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My Silent War by Kim Philby
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My Silent War

by Kim Philby

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This is a short, rather bare bones account of Kim Philby's pre-Moscow life, mainly centering on his time spent in the British secret service and abroad. Written by Philby whilst in exile in the Soviet Union, it's not so much an autobiography (Philby avoids talking too much about himself) more an insider's look at a life many of us can never hope, or really want, to lead.

Starting with his Cambridge years and brief stint as a journalist in Franco Spain, it moves on to Philby's early career in the SIS, through his rapid rise through the ranks, finally culminating in his fall from grace following the Burgess and Maclean scandal. Throughout, Philby comments pungently on the various figures who made up his secret world, many of whom are now mere footnotes. Of his own actions that led to the death and capture of countless agents he remains chillingly detached.

A couple of the chapters focus on specific cases, several of which seem to have formed the background for a number of well known spy thrillers. One of these, involving an operation to infiltrate spies into Soviet occupied Georgia, is probably the most interesting part of the book, though also the most disturbing, knowing as we do Philby's probable role in the doomed operation. The fact that it's described in such matter-of-fact tones makes it all the more so.

It's hard to say what to make of the book as a whole. As a portrait of the intelligence world it's tainted by the fact that we can never be sure just how truthful Philby's words are, or how much he was forced to leave out by his Moscow masters. As an exploration of Philby as a person, his motivations and deepest convictions, it's rather too shallow and glossy. An interesting read, all told, though much like Philby himself impossible to pin down. ( )
  StuartNorth | Nov 19, 2016 |
This is a short, rather bare bones account of Kim Philby's pre-Moscow life, mainly centering on his time spent in the British secret service and abroad. Written by Philby whilst in exile in the Soviet Union, it's not so much an autobiography (Philby avoids talking too much about himself) more an insider's look at a life many of us can never hope, or really want, to lead.

Starting with his Cambridge years and brief stint as a journalist in Franco Spain, it moves on to Philby's early career in the SIS, through his rapid rise through the ranks, finally culminating in his fall from grace following the Burgess and Maclean scandal. Throughout, Philby comments pungently on the various figures who made up his secret world, many of whom are now mere footnotes. Of his own actions that led to the death and capture of countless agents he remains chillingly detached.

A couple of the chapters focus on specific cases, several of which seem to have formed the background for a number of well known spy thrillers. One of these, involving an operation to infiltrate spies into Soviet occupied Georgia, is probably the most interesting part of the book, though also the most disturbing, knowing as we do Philby's probable role in the doomed operation. The fact that it's described in such matter-of-fact tones makes it all the more so.

It's hard to say what to make of the book as a whole. As a portrait of the intelligence world it's tainted by the fact that we can never be sure just how truthful Philby's words are, or how much he was forced to leave out by his Moscow masters. As an exploration of Philby as a person, his motivations and deepest convictions, it's rather too shallow and glossy. An interesting read, all told, though much like Philby himself impossible to pin down. ( )
  StuartNorth | Nov 19, 2016 |
It certainly isn't as thrilling as the James Bond novels, but, on the plus side, it's more realisitic. ( )
  RamzArtso | Sep 15, 2013 |
Philby is an annoying git, but what a life he has lived. I wonder if we got the full story or is it just the tip of the iceburg.....we'll never know. Enjoyed the book once I got over hating who he was.
  strtrek | Jan 3, 2011 |
Leaves ass many questions unanswered as answered; not surprising considering when it was written. A good read. ( )
  NAFR | Nov 27, 2008 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Kim Philbyprimary authorall editionscalculated
Greene, GrahamForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Knightley, PhillipIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Strnad, ErnstTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0375759832, Paperback)

In the annals of espionage, one name towers above all others: that of H.A.R. “Kim” Philby, the ringleader of the legendary Cambridge spies. A member of the British establishment, Philby joined the Secret Intelligence Service in 1940, rose to the head of Soviet counterintelligence, and, as MI6’s liaison with the CIA and the FBI, betrayed every secret of Allied operations to the Russians, fatally compromising covert actions to roll back the Iron Curtain in the early years of the Cold War.

Written from Moscow in 1967, My Silent War shook the world and introduced a new archetype in fiction: the unrepentant spy. It inspired John le Carré’s Smiley novels and the later espionage novels of Graham Greene. Kim Philby was history’s most successful spy. He was also an exceptional writer who gave us the great iconic story of the Cold War and revolutionized, in the process, the art of espionage writing.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:18:28 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Kim Philby joined the Secret Intelligence Service in 1940, rose to the head of Soviet counterintelligence, and, as MI6's liaison with the CIA and the FBI, betrayed every secret of Allied operations to the Russians. This is a fascinating insight into the mind and motivations of this master spy and Soviet double agent. Previous ed.: London: MacGibbon.… (more)

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