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February 03, 1980 - Image 13

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The Michigan Daily, 1980-02-03
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Page 6-Sundcy, February 3, 1980-The Michigan Daily t

The Michigan Daily-Sunday, F



treacherous life

By John Goyer
By John le Carre
Alfred A. Knopf
$10.95, 374 pp.
G EORGE SMILEY, occupation:
spy. He stands in the rear court-
yard of Cambridge Circus in London,
headquarters of British Intelligence. It
is shortly after 11:30 p.m. on a recent
autumn evening. Smiley is consciously
taking leave of "the Circus" for the last
time; janitors inside observe the old
man staring for a while at the building
where he worked for two decades.
Smiley is also watched by a group of
inexperienced tails assigned to observe
the old spy. Smiley jumps the leash,
walking out of the courtyard and losing
the tails easily as he travels by cab and
then by train. He's gone to visit his
estranged wife to say goodbye, just as
he's said goodbye to the buildings.
Now spies don't generally say good-
bye to their wives before they leave for
a mission. But George Smiley, a figure
in several of John LeCarre's novels, is
not like most spies. By Ian Fleming
standards, this Smiley is a dull flop-he
never shoots anyone, he doesn't even
carry a gun (In fact, he's retired). He
has to catch his breath after climbing
more than one flight of stairs.

In Smiley's People the spy comes out
of retirement to hunt his arch-rival and
opposite behind the Iron Curtain, a spy
known as Karla. For Smiley the search
is more than usual business, for Karla
has defeated Smiley in the past. Karla
engineered the planting of a turncoat
spy in the Circus, one whom became
good friends with Smiley. Under the
guise of British Intelligence the tur-
ncoat slept with Smiley's wife and tran-
smitted valuable information to
Moscow. Once, some twenty years ago
in a prison in Ne'w Delhi, Karla and
Smiley met face-to-face...
With Smiley's People, these career
disappointments and personal failures
contribute to Smiley's image as a
morose-but not self-pitying-person,
given to burying himself under mounds
of books in medieval German in order
to escape the loneliness of retirement.
Smiley is a dull, plodding, intglligent
man who has worked hard for years
and gained little by way of reward but
the chance to indulge his germanic
need for precision.
IT IS SMILEY'S precise, thorough
nature that allows him to add up
clues that expose a chink in Karla's
armor, a weakness to exploit. He adds
up the clues not through daring exploits
in foreign capitals, although he visits
sources abroad, but through persistent
search for inconsistencies in stories
everyone else assumes are plausible.
Smiley spends his time combing files
and memories, not minefields. LeCarre

point, as Smiley draws nearer on
Karla's scent, he requests files from the
dusty shelves of Cambridge Circus, and
his security clearance is questioned by
the younger, current masters of the
Circus. But their chief knows Smiley
from way back, and bellows at the
suggestion of denying Smiley access to
the file: "God Almighty, man, he wrote
the damn thing in the first place, didn't
he? If George can't read his own repor-
ts, who the hell can?" The ignorance of
the present, younger spies casts Smiley
in the role of neglected sage. -Smiley's
lack of self-pity gives the aging
scholar/spy role its finishing touches.
Perhaps LeCarre restrains himself
too much in his desire to avoid over-
romanticizing Smiley and blowing the
balance. Clearly, the old spy rarely
loses his cool. But LeCarre has been
clever enough to add a few inconsisten-
cies to make the character believable.
Questions about Smiley's unfaithful
wife, for example, merit a sharp reply
to one of his friends. These brief glim-
merings of temper or disgust make
Smiley's cool the rest of the time seem
much more convincing. He's real, he
gets sick when he sees a dead body. But
there's not enough of these moments in
the book for the reader. You feel that
you want to know Smiley, hear him say
more, see him react. As the reader you
are one of Smiley's alienated friends,
who he has offended without warning:
not with a burst of temper, but with an
unexplained, muted reaction.
Smiley's People is narrated as if the
spy's biographer were telling a tale
pieced together from the loose and scat-
tered memories of Smiley's friends.

Daily night editor John Goyer has severa
howling buddies thought to be working fo
the C.I.A.

l frequently harken
r episodes in Smile
character a touchin

s back to previous
y's life, giving the
ng continuity. At one

But LeCarre floats somewhere above;
only occasionally descending to say he
knows what Smiley thinks, he quotes
Smiley's friends, also at times at-
tributing some of our impressions of
Smiley to the remembrances of friends
for the sake of lending a feeling of
nostalgia to the narrative.
Smiley's individualism is heightened
by the lack of an omniscient, Charley's
Angel authority figure to plan his
moves. The spy makes the decisidn
himself Ao come out of retirement.
While he is respected by the younger
generation of spies at the Circus
(which, one gets the ifnpression, Smile
thinks of as if it were a dorm he lived in
as an undergraduate) Smiley does not
agree with his successors' methods nor
with modern politics. So the new Circus
gives Smiley a free reign to hunt his old
enemy/friend, but it keeps an eye on
the old guy just the same.
Smiley in a down-to-earth fashion
also by describing the scene honestly
and without atteippting to impress the
reader, as some spy novelists do, with
names of streets in Berlin or knowledge
of the different types of sidearms
carried by a Soviet officer. Vis the set-
ting for a meeting between Smiley and
a contact:
"The town was leafy and se-
cluded, the lawns large, the houses
carefully zoned. Whatever there had
been of country /ife had long since
fallen before the armies of suburbia,
but the brilliant sunlight made
everything beautiful. Number 8 was
on the right hand side, a substantial
two story residence with steep Scan-
dinavian roofs, a double garage,
and a wide selection of young trees
planted much too close together. .
James Bond spies for thrills, Treva-
nian's protagonists do it for women and
riches. In Smiley's People, many spy
because they are blackmailed-thus
one so often depicted as a person of ac-
tion and power becomes a victim ren-
dered helpless. Blackmail is the way
Smiley "turns" Soviet spies; they are
approached, and then muscled into
working for the West.
LeCarre's point is that spies love, and
thus they can all be induced to change
sides. By loving his wife Smiley was
defeated, the conclusion being that
loving and hoping are dangerous things
that can preclude one's downfall. In
Smiley's world, to hope is to open
oneself up to the possibility of black-
mail. To a precise man such as Smiley,
the knowledge that there is nothing per-
fect in the world is daily agony.
The fact that so many of the book's
characters spy because they are forced
to tell us something about how Smiley
has managed to stay alive through
many years of "intelligence
gathering," as we Americans call it.
Smiley keeps his nose clean, he doesn't
go to nightclubs, his wife is- probably
the only woman he's ever slept
with-all of which leaves an enemy lit-
tle room for blackmail. Karla,
however, in his thorough manner, once
beat Smiley throdigh his wife, and
Smiley can never forget it.
See SMILEY, Page8

- - ~ - ~>~f .
' AI-, w tMi( )vIpaw,_ "' rt

By Lorenzo Benet
WITH MORE universities and
colleges per square mile than,
any other city in the nation,
Boston is probably the center of
education in America today. Certainly,
a pair of mega-centers for the intellect
such as Harvard and MIT garner for
the region a maximum of public atten-
tion. But recently another nearby
university has been the prime focus' of
public scrutiny. For what many faculty
and students consider to be the most un-
fortunate of reasons, Boston University
has emerged in the news in recent
'weeks as possessing the most con-
troversial figure in Boston academia
today. That person, by far the most
hated man at Boston University, is
President John Silber.
Silber has been likened to an army
general by both faculty and students at
the University. His name and
reputation have been lambasted on
numerous, petitions, and John Silber
surrogates have been burned in effigy,y
often in private. The Massachusetts
Civil Liberties Union has attacked him.
Since he took over the reins of the
university in 1971, Silber has always
been to some degree or other un-
popular. However, the current tumult
makes all previous conflicts seem as if
nothing. Last spring, a ten-day faculty
strike was followed by an organized
walkout by secretaries and librarians.
When Silber attempted to terminate the
tenure of five professors for allegedly
honoring picket lines the clerics had set
up, the outrage began.
Crouching by the wide, dirty waters
of the Charles River, Boston University
lies three miles out from the heart of
Boston. Across the river are B.U.'s
more prestigious and wealthy siblings,
Harvard and MIT. Students at the
university enjoy an open city campus,
conspicuously lacking the trees and
lawns found most everywhere else on
the Eastern collegiate scene. Most live
in university-owned brownstones, while
others dwell in off-campus apartments'
And, like many students, those at
B.U. confront the typical troubles in-
volved with adjusting to the rigors of
life in a new city and the impersonal
Lorenzo Benet covers Academics
for the Daily.

atmosphere of a university that
educates thousands.
But for the more than 24,000 at B.U.,
life is made even more difficult by the
persistent conflict between Silber and
the faculty.
"It's difficult enough with grade
competition and the decreasing job
market," comments Renee Werlin, who
graduated last spring from the univer-
sity's College of Liberal Arts. "I think
most students try to put the turmoil in
the back of their mind. But it's not that

M OREOVER,, many have
refused to put it out of their
minds. The student
newspaper, as well as student political
groups, have supported the faculty con-
sistently in their disputes with Silber.
The student government has even draf-
ted and passed resolutions calling for
the removal of Silber and the dropping
of charges against the five professors -
dubbed the "B.U. five."
"Tenure was designed to protect
academic freedom and prevent
someone from firing you because he

Photo of John Silber courtesy of Boston University;
"'l', and clerics courtes of Bostn University Free Pre
Why do, so manyin Bost

hate B.U.

s John' Silber

political be]
ce professo
B.U. five tl
dividuals wl
cross a pick
honored our
Silber, ho
the profes:
classes at tf
they have ix
strike and v
the universi
quick to po
either suspe
On the st
Zinn appear
man who we
anyone. But
Silber" and
over his fac
sity like an
oblivious to
But the 5
two of whic
did about hi
is no good i
Silber point
ced budget,
and donatio
among its
tactics hav
of the univer
Silber, a
of his life ii
torate in Ph
sity. His frie
articulate, t
the other hK
med him
"During t
pus in the e
call the pol
their preser
riot," obser
Vietnam a
seemed to r
went on."
Zinn has I
Silber duri,
president. H
below the a
professors ih
Liberal Arts
"Silber 1
salary belov
published te
largest sect

'We have a faculty union at B. U. because
of John Silber. I've been here for two and
a half decades and we didn 't have a union
until last year. Silber has created the union
through his grossness, his disruption, his
vindictiveness, and his arbitrary behavior.'
-Murray Levin,
Political Science professor

--- 699 vs.Spy

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