paper trail

John le Carre responds to a critic; n+1 editors address the situation in Ukraine

Heather Havrilesky

The n+1 editors weigh in on Ukraine, Putin, and the West: “There’s a reason Ukraine is at the heart of the most significant geopolitical crisis yet to appear in the post-Soviet space. There is no post-Soviet state like it.” Fifteen years ago, John le Carre revealed that his recurring character George Smiley was based on John Bingham, who, like leCarre, was a real-life spy who worked for Britain’s intelligence agency MI5 and later went on to become a writer. A critic recently claimed that “Bingham detested Mr. le Carre’s opinions of the espionage game.” In a letter to the Telegraph, le Carre has expresses his admiration for Bingham, and then admits that Bingham “may indeed have detested” his own attitude toward MI5. “Where Bingham believed that uncritical love of the Secret Services was synonymous with love of country, I came to believe that such love should be examined. And that, without such vigilance, our Secret Services could in certain circumstances become as much of a peril to our democracy as their supposed enemies.”

After best-picture Academy Award went to 12 Years a Slave, which is based on the memoir of Solomon Northup, the New York Times corrected an 1853 article, which misspelled Northup’s name.

This week’s New Yorker features an excellent short story by National Book Award winner Denis Johnson. Johnson says that “The Largesse of the Sea Maiden” took him “seven or eight years” to finish, and that his new novel (due out this fall) is still under way, adding, “I believe it falls into the category of ‘literary thriller.’” (Elsewhere, he has said that the book is in the tradition of Graham Greene.)

What’s wrong with Jonathan Livingston Seagull? Heather Havrilesky explains on the occasion of a new edition.

XIndex has announced the nominees for its 2014 Freedom of Expression Award, who include the journalists Abdulelah Haider Shaye, Dina Meza, Laura Poitras, and Glenn Greenwald.