GROSS: John le Carré, why did you write about a spy forced to face his responsibility for two death decades ago?

LE CARRÉ: I think because, back then, we had a clear philosophy which we thought we were protecting. And it was a notion of the West. It was a notion of individual freedom, of inclusiveness, of tolerance – all of that we called anti-communism. That was really a broad brush because there were many decent people who lived in communist territories who weren’t as bad as one might suppose. But now, today, this present time in which these matters are being reconsidered in my novel, we seem to have no direction.

We seem to be joined by nothing very much except fear and bewilderment about what the future holds. We have no coherent ideology in the West, and we used to believe in the great American example. I think that’s recently been profoundly undermined for us. We’re alone…