Philip Pullman and John le Carré

Both are British, both are phenomenally successful on the contemporary literary scene, and both are celebrating their birthday today – but that’s as far as the similarities go. 

Jon le Carré, who turns 84 today, is known for thrilling espionage novels, including The Spy Who Came in from the Cold and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. Based on his own experiences working for both MI5 and MI6, le Carré’s novels have enjoyed incredible international success over the last fifty years, and he is commonly considered to be one of the most influential British writers of the past century. Despite his accomplishments in the world of fiction, next year will see the publication of le Carré’s first memoir. Entitled ‘The Pigeon Tunnel: Stories of my Life’, this autobiographical work will focus on the men and women who inspired some of the author’s best novels. 

The works of novelist Philip Pullman, who turns 69 today, sit on a different end of the literary spectrum. He is perhaps best-known for his award-winning fantasy trilogy, His Dark Materials, and for the fictionalised biography of Jesus, The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ. Northern Lights, the first of the His Dark Materials Trilogy, was awarded the Carnegie Medal in 1995, and has also been adapted as a film under its US title, The Golden Compass

Aside from his hugely successful books for children (and adults), Pullman has also been heavily involved in a number of book-related campaigns, including protesting against the closure of 600 libraries around the country. As Northern Lights turns 20 this year, Pullman continues to support the arts in Britain, and to campaign for literary causes such as the preserving of William Blake’s home.