In the novel, set in 1968, the far right is on the rise in (West) Germany and Britain is trying hard to get into the European Economic Community (the Common Market). Today (2018), the far right is on the rise in Germany and Britain is negotiating to leave the European Union, the successor to the EEC. John LeCarré's novel has lost none of its relevance.
The British Embassy in Bonn is up in arms. Her Majesty's financially troubled government is seeking admission to Europe's Common Market just as anti-British factions rise to power in Germany. Rioters are demanding reunification, and the last thing the Crown can afford is a scandal. Then Leo Harting – an embassy nobody – goes missing with a case full of confidential files. London sends Alan Turner to control the damage, but he soon realizes that neither side really wants Leo found – alive.
Set against the threat of a German-Soviet alliance. John le Carré's A Small Town in Germany chronicles the Cold War paranoia and political compromise.
(Description, slightly edited, taken from the back cover of the paperback edition.)
A Small Town in Germany has all the hallmarks of a John le Carré novel: tightly-knit story telling, not a word wasted on flowery descriptions, but tellingly descriptions of the grim streets of a post-war Bonn. John le Carré brilliantly portrays the upper class prejudices and pomposity of the senior embassy staff of a Britain that once was a super power but now being exposed as a second rate has-been.
In many ways, the Leo Harting of A Small Town in Germany is the Alec Leamas of The Spy Who Came in from the Cold.
The setting is Bonn during the late '60s when it was the 'temporary' capital of West Germany. The cold war is in deep freeze and the second world war is fresh in everyone's memory...although many are doing their best to forget.
A Nazi who has laundered his past with the best sparkly clean whitener is gaining public support. And, the British Embassy has just lost a junior diplomat and 50 top secret files.
The Foreign Office sends in an investigator. He quickly discovers that what should make sense in a simple case of a spying, just doesn't make sense this time.
A really good spy no
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