Reading Bond: The Amateur Cypher
Oh, Le Chiffre, who was playing “Red Indians?” You or Bond?
In Casino Royale, Bond is undoubtedly an idiot in several respects, to the degree that he should have been fired for gross incompetence. That said, isn’t Le Chiffre an even bigger idiot? Or is he an amateur who makes the fatal mistake of playing with the big boys?
I guess it depends on how the reader interprets his character. He is, purposefully, a cypher, an unknown. Besides a few guesses based on his appearance, not much is known about him before his first documented appearance at the Dachau displaced persons camp.
Was he a Soviet plant even then? Or was he a victim of displacement, forced labor, or the death camp? No one knows for sure, but it sure is fun to speculate.
I’m leaning against the idea that he was a Soviet plant. Rather, I think he gradually became a Soviet agent due to his union affiliation. He made too many mistakes to be a professional. Then again, if Bond is a sterling example of what it means to be an agent. . .
I could be wrong and the man was just making the foolish mistakes that desperate men are wont to make. He did loose an awful lot of his union’s money.
My bet is that he intended to steal it and flee from SMERSH’s vengeance.
The interesting thing about so many of Bond’s villains is that they represent some form of threat to the conservative order that Bond represents. The threat, or Other, is then dehumanized through some form of gross abnormality.
In Le Chiffre’s case, he is clearly meant to represent not only the fifth column but also continual fears held towards members of the lower classes. It is clear that Le Chiffre does not belong in such a relatively elite establishment as the Casino Royale. He is pantomiming being a banker, a gentleman. Rather he is a thug, though espousing communist sympathies, he is more criminal than ideologue.
Beyond his physical description (which is often used to beastify Bond’s enemies) many of Le Chiffre’s personality traits and addictions paint him as Other. He is rumored to have invested in the bordello business so that he could freely enjoy his employees, and he is brutal in his methods of eliminating his competition.
Le Chiffre, as the first Bond Villain, has the elements that will make his successors all the more memorable. In this first villain, there are flaws. But those flaws become ironed out as the novels become better and better.
Next time: The Zombie Gangster!