Abstract: This essay contends that the dark arts of espionage provide writers and film makers with fertile ground to test the pursuit of truth and its enemies. John Le Carre’s novel The Tailor of Panama (1996) and John Boorman’s film of the novel brilliantly reveal how imagination, sales talk and self-deception combine with political chicanery to fabricate a ‘big lie’ that leads to the invasion of Panama. Other, more recent invasions based on fabricated intelligence are evoked. In addition to novels and films, biographical studies and memoirs of former spies can reveal ways in which politics, ambition and personal anxieties combine to deceive others—and sometimes secret agents themselves. Nevertheless, the perilous pursuit of truth remains a core feature of espionage literature and its associated arts.

Keywords: Espionage, literature and film, secrets, truth, imagination, performance

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