The Mission Song, by John le Carré

I’ve just finished reading The Mission Song, which is, I believe, the first of John le Carré’s novels that I’ve read. I was lent it by a friend and fellow translator.

The main character is an interpreter of various minority African languages and a few European ones. Having worked a little in this field, it was interesting to me in ways that it might perhaps not otherwise have been.

It was rather slow paced until it reached the latter third, when the tension really began to mount. Stylistically, it seems much more literary than, say Robert Ludlum, so not quite as enjoyable on a superficial level but more memorable.

The story focuses on the Congo. The premise is that an anonymous syndicate is putting up the funds to bring peace to the region. A secret conference is organised and held, seemingly by the UK intelligence services, between Congolese warlords on a remote island whose location is never revealed. The main character of the novel is the interpreter at the conference and we learn of his mixed loyalties and his ethics in his role as an interpreter.

It was an enjoyable novel but not one that I would be too excited about recommending to anyone without at least a passing interest in linguistics or Africa. I’m glad I read it though.