In this 2017 novel, John le Carré explored what happens when a new generation evaluates the actions of prior generations. The process is inherently loaded toward judgment because we all grow over time. And, thankfully, many times our society grows as well. What do I mean?
Consider it is the Cold War and you need information about an enemy. The need is very real to those in that time amid concerns about the Domino Theory and the chance of a nuclear Armageddon. At the time, one side did not have a clear idea of what the other was thinking – in the US, few kids undergoing nuclear safety drills at school imagined there were children with the same worries in the USSR.
In Legacy, le Carré writes of a current generation in the UK exploring the actions of Smiley and his cohort through the lens of their current sensibilities. Bringing it back to the US, that is akin to those who are too young to grasp the emotion from an event as iconic as the US win over Russian Hockey (the Miracle on Ice) in February 1980 at the Lake Placid Olympics judging the actions taken by Ameria and its allies during the Cold War.
le Carré’s young characters have the advantage of hindsight. Of course, there was no nuclear war. Of course, we found a way to work with our enemies. Of course, the people who died in the process died for no good reason. At least that’s the conclusion that one who was not there could take and sleep well at night.
So just how does that play out? Legacy offers an unflinching look at both sides of the generational gap. What he has to say is as illustrative and heartbreaking as it is instructive.
Definitely, a must-read- whether you’re a long-time fan or not.