John le Carre’s George Smiley is Back


Penguin Random House has revealed that a new novel starring George Smiley will be published globally in Autumn 2024. The novel will be authored by John le Carré’s son, Nick Harkaway, an award-winning novelist and author of titles including Gnomon and Tigerman.

Photo courtesy of Nadav Kander

The novel will be published by Viking, an imprint of Penguin Random House, in the UK, US and Canada. The group acquired global English language rights from Jonny Geller at Curtis Brown and international language editions are currently being negotiated.

George Smiley is one of the most memorable literary creations of the twentieth century. An antidote to more fantastical, all-action depictions of spy craft, the novels in which he features are now defining documents of espionage literature, including classics such as The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and Smiley’s People. From Smiley’s debut in 1961 to his previously most recent outing in 2017, the novels starring the renowned spy have sold over 30 million copies across all formats around the world. Margaret Atwood has said, ‘The Smiley novels are key to understanding the 20th century,’ while New York Times has written, ‘Smiley is the finest secret agent in the world’. Over the decades, Smiley has been played in film and television adaptations by the great actors of the era – James Mason, Alec Guinness and most recently Gary Oldman, in some of the finest performances in their careers.

Almost a decade passes between the devastating final scenes of The Spy Who Came in from the Cold and the opening pages of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. The new novel will begin the exploration of the life and world of this iconic character in these missing years.

John le Carré is one of Britain’s greatest ever writers. He was born in 1931, and over six decades he formed a literary world that came to define our age. He published his debut novel, Call for the Dead, in 1961 while still working in the secret service. 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, followed by A Legacy of Spies in 2017. At the end of the Cold War, le Carré widened his scope to explore an international landscape that included the arms trade and the War on Terror.

Photo courtesy of Nadav Kander

Le Carré’s memoir, The Pigeon Tunnel, was published to rapturous reviews in 2016 and has recently been adapted by Academy Award winning documentarian Errol Morris, in conversation with David Cornwell in what would be his final interview. The film premiered at Telluride and has gone on to receive global critical acclaim across film festivals including in Toronto, New York, and London, and on its release in theatres and on AppleTV+ in October this year.

David Cornwell died on 12 December 2020. Silverview, which was left complete upon the author’s death, was published posthumously in 2021 to great acclaim and brought to publication by Harkaway.

Harkaway is the author of books including Gnomon, The Gone-Away World, Angelmaker, Tigerman and Titanium Noir; as well as a non-fiction work about digital culture, The Blind Giant: Being Human in a Digital World, and, writing under the name of Aidan Truhen, of the Jack Price novels, beginning with The Price You Pay. The Guardian writes of Harkaway that: ‘His great gift as a novelist is to merge the pace, wit and clarity of the best ‘popular’ literature with the ambition, complexity and irony of the so-called ‘literary’ novel’ – a rare combination which le Carré himself also achieved.

Nick Harkaway said: ‘Smiley is woven into my life; Tinker Tailor was written in the two years after I was born and I grew up with the evolution of the Circus, so this is a deeply personal journey for me, and of course it’s a journey which has to feel right to the le Carré audience. It also seems as if we need the Smiley stories back now because they ask us the questions of the moment: what compassion do we owe to one another as human beings, and at what point does that compassion become more important than nation, law or duty?

Jonny Geller said: ‘When I read the opening chapters of Nick’s story, I had this uncanny feeling David (John le Carré) had just delivered his new work to me. I heard David’s voice lift off the page. Not only has Nick caught his father’s idiom, but he has also inhabited the world of the Circus and Tinker Tailor to create a completely new story, set in the period just after the end of The Spy Who Came in from the Cold. This will be the literary event of 2024.

Harriet Bourton, Publishing Director at Viking said: ‘As a life-long fan of the incredible world that John le Carré created, these missing years in Smiley’s career have always intrigued me and nobody is better placed to capture the spirit and voice of John le Carré than Nick Harkaway. I was absolutely blown away by Nick’s storytelling, and we are beyond excited to make this spectacular novel a momentous publication.’

The book will be published in hardback, ebook and audio formats in Autumn 2024.