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 9 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
When Peters arrives the next day at Le Mirage, he and Leamas discuss Leamas’s work once he returned to London after Riemeck’s death. Leamas says he was going to be retired, but because of his broken service could not receive his full pension without working for another period. He was put in the Banking department, he says, and then fired after he started drinking heavily. Leamas tells Peters that the Banking department was not supposed to know the names of the agents whom they were paying. Banking signed the checks, which then went back to a department called Special Dispatch, which would put the agents’ names on them. However, Leamas says, sometimes the complex logistics between the departments would lead to errors and he would learn agents’ names. Leamas then goes to his room and brings Peters a list he drew up of the agents’ names he remembers. Peters is impressed.
Leamas describes the systems that the Circus used to keep its employees in the dark, to keep information from them that they might be tempted or forced to disclose to others. He describes it as a system that is so complex that it sometimes leads to information being unintentionally exposed because of logistical issues. At the same time, the system that Leamas is describing is one that he participated in after his return from Berlin. This indicates that everything that Leamas describes to Peters is something he and Control planned for him to say as part of the operation to kill Mundt.
Themes
Alienation and Connection  Theme Icon
Loyalty and Betrayal Theme Icon
Next Leamas tells Peters about a special operation called “Rolling Stone,” during which he took two trips: one to Helsinki and the other to Copenhagen. In each city, he deposited money into a joint account for himself under an alias and an agent who could collect it under an alias. Afterwards, the agent received a false passport under the alias to draw the money from the account. This was an uncommon procedure, and only a few people knew the code name “Rolling Stone.” Peters asks why the Circus did not want the Resident to pay the agent himself and says Control ordered the operation as a special precaution. Peters is stunned to hear that Control himself ran the operation. Leamas says he knows the Rolling Stone agent was first paid in early 1959.
Leamas describes two trips that he took while working in the Banking department. These trips, which were not described earlier in the book, were experiences that Control and Leamas planned together, so that he could describe them at this moment during his current staged defection. During this description Leamas must emphasize how little he understands about the larger goals of the operation, because he does not want Peters to suspect that he is being fed information in order to lead him to certain specific conclusions.
Themes
Identity and Autonomy Theme Icon
Loyalty and Betrayal Theme Icon
Leamas tells Peters the aliases he used to deposit money in the banks in Helsinki and Copenhagen, and the aliases the agent was to use. Peters notices that both of aliases for the agent are German names, but Leamas insists that the agent could not have been a German. Leamas says that he oversaw Berlin, and so would have known about any German source. Peters says that perhaps keeping Leamas in ignorance of the agent was yet another precaution taken by the Circus. Leamas disputes this, but reflects to himself that this is how Control told him to handle the situation. He is feeding Peters evidence, but refusing to draw the conclusion that evidence points to himself.
Leamas must give the impression that he does not know, or care to know, the larger goals of the Circus’s operations, but he also must stubbornly refuse evidence suggesting that he misunderstood the scope of his own role. He supplies evidence that the British employed an important German spy, while denying that that this would be possible without his knowledge. But what Leamas does not realize is that the role of an agent oblivious to his agency’s larger purposes is not a farfetched one for him to play, as was shown when Leamas was surprised to hear from Peters—and to not have heard from Control—about Elvira’s murder.
Themes
Identity and Autonomy Theme Icon
Loyalty and Betrayal Theme Icon
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