MI5 agent John Bingham is cited as inspiration for John le Carré’s iconic spy George Smiley—a character boasting wildly successful turns in novels, TV, and films—but it turns out that he wasn’t a fan. Newly released papers from Bingham’s life show that, not only did he dislike his by-proxy fame, but that he “deplored” the way le Carré portrayed it.
“You are far from being pro-Soviet or pro-communist,” Bingham wrote in an October 1979 letter to him, as if to suggest that le Carré is not not a communist, “but I would think the attacks gave comfort and even pleasure and glee [to such people] in some places.”
These “attacks” refer to le Carré’s depictions of M15 (called the “circus” in his novels), which do not shy away from portraying British intelligence in a bad light. For example, The Telegraph notes that le Carré once dared to label British agents as game-playing “fantasists” and closeted homosexuals—an accusation that the straightforwardly patriotic Bingham would not abide (“your favourite ‘homosexual fantasist’” he signed the above letter, in cheeky response).
Lacking the empathy to understand that communists could really use some additional glee in their lives, Bingham’s papers are full of criticisms of le Carré for indirectly supporting …read more

Via: Melville House Books