Perry: What was my part in all this? I want to know.
Leamas: You were a pawn in the plot. London knew it was no good just killing Fiedler. If he’d been killed, people would’ve started asking by whom and why. Maybe he’d told friends he suspected Mundt. Maybe he’d left notes, incriminating notes. London had to eliminate suspicion. Public rehabilitation… that’s what they organized for Mundt. I was sent to discredit him. He was sent to discredit me.
Perry: And love?
Leamas: We made it very easy for them. They used us. They cheated us both because it was necessary. Fiedler was nearly home already. If it hadn’t been for us, Mundt would have been killed. They were bloody clever. All the way down the line they were bloody clever.
Perry: Clever? They were foul! How can you turn the world upside down? What rules are you playing?
Leamas: There’s only one rule – expediency. Mundt gives London what it needs, so Fiedler dies and Mundt lives. It was a foul, foul operation, but it paid off.
Perry: Who for?
Leamas: What the hell do you think spies are? Moral philosophers measuring everything they do against the word of God or Karl Marx? They’re not. They’re just a bunch of seedy, squalid bastards like me. Little men, drunkards, queers, henpecked husbands, civil servants playing cowboys and Indians to brighten their rotten little lives. Do you think they sit like monks in a cell, balancing right against wrong? Yesterday I would have killed Mundt because I thought him evil and an enemy. But not today. Today he’s evil and my friend. London needs him. They need him so that the great, moronic masses you admire so much can sleep soundly in their flea-bitten beds again. They need him for the safety of ordinary, crummy people like you and me.
Perry: But what about Fiedler – don’t you feel anything for him?
Leamas: This is a war. It’s graphic and unpleasant because it’s fought on a tiny scale, at close range; fought with a wastage of innocent life sometimes, I admit. But it’s nothing, nothing at all beside other wars – the last or the next.
Perry: Oh God. You don’t understand. You don’t want to. You’re trying to persuade yourself. It’s far more terrible what they’re doing: to find the humanity in people, in me and whoever else they use, to turn it like a weapon in their hands, and use it to hurt and kill…
Leamas: Christ Almighty! What else have men done since the world began? I don’t believe in anything, don’t you see – not even destruction or anarchy. I’m sick, sick of killing but I don’t see what else they can do. They don’t proselytize – they don’t stand in pulpits or on party platforms and tell us to fight for Peace or for God or whatever it is. They’re the poor sods who try to keep the preachers from blowing each other sky high.
Perry: You’re wrong, they’re more wicked than all of us.
Leamas: Because I made love to you when you thought I was a tramp?
Perry: Because of their contempt. Contempt for what is real and good; contempt for love, contempt for…
Leamas: Yes, that is the price they pay; to despise God and Karl Marx in the same sentence. If that is what you mean.
Perry: It makes you the same, the same as Mundt and all the rest… I should know, I was the one who was kicked about, wasn’t I? By them, by you because you don’t care. Only Fiedler didn’t…. But the rest of you… you all treated me as if I was… nothing… just currency to pay with… You’re all the same, Alec.
Leamas: Oh, God, please believe me. I hate it. I hate it all; I’m tired. But it’s the world, it’s mankind that’s gone mad. We’re a tiny price to pay… but everywhere’s the same, people cheated and mislead, whole lives thrown away, people shot and in prison, whole groups and classes of men written off for nothing…