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My Silent War: The Autobiography of a Spy Paperback – September 24, 2002
"Warlight" by Michael Ondaatje
A dramatic coming-of-age story set in the decade after World War II, "Warlight" is the mesmerizing new novel from the best-selling author of "The English Patient." Pre-order today
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From Publishers Weekly
Treachery is the subject of My Silent War: The Autobiography of a Spy, the 1968 memoir of Kim Philby, the double agent who headed the Cambridge Five spy ring that fed British and American WWII and Cold War intelligence to the Soviet Union. Philby became a communist and Soviet agent in the 1930s, then easily joined MI6 and rose to be head of British Counterintelligence before seeking asylum in Moscow in 1963 (where he lived until his death in 1988). Back in print after 12 years, Philby's riveting, psychologically acute tale of spycraft offers a rather unflattering picture of the British secret service, and also addresses why he remained committed to communism even after revelations of Stalin's crimes.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
“Far more gripping than any novel of espionage I can remember.” —Graham Greene
“To this day I am convinced that he was not an ideologue. Spying was just his way of being above lesser mortals.” —Nigel West
“Addictive . . . highly polished . . . written with style and a feline sense of irony, making it a much better read than any of the other Philby literature.” —The Guardian
“Philby has no home, no women, no faith. Behind the inbred upper-class arrogance, the taste for adventure, lies the self-hate of a vain misfit for whom nothing will ever be worthy of his loyalty. In the last instance, Philby is driven by the incurable drug of deceit itself.” —John le Carré
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The real lesson of this episode is that even when cornered, Philby never stopped thinking of a way out, never stopped scheming. He did the same when confronted by his old friend Nicholas Elliott in Beirut, an episode not covered in this book. On that occasion, his seeming cooperation bought him enough time to arrange for his escape to Moscow. So in both Spain and Lebanon, luck was only part of it – the lesser part. He got away because he used the strategy of buying time by deflecting attention. Clever Kim.
In these pages, he makes no mention of his various wives, Nicholas Elliott, or John le Carré, to name just a few. He passes over the Baltic states in silence. Still, while this autobiography may not be very truthful, it is well written. Here are some of my favorite passages.
"I have found that advertising people can be relied on for two things. First, they will warn you on no account to go into advertising; second, they will expatiate at length on the dirtier tricks of their profession."
"Our commandant, John Munn, was a young colonel of the sensible military type, as opposed to the no-nonsense military, the mystical military and the plain-silly military."
"Ignorance and arrogance make a bad combination, and the Saudi Arabians have both in generous measure. When an outward show of austerity is thrown in as well, the mixture is intolerable."
"I am sure that tribal courage is legendary only in the sense that it is legend, and that the wild mountaineer is as brave as a lion only in the sense that the lion (very sensibly) avoids combat unless assured of weak opposition and a fat meal at the end of it."
Don't expect to read about his early years, his many marriages, his motivations or his reaction to Khruschev's 1956 lifting the veil on Stalin's terror years. Not here.
For a better understanding of Philby and his co conspirators - read "My Cambridge Friends" by Yuri Modin. Modin was his KGB handler and the handler of most of the other Cambridge crew : Cairncross, Burgess, McClean and Blunt. McClain apparently was the most destructive of the 5 for he provided strategic political insight to Soviet leadership. Philby, though devastating to western spy networks and the longest serving of the 5 (except perhaps for Blunt), didn't so much alter the course of world politics and power but the way the "game" was played.
I don't know who the royalties for this book go to. But I wouldn't be wanting to make charitable contributions to them. It wasn't in Philby's nature to be charitable.