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The Philby Files.

Anyone who was up at Trinity in the early 30s will understand why a number of undergraduates had left-wing tendencies, given the ferocious unemployment and misery of those less fortunate than they. They all thought that the world economy could be better arranged than the achievements of those in power. Most of the 'pinkies' eventually became good Tories, some equally good Socialists. Others like Philby embraced ideological views which took them on the path to Moscow where they believed that only the communists were capable of dealing with fascism. Once embarked on this path there was no turning back if their views were solidly held and believed.

Genrikh Borovik has done a remarkable job in piecing together interviews with Philby, together with access to the KGB files. Of course, the book is written through Soviet eyes but he does not cover up Soviet or British intelligence failings and mistakes. His attempt to trace Philby's thinking and uncompromising belief in the righteousness of his cause, in spite of many occasions when he was left in the cold by his masters, makes fascinating reading. All the deaths and betrayals are recorded and the account of the drama of his escape from Beirut after Nicholas Elliott nearly got him back to the UK is better than any novel.

People hold harsh, almost stereotyped views about Philby, plus some who still believe that he was the 'super triple-cross' of all time. At one stage even the KGB thought he was an SIS plant.

All the main protagonists are featured in this story - Maclean, Burgess, Blunt, Cairncross as well as the wretched James Klugmann (also up at Trinity and described in their magazine of 1934 as 'Hairy chest' - slang for bad news) to whom the KGB give credit for assisting in the switch of support from Mihailovic to Tito, whilst also saying that he was 'not' an NKVD agent, although Klugmann claims to have been in his own book, From Trotsky to Tito.

Perhaps the last word on this book should be the words of Yuri Modin: '. . . I cannot rule out that with his charm, intelligence and ability to influence people, he mocked us and them, the KGB and the SIS - feeling that he was above them all'. He lived his own third life? 'If you like. And there is nothing surprising about that. After all, he had a wonderful sense of humour'.

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Author:Lee, Peter
Publication:Contemporary Review
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Apr 1, 1995
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