending was redeeming, in typical le Carre style the story really hits its stride the last 75 pages or so.

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