Abandoned by both his Irish father and Congolese mother, Bruno Salvador has long looked for someone to guide his life. He has found it in Mr. Anderson of British Intelligence.
Bruno's African upbringing, and fluency in numerous African languages, has made him a top interpreter in London, useful to businesses, hospitals, diplomats-and spies. Working for Anderson in a clandestine facility known as the "Chat Room," Salvo (as he's known) translates intercepted phone calls, bugged recordings, snatched voice mail messages. When Anderson sends him to a mysterious island to interpret during a secret conference between Central African warlords, Bruno thinks he is helping Britain bring peace to a bloody corner of the world. But then he hears something he should not have....
Building upon the box office success of le Carre's The Constant Gardener (like THE MISSION SONG, built around turmoil and conspiracy in Africa) and le Carr 's laser eye for the complexity of the modern world (seen in Absolute Friends' prediction that the Iraq war would be based on phony and manipulated intelligence), this new novel is a crowning achievement, full of politics, heart, and the sort of suspense that nobody in the world does better.
Starred Review. Bestseller le Carre (The Constant Gardener) brings a light touch to his 20th novel, the engrossing tale of an idealistic and na ve British interpreter, Bruno "Salvo" Salvador. The 29-year-old Congo native's mixed parentage puts him in a tentative position in society, despite his being married to an attractive upper-class white Englishwoman, who's a celebrity journalist. Salvo's genius with languages has led to steady work from a variety of employers, including covert assignments from shadowy government entities. One such job enmeshes the interpreter in an ambitious scheme to finally bring stability to the much victimized Congo, and Salvo's personal stake in the outcome tests his professionalism and ethics. Amid the bursts of humor, le Carre convincingly conveys his empathy for the African nation and his cynicism at its would-be saviors, both home-grown patriots and global powers seeking to impose democracy on a failed state. Especially impressive is the character of Salvo, who's a far cry from the author's typical protagonist but is just as plausible. (Sept.)
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1 . Not up to Le Carre's usual standards
Posted November 11, 2009 by Auric , Alton** 1/2 Normally, I love Le Carre's books. Mission Song just never pulled me in like his other books do. It has his usual excellent prose, and in places gets tense, but not one I'd call a "must read."
Little, Brown and Company
September 18, 2006
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Excerpt from The Mission Song by John le Carre
My name is Bruno Salvador. My friends call me Salvo, so do my enemies. Contrary to what anybody may tell you, I am a citizen in good standing of the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland, and by profession a top interpreter of Swahili and the lesser-known but widely spoken languages of the Eastern Congo, formerly under Belgian rule, hence my mastery of French, a further arrow in my professional quiver. I am a familiar face around the London law courts both civil and criminal, and in regular demand at conferences on Third World matters, see my glowing references from many of our nation's finest corporate names. Due to my special skills I have also been called upon to do my patriotic duty on a confidential basis by a government department whose existence is routinely denied. I have never been in trouble, I pay my taxes regularly, have a healthy credit rating and am the owner of a well-conducted bank account. Those are cast-iron facts that no amount of bureaucratic manipulation can alter, however hard they try.
In six years of honest labour in the world of commerce I have applied my services - be it by way of cautiously phrased conference calls or discreet meetings in neutral cities on the European continent - to the creative adjustment of oil, gold, diamond, mineral and other commodity prices, not to mention the diversion of many millions of dollars from the prying eyes of the world ' s shareholders into slush funds as far removed as Panama, Budapest and Singapore. Ask me whether, in facilitating these transactions, I felt obliged to consult my conscience and you will receive the emphatic answer, 'No.' The code of your top interpreter is sacrosanct. He is not hired to indulge his scruples. He is pledged to his employer in the same manner as a soldier is pledged to the flag. In deference to the world's unfortunates, however, it is also my practice to make myself available on a pro bono basis to London hospitals, prisons and the immigration authorities despite the fact that the remuneration in such cases is peanuts.
I am on the voters' list at number 17, Norfolk Mansions, Prince of Wales Drive, Battersea, South London, a desirable freehold property of which I am the minority co-owner together with my legal wife Penelope - never call her Penny - an upper-echelon Oxbridge journalist four years my senior and, at the age of thirty-two, a rising star in the firmament of a mass-market British tabloid capable of swaying millions. Penelope's father is the senior partner of a blue-chip City law firm and her mother a major force in her local Conservative Party. We married five years ago on the strength of a mutual physical attraction, plus the understanding that she would get pregnant as soon as her career permitted, owing to my desire to create a stable nuclear family complete with mother along conventional British lines. The convenient moment has not, however, presented itself, due to her rapid rise within the paper and other factors.