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Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Complete Smiley is the ultimate mile-melter

Yesterday we drove back to London from the south western tip of Brittany. It takes about thirteen hours, which can be tedious. This time the journey was considerably lightened because we listened to ten hours of The Complete George Smiley, Radio Four's dramatisation of all the John Le Carré novels that feature his hero George Smiley, "the last illusionless man". It's over twenty hours of running time in total.

It makes great radio drama because most of it involves characters who choose their words with surgical care. Hearing great actors like Simon Russell Beale, Brian Cox and Eleanor Bron delivering lines like "a nation's secret services are the only real expression of its sub-conscious" or "between us we'd make one good man" is a rare treat. The plots are easier to follow than in the TV adaptations or the original books because on radio they have to be. Every now and then there's a "doof-oof-ratatat" interlude indicating that somebody has been shot trying to escape. A voice quickly and plausibly tells us who it was.

We haven't finished it yet. The thought that we might do so makes the prospect of driving to Glasgow in a couple of weeks time a bit less of a chore.