The Spy Who Came in From the Cold


John Le Carré

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The Spy Who Came in From the Cold: Chapter 21 Summary & Analysis

Karden, Mundt’s lawyer, makes an opening statement. He says that it is consistent with British practice to try to frame Mundt with a great deal of circumstantial evidence. Fiedler has either been tricked into believing in Mundt’s guilt, or he is himself a part of the British plot. Mundt, Karden explains, was aware that Fiedler has been plotting against him and even authorized recruiting Leamas as a defector. Mundt read in Peters’ report that Leamas had made deposits in Denmark and Finland at times coinciding with his visits there, and understood that Fiedler and the British were planning his murder. To prepare himself, Mundt had Leamas followed while Leamas was living in Bayswater and working at the library, to see if Leamas ever revealed to anyone that he was living a double life. During that period, Leamas made one crucial mistake. Karden says he will call that witness—after he questions Leamas.
Karden’s theory of the case is in line with Leamas’s understanding of the mission he was sent on. As far as Leamas knows, he was sent to frame Mundt, to make it seem like he was actually a British agent so that the East Germans would kill him. But now Karden reveals that Mundt has been aware of Leamas’s plan ever since Leamas worked in the Banking department. Mundt, according to Karden, knew about Leamas’s behavior when Leamas acted like a disaffected drunk who would be happy to defect. He saw through this and had Leamas followed in order to collect evidence that all Leamas’s behavior was a plot against Mundt. The “crucial mistake” Karden references seems to mean Liz.
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Karden calls Leamas to testify. He asks him if he has any money, or friends who would lend him money. Leamas scoffs, saying that he defected because he was broke. Karden asks if Leamas is a good friend of George Smiley’s. Leamas says he knows Smiley, but has not seen him since leaving prison. Karden asks Leamas where he went after lunching with Ashe, suggesting that Leamas went to Smiley’s house. Leamas says he probably went to a pub, but does not remember. Karden asks again whether Smiley might have wanted to help Leamas. Leamas denies this, saying he and Smiley are completely dissimilar.
After Leamas left the Banking department, he did everything in his power to seem as though he was entirely without means. Leamas suggests that he could never be friends with someone like Smiley, and Smiley would never care what happened to him, because he is from a working-class background and Smiley is from the upper class. Leamas sticks to his role as a forgetful drunk when he explains that he does not remember where he went after his lunch with Ashe.
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Karden then asks Leamas if he was broke when he asked Ford the grocer for credit, and Leamas says he was. Karden asks why Leamas never collected his final wages from the library. Leamas is startled that Karden knows this, but says it was likely because the library was closed on Saturday mornings. When Leamas finishes testifying, Liz is brought into the courtroom.
Leamas is unnerved that he may have created an inconsistency in his performance of the role of an angry and impoverished drunk by failing to go to collect his wages from the library. Once again, he is caught off guard by how much the East Germans know. Finally, Liz’s appearance as a witness is a terrible revelation for both her and Leamas.
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