John le Carré has donated his vast literary archive to the Bodleian Library, University of Oxford. With interest in the collection from various American institutions, the author wanted to ensure that Oxford, ‘Smiley’s spiritual home’, would benefit from it. ‘I am delighted to be able to do this ... while I have the greatest respect for American universities, the Bodleian is where I shall most happily rest.’ Of particular interest to le Carré’s legions of fans is what the archive reveals about the author’s working practices. Included in the collection are typed and handwritten drafts of his most famous novels, including Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (which, we learn, was originally going to be entitled The Reluctant Autumn of George Smiley), along with fascinating private correspondence and photographs. The Telegraph quotes Richard Ovenden, keeper of special collections and associate director of the Bodleian Libraries, who says of le Carré’s technique: ‘He is a good, old-fashioned pen-and-ink chap. He handwrote all of the novels in a distinctive script and then you see the ideas evolve over time as editors and publishers become involved.’
The Bodleian intends to make the archive available online, and as a research resource.