London: John le Carre, the British writer best known for his Cold War espionage novels “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” and “The Spy Who Came In From The Cold”, has died aged 89, his agent said Sunday.
The author, whose real name was David Cornwell, wrote 25 novels and one memoir in a career spanning six decades, selling some 60 million books worldwide.
“Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” was adapted for television in 1979, with Alec Guinness starring as George Smiley, and became a classic. Gary Oldman reprised the role in the 2011 film, winning an Oscar the following year.
Le Carre’s last novel, “Agent Running in the Field”, was published in October 2019.
His wife of nearly 50 years, Jane, and sons Nicholas, Timothy, Stephen and Simon, said in a statement he died from pneumonia on Saturday night after a short battle with the illness.
“We all grieve deeply his passing,” they said, thanking staff at the hospital in Cornwall, southwest England, for their care. “We know they share our sadness,” they added.
The novelist Robert Harris called le Carre “one of those writers who really was not only a brilliant writer but he also penetrated popular culture - and that’s a great rarity”.
Harris told Sky News television le Carre was a “brilliant novelist” and said “The Spy Who Came In From The Cold” was a “masterpiece”.
“It’s an incredibly engrossing tale and very deep, and it transformed the writing of spy fiction. It was a brilliant, psychological portrait of spying and of betrayal and of the decline of British power.”
Jonny Geller, le Carre’s literary agent, said: “His like will never be seen again, and his loss will be felt by every book lover, everyone interested in the human condition.
“We have lost a great figure of English literature, a man of great wit, kindness, humour and intelligence. I have lost a friend, a mentor and an inspiration.”