Thursday, 18 February 2010

Bill Haydon

I've spent a lot of time thinking about this guy. I've just finished Tinker, Tailor, Soldier Spy, and listened to it on the radio, so clearly I've experienced quite a lot of Bill Haydon lately. Briefly, my problem is this. He's an absolute fucking bastard. I mean the bastard of all bastards. He is a role model for the younger men at the Circus, is No2, is generally idolised - and has been a Soviet mole for 20 years! Worse than that, according to the Radio 4 version, he reckons he's a Colonel in Soviet Intelligence!

If I am writing this with all the subtlety of a 4 year old who's just realised that the witch in Hansel and Gretel isn't as nice as she first seemed, then fair enough. But, even though it is obvious who the mole is from an early stage, the unmasking of the hero of all these characters is still a shock. It's a shock you feel on the other characters' behalf more than on your own. It's the betrayal, the smiling, charismatic betrayal he has carried with him all this time - and which has killed so many people along the way. The brilliance of his career at the Circus is vastly exceeded by the brilliance of his career with the Soviets. Bastard Bill Haydon, not only being a good spy and a brilliant mole, but being loved so much by everyone else. Being loved and cutting it to pieces.

When he is debriefed by Smiley, he gives nothing away, and only makes Smiley feel that Haydon as a man doesn't reall exist at all. This is awful, because you desperately want Haydon to be beaten up, kneecapped and shot. But - the novel is only vaguely about spies and spy rings. Its about love and hate. Smiley does not, cannot hate Haydon, Guillam has to make himself want to hurt him. For neither of them does revenge really enter into it - nor does Haydon expect it to. He expects to keep his good reputation, his history of service, his charisma - all intact. He's not delusional as such, merely un-self aware. Smiley loves Ann of course, and Haydon slept with her - not because he loved her, but much worse than that - on orders. Subverting love altogether. Haydon tries to communicate to Smiley some kind of love for the USSR but it only comes out as a frustrated aristocrat trying to influence the world when he knows his own country can't. Smiley's greatest gift in this book is his love - of Ann, of duty, of Britain, even of his colleagues at the Service (eg Connie Sachs).

Bill Haydon is a sore, but not a festering one - he doesn't itch enough for that. He doesn't make enough itching. As a result, will he achieve the fame and notoriety he wanted? Will he be loved?

Nope. Chances are, even if he hadn't have been topped by another man who deeply loved him, ie Jim Prideaux, he'd have been like Philby. A scalp, but one who doesn't quite know his place. And the historians he thinks will write his apologia, thanks to Smiley, probably will never get to know about him.

He will be nothing, the net result of his betrayals.

Of course, he's based on that cunt Philby, who ruthlessly exposed agents in the Soviet Union only for them to be shot, and who was convinced he was a Colonel in the KGB only to find that he was, instead, a largely washed up communist arsehole, who like all the other fuckers, drank too much vodka.

In fact, I hate Bill Haydon so much, I'm changing my name - to Bill Haydon.

1 comment:

James Higham said...

I tend not to think too much about guys.