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Issue 101 - Absolute Friends

Whisky Magazine Issue 101
February 2012


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Absolute Friends

Jefferson Chase starts his New Year reading in fine form

One of my resolutions for 2012 is to read popular authors whose works, for one reason or another, I've never got round to. The first on my list was John Le Carré.

To really put him to the test, I chose one of his more obscure novels about a subject I myself know quite well. Le Carré's 2004 novel Absolute Friends, rushes readers pell-mell from Cold-War to post-9/11 Germany. Despite the speed of the plot, the depictions of place and time are nearly dead perfect.

The main protagonist is a directionless, socially isolated son of a British colonialist, Ted Mundy.

As the novel's title suggests, the plot revolves around three friendships he makes, all of which are sealed over a drink or two.

The first is with a left-wing house squatter named Sascha in the wild-and-wooly district of Kreuzberg in 1970s West Berlin. An ex-girlfriend gives him a letter of introduction: Mundy unfastens the buckles of his kitbag, extricates Ilse's bottle of St. Hugh's Buttery Scotch whisky and pours two shots.

Sascha perches opposite him on a wooden stool, pulls on a pair of spectacles with thick black frames and settles to a purposeful examination of Ilse's letter… Yet Mundy does indeed prove reliable, to the point of his being beaten by West Berlin police and subsequently expelled from West Germany after a bust-up at a radical demonstration.

The British diplomat who rescues the naïve youngster from this fix, Nicholas Amory, becomes Mundy's next friend. Amory later recruits him to MI6 to work ...

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