It is with great sadness that I must share the news that David Cornwell, known to the world as John le Carré, passed away after a short illness (not COVID-19 related) in Cornwall on Saturday evening, 12th December, 2020. He was 89. Our hearts go out to his four sons, their families and to his dear wife, Jane.
For six decades, John le Carré dominated the bestseller lists and review pages with his monumental body of work. His dramatic launch onto the global scene began with the publication of his third novel in 1963, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, and the public revelation of his secret life working with the British Intelligence Services. Devoting his life to writing, he went on to define the Cold War era with the help of his character, George Smiley, and through his complex plots and beautiful prose, beamed a harsh light at the injustices of our world.
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy came in the 1970s and its accompanying landmark TV series with Alec Guinness. The 1980s brought the novel that is often heralded as his masterpiece: A Perfect Spy. With the fall of the Berlin Wall, David’s focus extended beyond the Soviet/UK/US relations to arms dealing with The Night Manager. The first decade of the new millennium brought us The Constant Gardener, a passionate critique of Big Pharma and this current decade brought back his favourite creation, George Smiley, in A Legacy of Spies.
His last novel, Agent Running in the Field, was published in October 2019.
David wrote twenty-five novels and one volume of memoir, The Pigeon Tunnel (2016), and has sold more than sixty million copies of his work worldwide.
His like will never be seen again, and his loss will be felt by every book lover, everyone interested in the human condition.
We have lost a great figure of English literature, a man of great wit, kindness, humour and intelligence. I have lost a friend, a mentor and an inspiration.
Below is a short statement which I am sharing on behalf of the family, who ask for privacy during this time:
It is with great sadness that we must confirm that David Cornwell – John le Carré – passed away from pneumonia last Saturday night after a short battle with the illness. David is survived by his beloved wife of almost fifty years, Jane, and his sons Nicholas, Timothy, Stephen and Simon. We all grieve deeply his passing. Our thanks go to the wonderful NHS team at the Royal Cornwall Hospital in Truro for the care and compassion that he was shown throughout his stay. We know they share our sadness.
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