The Spy Who Came in From the Cold

by

John Le Carré

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The Spy Who Came in From the Cold: Chapter 12 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Leamas is sitting on the plane to Berlin, reflecting on the last part of his career. He says to himself that Control was right—he has been getting burnt out. He remembers that last year he was on his way to meet Riemeck, speeding on the highway, which was crowded with huge, heavy lorries, when he had to pound on his brakes to avoid hitting a car full of children. Afterwards, Leamas pulled over and struggled to breathe, thinking of how the children’s bodies might have looked once they were killed, and remembering the bodies of murdered refugees during World War II. When he got back in the car, he drove slowly and missed his meeting. From then on, Leamas always remembers the children whenever he drives.
This experience reveals just how fragile and exhausted Leamas was, even before accepting the mission to take down Mundt—he’s been worn down by years of dangerous work. He has spent more than two decades navigating tense situations, as there is little difference in the level of danger for a spy between working during wartime and during peacetime. As he rushes to meet Riemeck – putting his job above the rules of safe driving – Leamas is reminded of the fact that the risks he takes in his work can actually lead to the deaths of the innocent people he wants to protect.
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Related Quotes
On the plane to Berlin, Leamas considers passing a note to an American woman who is also on the plane with a message for her to pass it on to the British authorities, but then dismisses the idea, because he realizes that Control must have arranged for this to happen to him. Control had never mentioned what might become of him, only coaching him on how to behave. Control had told Leamas to drink a lot, to be rude, and not to pretend to have converted to Communist ideology, saying that the other side wanted to deduce their conclusions from his evidence. Control had said it would be worth it, and Leamas had felt he could not turn down the mission. He remembers a book in which an old revolutionary prepares himself to experience torture, and admits to himself that he does not think he could stand it.
Leamas understands that he can no longer predict what will become of him. He believes that he is still carrying out the mission to take down Mundt in the manner that Control wants, but he is scared because he realizes that Control only instructed him in how to behave, and lied about what kind of situations he would be put into. Although Leamas has been betrayed, he has no choice but to remain loyal to his mission, because to do otherwise would amount to admitting that he is on a mission, which would lead to his capture and torture by the Communists.
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In the airport Leamas hopes he will run into someone he knows who will help him somehow. Peters no longer pretends not to know him, seeing West Berlin as basically safe ground. Peters makes a signal and they get into a car. They are watched by a man in a telephone booth and followed by another car. Leamas thinks that he could attack Peters and make a run for it, but he does not. At the border of East Germany, the car that follows them goes ahead to talk to the police at the checkpoint, then both cars are let through together. Leamas notices that the Eastern side of the Berlin Wall has been more elaborately fortified since he saw it last.
Leamas is rightfully scared. Having spied on the East Germans for many years, he is now in their custody on a mission to harm them that he knows he no longer fully understands. He knows about their brutal methods better than anyone. He contemplates trying to get away through violence, but there are many people watching him. The additionally fortified Berlin Wall reminds him of Karl Riemeck’s death and spurs his fear that he will be the next one to die attempting to cross.
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Leamas asks Peters where they are going, and Peters says that he will be interrogated in the German Democratic Republic (GDR). Leamas expresses surprise that he will not be going further East, but Peters says that he thought the Germans should have a chance to speak to him, since most of Leamas’s work was in Berlin.
Leamas believes Peters to be a Soviet agent, but he knows that the Soviets and the East Germans are closely connected. His surprise is likely feigned: he knows his mission is in East Germany, to take out Mundt, and so it makes sense for him to go there.
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Leamas thinks he will meet with a man from the Abteilung named Fiedler, whose file he knows well. Peters neither confirms nor denies this, but Leamas feels nearly certain Fiedler will be his interrogator. He says to Peters that Fiedler almost killed one of Peter Guillam’s agents. Fiedler is supposed to be intelligent and savage, without professional ambition but merciless and sarcastic. Leamas thinks back to a dinner at Control’s house with Peter Guillam and Control (when they were discussing Leamas’s current assignment). Control had told them that Fiedler, a Jew, was their best bet to get Mundt, the former Nazi, and that Leamas should supply Fiedler the material he would need to bring Mundt down. Control had added that Leamas would, of course, do this only indirectly, because he would hopefully never actually meet Fiedler. They had all laughed at this joke of Control’s.
Leamas has heard that Fiedler is best understood by the ideologies he lives by and those he struggles against. Fiedler is a dedicated Communist, but is also Jewish. He works with Mundt, who was a Nazi during the war, and so he is caught in a struggle against both the Capitalist West and the remaining anti-Semitism in his own society. Control described Fiedler, preparing Leamas to meet him, in the context of a “joke” about the possibility that Leamas would be sent to East Germany, while all the while cynically arranging for exactly this to happen.
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They arrive at an old hunting lodge, which is decorated with Soviet leaders’ photographs and has fire safety instructions on the walls. Peters and Leamas go in, and Leamas asks Peters if he’s been here before, and whether it was with Fiedler. Peters says yes, and Leamas asks Peters if Fiedler is good at his job. Peters says that Fiedler is not bad for a Jew, and at this moment, Fiedler enters. He carries a bottle of whisky and tell the guards to bring them food. Fiedler addresses Leamas in English, and Leamas remembers that Fiedler and his family fled the Nazis to Canada during World War II, but returned in 1946 to participate in building a Communist Germany.
The portraits in the lodge present an ever-present reminder to everyone that they are now in the Communist East. At the same time, Peters’s casual anti-Semitism is out of step with Communist theory about human equality regardless of ethnicity. Despite being a Communist, Fiedler is still in a dangerous position as an outsider, because both Soviets and East German Communists do not practice the equality they preach, but often remain prejudiced against Jews.
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Fiedler tells Leamas that he will not be going further East, and Peters confirms this. Leamas acts furious at having been lied to. Fiedler explains that, because the GDR has no embassies yet in the West, they were forced to initially go through the Russians, using the Soviet embassy at The Hague. Leamas accuses Fiedler of having betrayed his defection to the British, but Fiedler says that this is a ridiculous suggestion. Peters bids Leamas goodbye, but Leamas says nothing, and Peters remains standing at the door. Leamas begins to scream insults about East Germany and its subservience to Russia, saying that the East Germans revealed his defection to the British to get him to come East with Peters.
Leamas continues to play the role he was sent to play. He acts enraged at being stuck in the GDR, which is supposed to create the impression that he thought he was defecting to the Soviets (not the East Germans). By acting like this was his assumption, he hopes to dispel the impression that he might still be working for the British on an operation targeting someone in East Germany. The political divisions of the early 1960s are also highlighted here: while Britain and the Soviet Union have a diplomatic relationship, East Germany was not recognized as a country by Western countries until the early 1970s.
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Fiedler says that Leamas has no reason to be so angry: both secret services sacrifice individuals when it will benefit the collective. Leamas should expect to be lied to; after all, he is betraying the Circus by defecting. Leamas says that Fiedler has tricked him into coming to East Germany out of ambition: Fiedler, Leamas says, wants to succeed in a brilliant operation to be promoted above Mundt. Fiedler says it remains to be seen how successful an operation it will be, and assures Leamas that the East did not tell the Circus that Leamas had defected. Finally, Fiedler says that Leamas would have been released in Holland if he had told Peters all he knew, but Fiedler knows that Leamas has not revealed everything yet. Peters leaves. Fiedler offers Leamas a whisky and water, saying they could not get soda. Leamas curses at him, and Fiedler says that Leamas is a proud man.
Fiedler’s ideology holds that individuals can be sacrificed for the greater good. For him, there is no value to honesty if it does not help his goals. Leamas accuses Fiedler of acting out of ambition, although he knows Fiedler is an ideologist, only interested in defending Communism. Even though Control has betrayed him, Leamas remains loyal to the role he was told to play – acting proud and angry and lashing out in ways that he knows will give the impression that he does not really understand the members of the East German leadership.
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After eating dinner with Fiedler, Leamas is taken to his room and falls asleep. The next morning, as Leamas is eating breakfast, Fiedler comes into his bedroom. He says that he must get Leamas to tell him everything he knows, even the things he is not aware that he knows. Leamas says that he did not propose this deal to them—they came to him, and so it’s not his fault if he doesn’t have exciting information for them. Fiedler asks Leamas what he would do if he heard about Rolling Stone. Leamas says he would be on the lookout for the spy, but that there is nothing else that can be done. Fiedler says it is clear to him that Leamas is an operator, not an evaluator.
Leamas pretends that he does not know that Fiedler has brought him to East Germany to press him for more details about Rolling Stone, although this is exactly what he expects and hopes Fiedler to do. His role is to make Fiedler believe that throughout his career Leamas was misled and kept in the dark by the Circus, so that Fiedler will fill in the details that Leamas seems too incurious to fill in for himself.
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Fiedler begins asking Leamas detailed questions about how the files were handled for Rolling Stone. Leamas seems to struggle to recall the details of how the files passed from person to person, explaining that he was drinking a great deal at the time. Fiedler asks who gave the files to him and, finally, in a rush, Leamas says that he remembers that Peter Guillam was the one who brought them to him. He says Guillam was in a section called Satellite Four, researching food shortages in East Germany, and that he and Guillam never discussed Rolling Stone with one another. Fiedler asks Leamas if it was possible that Guillam was involved in running the Rolling Stone agent. Angrily, Leamas bursts out that he already told Peters: it would have been impossible for an agent to be run in East Germany without his knowing, because he was the station chief.
 Leamas continues to play the role he and Control decided upon. In a spontaneous-seeming way, he brings up information that draws in Peter Guillam's name. Guillam, along with George Smiley, was involved in trying to hunt down Mundt during Mundt's time spying in England in 1959, events recounted in the earlier novel A Call for the Dead. Leamas hopes that presenting himself as not very skilled at drawing inferences based on a scattered set of facts will lead Fiedler to more confidently put the facts he is being fed together himself, out of pride in his own intellect—and thus be more likely to reach the conclusion Leamas wants him to.
Themes
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