From John Le Carré's Smiley's People:

“Yes, yes, it is still Saul Enderby, your old adversary, and he is doing marvels,” Lacon retorted impatiently. Pulling at the curtain, he unseated it from its runners. “Not your style, I grant you—why should he be? He’s an Atlantic man.” He was trying to force the casement. “Not an easy thing to be under a government like this one, I can tell you.”

What does "He's an Atlantic man" mean here? Does Atlantic here stand for the North Atlantic Alliance or NATO?

2 Answers 2


By calling Enderby an "Atlantic Man", it is suggesting that he is sympathetic to their counterparts "across the Atlantic", i.e. Americans.

This is likely a call back to The Honorable Schoolboy, when the Chinese spy that defected to Smiley was turned over to the Americans. Since Smiley puts the needs of British Intelligence first, this why Enderby would be considered "an adversary", not because he is a direct enemy to Smiley or the British, but because his actions may undo what Smiley has worked for by favoring a cooperative relationship with the Americans rather than keeping them in the dark.

  • Well I haven't read The Honorable Schoolboy, but what you said makes sense. Commented Apr 17 at 15:37
  • Personally, I have never heard Atlantic as being a reference to Americans. The relationship between Britain and the US is specifically known as the special relationship, a term coined by Churchill. "He first used the term "special relationship" on 16 February 1944, when he said it was his "deepest conviction that unless Britain and the United States are joined in a special relationship... another destructive war will come to pass" Wikipedia. Also, "across the pond" is used by both to refer to each other.
    – Lambie
    Commented Apr 23 at 21:54
  • @Lambie FWIW, I gave your answer an upvote because it provides more historical context than mine. I was going more off context clues. The Atlantic Alliance could very well be what Lacon is referring to. Honestly, not sure what the downvotes were for....
    – Skooba
    Commented Apr 25 at 17:01

"Atlantic man" refers to the "Atlantic Alliance", in a narrow sense NATO.

In English, a [noun] + man refers to the person supporting or being involved with whatever that noun is. For example:

  • He's a Man City man. = supports that football team.
  • He's an Oxford man.= He attended Oxford University.
  • He's a beer man.= He likes drinking beer rather than, say, whiskey.

The Atlantic Alliance was the central part of security in Europe from 1949 to 1989, with France playing its part, then going his own way. Between the seemingly improbable defence of Europe by Europeans and the defence of Europe by NATO [aka the North Atlantic Alliance], which seems to have won out, France has tried since the end of the Cold War to maintain a form of national independence, strategic autonomy, and privileged contacts, particularly with the British. The Europe of defence based on reinforced cooperation and genuine pooling of resources sill comes up against national choices, for which France does not bear sole responsibility.

Atlantic Alliance and the Cold War

The Historical Roots of the Atlantic Alliance Between Values and Interests

Abstract While certainly the Atlantic Alliance was a product of the Cold War, its historical and cultural foundations were much older. This chapter considers both the short-term path which in the early Cold War years brought to the Atlantic Pact and the long-term history of the relations between Europe and the United States, focusing in particular on the Anglo-American special relationship. The chapter also re-examines isolationism, arguing that since its origins the American nation envisaged for itself a future of world domination. After the Second World War, a marriage of convenience took place between the United States and most countries of Western Europe. The Preamble and art. 2 of the Atlantic Treaty of 1949 expressed the aspiration to building something more than a mere military alliance, but as a matter of fact, these provisions were never put into practice. Considering the values, these were never identical and the differences widened after the Cold War. However, from this point of view Europe and North America remain the geopolitical area in the world with the closest interests and affinities.

[bolding mine]


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