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Perjury: The Hiss-Chambers Case Paperback – July 8, 1997
"Neverworld Wake" by Marisha Pessl
Read the absorbing new psychological suspense thriller from acclaimed New York Times bestselling author Marisha Pessl. Learn more
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In this updated version of the landmark book on one of the truest contenders for the title of "trial of the century," historian Allen Weinstein shows beyond all reasonable doubt that Alger Hiss was a Soviet spy. The book is meticulously detailed and sharply persuasive. Its cast of intriguing characters include Hiss, who maintained his innocence until his death in 1996, and his accuser Whittaker Chambers, a pair who became respective icons for left- and right-wing politics in America during the Cold War years. J. Edgar Hoover and a young Richard Nixon also play key roles. The best quality of Perjury, however, is the uncommon clarity of Weinstein's prose. The very first paragraph neatly sums up the controversial case:
Once upon a time, when the Cold War was young, a senior editor of Time accused the president of the Carnegie Foundation of having been a Soviet agent. The Time editor made his charge stick, aided by an obscure young Congressman from the House Committee on Un-American Activities, a tough federal prosecutor, and the director the FBI. As a result, the Endowment president spent forty-four months in jail and became a cause celebre; the magazine editor resigned and died a decade later, still obsessed with the case; the prosecutor became a federal judge; the director of the FBI lived to guard the republic against real or imagined enemies for another twenty-five years; and the young Congressman left obscurity behind to become the thirty-seventh President of the United States.--John J. Miller
About the Author
Allen Weinstein is the president and CEO of the Center for Democracy. A historian by training (with professorships at Smith, Georgetown, and Boston University), he is based in Washington, D.C.
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Unlike many authors, Mr. Weinstein does not appear to have a political agenda. He plays things up the middle, letting the facts speak for themselves.
I highly recomnend this valuable addition to rje historical record.
Whittaker Chambers of journalist who was a self-confessed communist was called to give evidence about his associates when he had been in the party some ten years earlier. In evidence he named Alger Hiss as a fellow communist. Hiss had been an important bureaucrat at one time having a role in organizing the Yalta talks and after that organizing the United Nations. By 1948 he had been eased out of government because of security concerns but he was the head of the Carnegie Foundation a prestigious position. If it could be proven that he was a communist then it was something that would embarrass the Truman administration.....
The main attraction of the book is that it is written at some distance from the events. The main problem that it has is rather than telling the story in a brief succinct way it attempts to develop an epic by interweaving the biographies of Chambers and Hiss into the narrative to illustrate something or rather. Thus it tends to go on and on at some points with grand points illustrated by colorful literary outpourings rather than focusing on the legal issues and the political context. An account of the trial and evidence would have taken about half the length.
In 1971, Hiss made a mistake almost as large: he let an honest man look at his defense files. Historian Allen Weinstein had previously believed that Hiss was innocent. But when he read what Hiss's lawyers said in private, and what FBI agents had written J. Edgar Hoover, he found there was no reasonable doubt possible anymore. Hiss had spied for the Soviets, and Chambers had usually told the truth to the best of his ability. Chambers had sometimes lied, but only when he attempted to minimize Hiss's guilt -- and his own, for Chambers had secrets about himself to protect, and a well founded fear of being the messenger killed for bearing bad news.
PERJURY is a fascinating account of two complex men, best friends who became mortal enemies when one split with Stalinism, and the other remained faithful. The lives of Alger Hiss and Whittaker Chambers would have been interesting even if they had never met or publicly clashed. Their long duel caught them in "A tragedy of History," as Chambers put it. PERJURY tells that story better than anyone before or since. It's a masterpiece of historical detective work.
When it was published originally, all but the die hard apologists for Stalinism conceded Hiss's guilt. The new edition has recently released material from the National Security Agency's Venona decryptions, and the KGB's Moscow files that destroy even the unreasonable doubts. And the even newer third edition has more material showing Hiss's guilt.
My highest recommendation.
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