The Spy Who Came in From the Cold


John Le Carré

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The Spy Who Came in From the Cold: Chapter 13 Summary & Analysis

On long walks through the countryside around the lodge, Fiedler asks Leamas questions about every detail of the British secret service. He is especially interested in the philosophy of those who work for the Circus. He asks if they are Christians. Leamas replies that not many are and says that not everyone has a philosophy. Fiedler asks how spies can justify their actions without a philosophy, explaining that the Abteilung is “the vanguard of the fight for Peace and Progress,” and that lives sacrificed to protect the movement are worth giving up. Pressed further, Leamas says his philosophy is “the whole lot of you are bastards.” Fiedler accepts this, but presses Leamas on the philosophy of his colleagues at the Circus, saying that Christians are supposed to believe in the sanctity of human life. Leamas replies that he does not know or care how his colleagues justify what they do.
Fiedler and Leamas present two very different ways a spy can look at the immoral things he does for his profession. Fiedler sees his work as being of great historic importance and his life as dedicated to the cause of making human society better. For him, this overarching goal justifies almost anything. For his part, Leamas tries to understand his enemy’s mindset, but Leamas has no real philosophy. Earlier in the novel, Liz also pressed Leamas to tell her what he believed in, but could not pierce his secrecy. Leamas himself seemingly does not understand what motivates him or justifies his work, but he fears that expressing his feelings will jeopardize his ability to stay focused on the mission.
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Fiedler and Leamas sit at the top of a hill, and Fiedler begins to ask more questions about Rolling Stone. Leamas says he believes the money he deposited in joint accounts in Oslo and Copenhagen was meant for an agent operating behind the Iron Curtain, but does not know if the agent ever withdrew the funds. Fiedler asks about correspondence with the banks, and Leamas says that Control would have handled this, writing above Leamas’s signature in the alias’s name. He says that he’s used to only understanding part of an operation. Fiedler suggests that they write to one of the banks and find out if the money was withdrawn. If they do that, he reasons, it will show the agent’s whereabouts on a specific day. Leamas says Fiedler will never find the agent based on so little. Fiedler says that, although Leamas may not have been supposed to know it, Rolling Stone was certainly an operation against the GDR.
Fiedler’s primary aim in his conversations with Leamas has become to uncover the identity of the agent Rolling Stone was organized to pay. He is sure this agent came from the GDR. Leamas feeds Fiedler details about Rolling Stone but refuses to draw any conclusions about the agent the operation was organized to pay, and continues to voice his disagreement that the agent could have come from the GDR. Leamas is playing the role of an operator who does not understand what is behind the operation, but this is hardly a difficult role for him to play. This representation of himself as out-of-the-loop is true to his actual feelings about himself on his current mission.
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Leamas begins to get angry. He says he has done his part and never promised to write any letters. Fiedler explains that they have only finished the first part of the interrogation. Later, they will need to ask follow-up questions, and will not let Leamas go before then. Leamas has told them only the things he thinks may be important, but there could be tiny details, like whether the Circus uses “pins or paper clips,” that turn out later to be important pieces of information. Fiedler tells Leamas he will help him later, when Leamas will likely need a friend, if Leamas cooperates. Leamas agrees to write the letters to the banks, but says that he will find a way to kill Fiedler if he learns Fiedler is lying to him again.
Fiedler is building a relationship with Leamas, who he thinks of as a simple, but honest man. He tries to be straight with Leamas, saying he cannot let him go, but pledging to help him in future moments of danger if Leamas cooperates. Fiedler has already said that the agent paid during Rolling Stone was definitely someone from the GDR. Now, he suggests that if he and Leamas succeed in discovering which East German is actually a British spy, Leamas may be exposed to danger.
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Unlike an actor, the narrator says, spies can never stop playing the part they have taken on, and must continuously fight to suppress their own desires. To prevent himself from giving in to the temptation to come out of the role he has taken on, Leamas continues to play that role even when he is alone. He acts restless, uncertain, and addicted to alcohol, and rarely thinks about the deception he is perpetrating. Leamas reflects that Control had been right that Fiedler could be fed evidence against Mundt. Leamas wonders if perhaps Fiedler is the agent that Control wants him to protect, but knows that he should not try to figure this out in case it changes how he performs his role. He hopes that Fiedler is the agent, because in that case he feels he might still be able to return home.
Leamas thinks that Fiedler is beginning to suspect that Mundt is the British agent being paid through Rolling Stone, which is exactly the idea that Control had instructed Leamas to plant in Fiedler’s mind. Leamas sticks to his role as an unthoughtful operator, despite Fiedler’s attempts to reach out to him and make a more personal connection. Leamas knows that he does not understand exactly what Control’s plan entails, but he hopes that Fiedler is the British agent he was sent to protect.
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