A Most Wanted Man – Spying World in the Aftermath of 9/11

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Corporate media, social media and various other kinds of Medias brings global news into our screens, but most of the times, even they couldn’t scrutinize this hidden war, waged on Earth’s inculpable people. Right now, as we are ‘liking’ and ‘sharing’ the brutal facts of warfare, an innocent civilian life is being threatened on Somalia, Afghanistan or in Syria. The greatest nightmare of humanity is the humans thriving in the shadow of war. However, ironically, these sad facts make up for good stories. John Le Carre, the audacious spy novelist, returns to an espionage scenario that comes close to his excellent 60’s Cold War novels. “A Most Wanted Man” was written by Le Carre at his 78th age, and he has still got this fervor of creating a riveting set of characters, like ‘George Smiley.’

“A Most Wanted Man” takes place in the aftermath of 9/11, where the frenzied secret agents are looking out for information on anyone with a beard. Carre seamlessly changes to accommodate his spies into this new modern world. Nonetheless, they still largely remain as a two-faced, devious creature. In this novel, he catches up with the people, who had been mistakenly caught in the path of ‘war on terror.’ He also explores the authoritative stance of our bullying big brother USA. The story is set in Hamburg, Germany – a city, whose spies failed to latch on to Mohammed Atta and his colleagues (9/11 conspirators). In this guilt-ridden city, Turkish heavyweight boxing champion, Melik and his widowed mother, Leila are walking. They are followed by a gaunt, shabby man in a dark coat named Issa. The Turks are devout Muslims and they are eagerly waiting for their German citizenship. Melik is also excited about his sister’s marriage, for which he and his mother are soon traveling to Turkey. But, this slender young man changes their fate.

With bruises and scars, the Chechnya fugitive, Issa Karpov asks for a shelter in Melik and Leila home (“I am a Muslim medical student. I am tired and I wish to stay in your house.” Says a piece of cardboard held in the hands of Issa). The tender-hearted Leila thinks it is Allah’s wish to look over this guest and she thinks of him as an elder son. Melik is, at first skeptical about Issa’s background, but eventually takes him as a brother. This battered Chechnyan has escaped from Russian and Turkish prison, and was smuggled from Sweden to Germany, in a truck. He is also about to inherit a huge amount of money, from his father, a corrupt Russian Army colonel and mafia lord.

Philip Seymour Hoffman as Gunther Bachman in the Upcoming movie version

Philip Seymour Hoffman as Gunther Bachman in the Upcoming movie version

The ill-gotten gains of Issa’s late father are sitting in a private bank of a hapless British banker named Tommy Brue. Issa’s aim was not to claim the money, but to stay in Germany to pursue his medical studies. This scenario brings in a difficult, delicately drawn female human-rights lawyer, Annabel Richter. She is hell bent on making amends for the previous deportations she failed to prevent. She becomes the intermediary between Brue and Issa. In the background, a chain of events has been set around, ever since the arrival of Issa, in Germany. Issa, called as Islamic militant, is being fervently pursued by a world-weary Hamburg intelligence chief Gunther Bachmann. There are also the sulking British agents and the all-guns-blazing Americans. All of them are wheedling and double-crossing to watch over these alleged jihadists.       

Carre always captures the nuances of the spy world. Some of the scenarios are so well realized that forget you’re reading fiction. You become a part of that discussion, grasping every cough and glances with a delight. He also brings forth the murky businesses of developed countries in Third-World countries; America’s self-appointed role of global policemen; and closely scrutinizes the Western thoughts of Islamist philosophy. The inevitable ending will take the readers some time to readjust. The minor characters are great, but where he fails is, in the love triangle between pretty lawyer, the rubbish banker and the refugee. Issa is this book’s important emotional and moral point. However, he is not very unlikable. We can relate as well as contradict with Gunther or Annabel, but the one-dimensional Issa is there, only as a device of sympathy. He plays like a ‘holy fool’ and has this arrogance, as he explains to Annabel that if she improves her character a little and convert into Islam, he will marry her, and then she can be a nurse in his hospital, when she is not too pregnant. The so-called love triangle between these characters doesn’t serve as character study or plot device. It just stands in the way of riveting events.

The annoying Issa doesn’t make this novel disastrous. The other aspects of Carre’s craftsmanship give a relishing experience and impart us with knowledge that might have been too boring to read from a historical book. He says if these secret agents are your good guys, then we surely have some ugly possibilities.

(John Le Carre has written two more novels after “A Most Wanted Man” titled, “Our Kind of Traitor” and “A Delicate Truth.”)

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