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Publisher's Summary

By chance and not by choice, Ted Mundy, eternal striver, failed writer, and expatriate son of a British Army officer, used to be a spy. But that was in the good old Cold War days when a cinder-block wall divided Berlin and the enemy was easy to recognize.

Today, Mundy is a down-at-heel tour guide in southern Germany, dodging creditors, supporting a new family, and keeping an eye out for trouble while in spare moments vigorously questioning the actions of the country he once bravely served.

And trouble finds him, as it has before, in the shape of his old German student friend, radical, and one-time fellow spy, the crippled Sasha, seeker after absolutes, dreamer, and chaos addict.

After years of trawling the Middle East and Asia as an itinerant university lecturer, Sasha has yet again discovered the true, the only, answer to life, this time in the form of a mysterious billionaire philanthropist named Dimitri. Thanks to Dimitri, both Mundy and Sasha will find a path out of poverty, and with it their chance to change a world that both believe is going to the devil. Or will they?

©2004 John le Carre; (P)2003 Hodder Audiobooks

Critic Reviews

"John le Carre never, ever phones it in....He's an old pro with the ardent heart of an amateur, which is why...he is still capable of producing a novel as odd, as ungainly, and as compelling as Absolute Friends....Fans...will be happy to learn that he returns here to his old cold war stomping grounds." (The New York Times Book Review)
"Seamless abridgement. No one reads le Carre better than le Carre. His nuances, accents, and inflections are as brilliantly precise as his prose." (Publishers Weekly)
"Le Carre brings his superb reading talents - sonorous, cultured voice; gift for accents; deft expressiveness - to the story of Ted Mundy, a fumbling, well-meaning Brit....He is simply one of the best author readers there is." (AudioFile)

What members say

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  • Overall
  • Ann
  • Los Angeles, CA, USA
  • 02-03-04

Le Carre has a point of view

I suppose John Le Carre could write a bad book. I just never have read one. He also is a superior reader and/or actor.

What seems to be different about "Absolute Friends" is that instead of world- weary agents with murky allegiances more contingent on place of birth and chance, this book, in the end, has a passionate point of view. One that many fans of Le Carre may disagree with. Well, I can personally read about spies without becoming one. Highly recommended.

22 of 25 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • John
  • Missoula, MT, USA
  • 02-14-04

The Master is Back

I have never enjoyed an audio book more! This is a magnificent and timely tale reminiscent of A Small Town in Germany or Le Carre's other earlier works. It is deeply rooted in the cold war, yet quite contemporary, bridging the gap from the Berlin Wall to the current conflict in Baghdad.
The abridged version no doubt comes at the cost of some of the protagonist's more introspective self-examination, though the characters remain complex, human and compelling. And what a treat to have the author narrating. His reading adds a great deal to the authenticity and enjoyment of the novel.
Despite passages such as:
"The easiest and cheapest trick for any leader is to take his country to war on false pretenses," spoken by the book?s hero Mundy, Le Carre is quite even handed in his disdain for the entire cast of global players.
As with so many of Le Carre's imperfect characters, our "perfect friends" follow their highest ideals into the self serving world of political intrigue and the seedy realities of global greed. For those readers who shallowly declare that the book is an indictment on the West, listen more closely. It is an indictment on the human condition which repeatedly demonstrates its inability to translate our shared ideals into a political system that reflects those ideals.
All in all, an absolute little truffle of a spy book as engaging and satisfying as one could hope for from the greatest writer of the genre.

12 of 14 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Stevon
  • Tempe, AZ, United States
  • 05-28-07


I bought this as a $9.95 daily special. It was an interesting listen but not a thriller that I couoldn't put down. I would rather have listened to the unabridged version, I wasn't even paying attention when I bought it. But, it had a long, winding road kind of plot that eventually got to where it was going.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

The Spy Who Came In (as if by Graham Green)

All of Lecarre is good, some excellent. This one is superb. This novel of the aging of friendship would stand on its own, even without the espionage and the politics. With them, it is a well plotted and twisting suspense story that forms the framework for a thoughtful meditation on how adults (as opposed to adolescents) evolve as friends, even though they change. Read it for either book, and you'll get the other as a bonus.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

the spy who stayed in the cold

Le Carre writes the same novel again and again.
This is high praise for le Carre is a master, both of thought and prose. He challenges all that masks itself in the guise of Terror's war and ever so exactly separates myth from reality.
Le Carre also is an excellent interpreter of his own prose. Each nuance is perfectly realized.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Cyrus
  • Honolulu, HI, USA
  • 02-04-04

Save Time and Listen. Don't read

In the film Amadeus, Mozart's Opera is criticized as having "two many notes." Le Carre's early works abound in detail; detail so great, so ponderous, and yet so necessary to his story. Most of his later books, however, are read as abridged editions, as is his latest one. Here the author reads his greatly abridged edition, announcing to all that his work has become pedantic. "Look here," he seems to say. "I can remove half of my words and still have the same story!" Unfortunately, his knife didn't cut deep enough. He could remove still another half. Too many notes.
The story is simple. Two radical "pink" friends interact throughout their lives. Firstly in the radical student movements of the 1960's in West Berlin. Then as spies for England against East Germany. Finally, they are set up by an ex-CIA agent, now working for global corporate interests, to look like terrorists targeted against US interests ala 9/11, with the tacit support of a lying George Bush and Tony Blair, who, of course, must murder them to keep their voices quiet.
Le Carre has always praised a "pink" or radically leftist point of view. In his first novel, Call for the Dead, for example, a Foreign Office employee is murdered. We find the man was sympathetic and a good communist. Not the "Communist" brand, mind you, but with a little c. He also, however, found some sympathy for Western thought as long as it was sufficiently liberal. Further, Le Carre has always pointed sharp barbs at the United States as well. In Absolute Friends, his portrayal of the new anti-global, anti-New World Order radical leftists is stronger than sympathetic, while his denunciation of capitalism and the United States is stronger than denunciatory. Can one read with some credibility that 9/11 was planned and executed by agents controlled by global corporations and supported by the US government?
Listen if you must. Many fewer notes.

23 of 44 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Ending was the best

I was a bit confused by the characters and their loyalties throughout the story but at the end you I warned about the media who often gets it wrong.

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  • Performance
  • Story
  • Steve
  • Ventura, CA, United States
  • 09-22-14

Confusing and hard to follow

Any additional comments?

Normally, I do not like books read by the author. However, in this case, John LeCarre did an excellent job of narration. Unfortunately, I found the book itself to be confusing and difficult to follow, especially the ending.

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story
  • carl
  • BERWICK, PA, United States
  • 07-10-13


What disappointed you about Absolute Friends? plot that can be followed..THE STORY SAID NOTHING AND COULD NOT BE FOLLOWED.i HAVE AUDIO LISTENED TO 19 novels by John leCarre....Enjoyed most all the books.This was not what I anticipated.John most have wrote it on a bad day.

What could John le Carre have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

Get rid of the music ,played between sections.

What didn’t you like about John le Carre’s performance?

This was not John leCarre.....Some one borrowed his name.

What character would you cut from Absolute Friends?

GUT the whole story and start over.

Any additional comments?

I'm still a fan.One bad book doesn't make a bad man

  • Overall
  • Rod
  • Baytown, TX, USA
  • 05-04-04

Le Carre in Top Form

This writer never disappoints me. His emphasis on character development and innovative, well-researched plots pays dividends for the reader. This novel covers a period in the lives of its protagonists from the 60's right up to today (and I mean right now).

The main character is a particularly poignant example of the offspring of declining British Empire. Le Carre maintained my interest with vivid portraits of British and German counterculture youth of the 60's. And, as always, he demonstrates the ultimate cynicism and folly of the practitioners of the spy games of the Twentieth Century.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful