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  • Published: 8 September 2016
  • ISBN: 9780241976869
  • Imprint: Penguin eBooks
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 352

The Pigeon Tunnel

Stories from My Life

The Sunday Times no. 1 memoir now in paperback

The Pigeon Tunnel, John le Carré's memoir and his first work of non-fiction, is a thrilling journey into the worlds of his 'secret sharers' - the men and women who inspired some of his most enthralling novels. From terrifying meetings with Yasser Arafat in war-torn Beirut to brilliantly observed encounters with the great figures of 20th century film, from Stanley Kubrick to Alec Guinness. The reader is swept along not just by the chilling winds of the Cold War or by the author's frightening journeys into places of terrible violence but, most importantly, by the author's inimitable voice.

In this astonishing work we see our world, both public and private, through the eyes of one of the world's greatest writers.

  • Published: 8 September 2016
  • ISBN: 9780241976869
  • Imprint: Penguin eBooks
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 352

About the author

John le Carré

John le Carré was born in 1931. For six decades, he wrote novels that came to define our age. The son of a confidence trickster, he spent his childhood between boarding school and the London underworld. At sixteen he found refuge at the university of Bern, then later at Oxford. A spell of teaching at Eton led him to a short career in British Intelligence (MI5&6). He published his debut novel, Call for the Dead, in 1961 while still a secret servant. His third novel, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, secured him a worldwide reputation, which was consolidated by the acclaim for his trilogy Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, The Honourable Schoolboy and Smiley's People. At the end of the Cold War, le Carré widened his scope to explore an international landscape including the arms trade and the War on Terror. His memoir, The Pigeon Tunnel, was published in 2016 and the last George Smiley novel, A Legacy of Spies, appeared in 2017. He died on 12 December 2020. His posthumous novel Silverview was published in 2021.

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Praise for The Pigeon Tunnel

The Pigeon Tunnel is a delight... a collection of highly polishes oddments from a life, assembled to entertain and inform...fabulously funny

Radio Times

A beautiful book. The great glory of it is it comes close to unlocking the central mystery of le Carré

Tony Parsons

A smashing read

Richard Davenport-Hines, Wall Street Journal

As enthralling as his fiction

Woman and Home

Cagey, clever, revealing

Daily Telegraph

Exceptionally well-turned and enjoyable

David Sexton, Evening Standard

Frank and fascinating

Daily Express

Grippingly written, it is revealing in ways the author never intended it to be

Sunday Telegraph

John le Carré is as recognizable a writer as Dickens or Austen

Financial Times

le Carré is a master of the art... fascinatingly readable

The Times

No other writer has charted - pitilessly for politicians but thrillingly for readers - the public and secret histories of his times


When I was under house arrest I was helped by the books of John le Carré ... they were a journey into the wider world ... These were the journeys that made me feel that I was not really cut off from the rest of humankind

Aung San Suu Kyi

A snapshot of a story that is, truly, as extraordinary as any of his fiction

Daily Mail

A deeply personal and touching account of le Carré's life ... it has undeniable power


Elusive and frank and witty by turns, the spy master gives away just as much of himself as he wants to in The Pigeon Tunnel, tracing the story of his life through his walk-on parts in the history and mythology of the cold war, and the shape-shifting discipline of his imagination

Tim Adams, Guardian Biographies of the Year


Daily Mail

Fascinating, important, pithy. Anyone interested in le Carré and his significant contribution to the literature of the 20th and 21st centuries will want to read these engaging meanderings through his life and career.He has plenty to say about Kim Philby, the movie business, fellow spooks and Russian defectors, encounters with the great and good, and his intrepid travels to research his novels

William Boyd, Guardian

For me The Pigeon Tunnel just confirms the enigma... extremely humorous... at no point do I feel that I knew one tiny bit more than he wants me to know

Susanne Bier, director of The Night Manager

He has written an uproarious, darkly poignant and precious book

James Naughtie, New Statesman

I savoured the gravelly, quietly insistent voice of a master storyteller examining his own life

Michela Wrong, The Spectator

Le Carré is such a good writer . . . Though urbane and detached, there is rage simmering not far below the surface of both le Carré and his new book. But then, nothing, absolutely nothing, is what it seems

Daily Mail

le Carré's The Pigeon Tunnel is exquisite

Hugh Laurie

Offers thrills of recognition as le Carré's archetypes spring to life... The 84-year old novelist discards extended narrative and writes in elegiac fragments with linking harmonies, like the late works of that other German Romantic, Beethoven

John Gapper, Financial Times

the entertaining recollections of a raconteur

Neil McCormick, Telegraph

Vintage le Carré ... [he] remains a magician of plot and counter-plot, a master storyteller


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