The Philby Files: The Secret Life of Master Spy Kim Philby

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9780316102841: The Philby Files: The Secret Life of Master Spy Kim Philby
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Based on hundreds of hours of interviews with Kim Philby and unique access to his KGB files, a noted journalist offers an intricate portrait of the Cold War's most notorious Soviet spy, answering many enduring questions about his espionage career.

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From Kirkus Reviews:

Soviet spy Kim Philby, discreet to the last, speaks at length here about his career without saying much new, but his KGB file is more revealing. Soviet journalist Borovik, with the assistance of the experienced British newspaperman Knightley (The Master Spy: The Story of Kim Philby, 1989), had the good idea (actually suggested to him by Graham Greene) of juxtaposing extensive taped interviews with Philby during his last years in Moscow with the spy's KGB file, which was made available to Borovik after Philby's death in 1988. This is particularly fruitful for the first part of Philby's career, since for some unexplained reason the file does not continue beyond the early years of WW II, after which Philby's recollections, mostly repetitive of his own book, are supplemented by the recollections of a former KGB agent in London who didn't work with Philby at all. The main revelation to come out of the KGB files is that Philby was recruited, not as part of a clever plot to seed the British bureaucracy with able young sympathizers, but because the KGB incorrectly believed that Philby's father was in British intelligence and that Philby could pick his brains. Another striking feature is the suspicion with which Philby was regarded by the KGB, seemingly throughout his career. A final surprise is the apparent insouciance with which the KGB wrecked Philby's career, allowing him to be compromised by Guy Burgess's flight to Moscow. Philby himself believed that he could have had another ten years in position if it had not been for this mistake. (See also Treason in the Blood by Anthony Cave Brown, reviewed on p. 1323.) Some good new material on an eternally intriguing subject, marred by the unexplained absence of later KGB material and the author's readiness to embellish his tapes of Philby with lengthy conversations reconstructed from what he thinks may have occurred. -- Copyright ©1994, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

From Booklist:

Borovik is not the first to flip through KGB case file 5581, the number of Philby's personnel dossier. Odd documents from it have appeared in recent books, such as a study of the Hess flap of 1941 (Ten Days to Destiny, John Costello, 1993). Anthony Cave Brown, the most commanding biographer thus far of the English mole, certainly had access to the file for Treason in the Blood. Perhaps publishers just ought to print the unexpurgated file to slake the thirst for Philbyiana. In the meantime, Borovik's book, based on his chats with the spy in retirement, hones in on the methods of tradecraft: spotting potential recruits, making the recruitment, and running the agent via signals, ciphers, and drops, all as viewed from the funnel of the file. Juxtaposed with Philby's recollections of his glory days as rewritten by Borovik are interesting verbatim passages from the file that record disagreement between Philby's controls and Moscow Center about their agent's trustworthiness, which apparently was never completely convincing to the KGB, surprisingly enough. Philby was kept ignorant of these doubts, but there is no doubt here that the fanatically specialist reader will dive into this pro-Philby account. Gilbert Taylor

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