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Kim Philby Book Review: My Silent War The Autobiography of a Spy
This Kim Philby book was written from Moscow in 1967. It reveals how unrepentant a spy Kim Philby is. This Kim Philby book inspired John le Carré’s Smiley novels, like Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. This Kim Philby book also inspired the later espionage novels of Graham Greene.
My Silent War: The Autobiography Of A Spy was written by Harold Adrian Russell “Kim” Philby (1 January 1912 – 11 May 1988), who was a high-ranking member of British intelligence. He worked as a double agent before defecting to the Soviet Union in 1963. He served as both an NKVD and KGB operative. Kim Philby released the memoir in 1968.
In 1963, Philby was revealed to be a member of the spy ring now known as the Cambridge Five. The other members of the spy ring were Donald Maclean, Guy Burgess, Anthony Blunt and, possibly, John Cairncross. Of the five, Philby is believed to have been most successful in providing secret information to the Soviet Union. Philby was an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) from 1946 to 1965. Treachery is the subject of My Silent War. Kim Philby fed British and American WWII and Cold War intelligence to the Soviet Union. Philby became a communist and Soviet agent in the 1930s. He easily joined MI6 and rose to be head of British Counterintelligence. He seeked asylum in Moscow in 1963, where he lived until his death in 1988. The book details why he became a communist while still in school. The book also explains how he was recruited by Soviet intelligence and made to stay as a resident spy in his own home country. Even after revelations of Stalin’s crimes, he still remained a communist and explained his choice.
If you are a lover of espionage, this is a must read. It gives you an insight as to what goes on inside a spy’s head. You will find out why he became a communist at a young age and why he remained committed to the cause of communism.
What famous authors say about this book:
“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
“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 Carre
So go ahead and read this book. Very educational and worth your time!
There is also a TV serial about Kim Philby and his co-spies entitled Cambridge Spies. This is the dramatization on how the Cambridge Spies were recruited. It also depicts the most notorious debacle the British Secret Service has experienced. Great companion to the book!