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35 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thoroughly Enjoyable; a Must for Spy-Buffs!
"My Silent War" presents a witty and literate glimpse into the subtle mind of one of the KGB's most successful spies, Kim Philby. The Cambridge graduate had thoroughly penetrated MI6 and was being groomed to be its chief--although some writers including Nigel West dispute this--during World War II and the beginning of the Cold War, when he was finally unmasked because of...
Published on 8 Aug 2005 by F. S. L'hoir

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Classic to fill gaps in my history knowledge
Answered some knowledge gaps I had. Wished it was a little more in depth though that may be hard on this subject
Published 15 months ago by mike woolaghan


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35 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thoroughly Enjoyable; a Must for Spy-Buffs!, 8 Aug 2005
By 
F. S. L'hoir (Irvine, CA) - See all my reviews
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"My Silent War" presents a witty and literate glimpse into the subtle mind of one of the KGB's most successful spies, Kim Philby. The Cambridge graduate had thoroughly penetrated MI6 and was being groomed to be its chief--although some writers including Nigel West dispute this--during World War II and the beginning of the Cold War, when he was finally unmasked because of the flight of his fellow Cambridge spies, Donald Maclean and Guy Burgess.

Kim Philby, according to Seale and McConville, has become a "caricature" of "Western demonology," a "byword of reproach," the deadly "viper" in the "trusting bosom of his country" ("Philby: The Long Road to Moscow," 1978, 13). Nigel West's characterization of "My Silent War" as a "vitriolic" memoir illustrates this proposition (even though his assessment of Philby in "The Friends" [1988, 51-68], is otherwise balanced). As evidence of "vitriol" he presents Philby's judgment ("MSW,"109) of Sir Stewart Menzies ("C" of MI6) as an intellectually "unimpressive . . . fairly cloistered son of the upper levels of the British establishment" whose attitudes [as far as counterespionage was concerned] were "schoolboyish-- bars, beards, and blonds"--an assessment that West himself corroborates in "The Friends" (117). Vitriol in this instance and truth do not seem to be mutually exclusive. Was Menzies truly "hounded" by Philby's words? In retrospect, they seem rather mild when compared to those of John Le Carré (a.k.a. David Cornwell of MI5--eternal rival of MI6) in respect to Philby in the MI5-agent-turned-best-selling-author's introduction to Page, Leitch, and Knightley's "Philby: The Spy who Betrayed a Generation" (1969, 24). Le Carré writes: "In ten year's time [Philby] may be stopping British tourists in the Moscow streets. Imagine that leaky-eye and whisky-voice, that hesitant, soft-footed charm [.]"

Now THAT is vitriol!

Demonizing only impedes historical truth, as far as it can ever be discerned. Yes, Philby wrote in Moscow under the noses of the KGB, and was therefore selective in his reminiscences, but "My Silent War," written in lucid prose, never ceases to fascinate. Raising as many questions as it answers, the book never sinks to Communist Propaganda-- Philby is too clever by far, and too competent a writer. An absorbing read, Kim Philby' s autobiography fully deserves its niche in the thesaurus of western literature.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not sure how much is the truth, but I enjoyed Philby's take on things ...., 24 Mar 2013
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This review is from: My Silent War: The Autobiography of a Spy (Kindle Edition)
Take a lot of what a notorious spy like Philby said with a huge dose of salt but enjoyed this book nevertheless. He seeks to portray himself as he hopes others would see him - valiant, honourable to his chosen cause blah de blah. Yeah, right. But having read Chapman Pincher's "Their Trade is Treachery" and other such books I was interested to read this one. Being extremely well-educated this book is, as you might expect, well-written and has great prose.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars 00, 22 May 2014
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This review is from: My Silent War: The Autobiography of a Spy (Kindle Edition)
I somehow hoped that I could have added 7 to the above digits, but I fear I may have given it one zero too many!
Although well written, this is a totally uninformative contribution by the master spy himself. Probably any short article on Philby will tell you more about him than he himself reveals. He hardly ever mentions intimate contact with the Russians, and certainly gives no indication whatsoever of what he ever revealed to them.
You would think from reading this that Philby was just another grey civil servant in the secret service of HMG who hardly ever crossed the line throughout his disgraceful career. No mention of the consequences of his treachery, or the fact that he could never be a "friend" to anybody, despite his frequent mention of "friends".
You get no inkling of what he really did in his various postings - only bland descriptions of what seems like pretty routine work.
I didn't expect a mea culpa, but I certainly did expect more meat than I got here. In fact, he doesn't even provide a bit of gravy.
It's OK if you want a vague idea of the day to day routine inside the SIS, but don't waste your time if you think you will learn anything revealing. This book is every bit as dishonest as its author.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Memoirs of a believer, 1 April 2014
By 
Mac McAleer (London UK) - See all my reviews
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This short book gives a different perspective on the espionage business. It was written by Kim Philby in 1968. He was one of the Cambridge spies, who defected to Moscow in 1963. It should be read alongside another book on the same subject (e.g. A Spy Among Friends by Ben Macintyre) rather than on its own as, in the world of espionage, who knows what is true? It gives an account of his rise through the security services from the Second World War onwards, the details of the service and personalities he encountered. It is fascinating for this alone. However, the elephant in the room is the fact that for all this time he was a Soviet agent; this is barely mentioned except for the occasional reference to his "Soviet colleagues" and in the description if the events that led up to his defection in the last three chapters. Philby comes across as a hard working, thoughful and efficient secret service manager. It is only in the last chapters that the veil begins to fall and the strain to appear.

Harold "Kim" Philby was a very successful secret agent. He deceived the best minds of the British and American secret services whilst working with them; he deceived his close friends. Originally he worked as a journalist. This is a man who could construct a story, deceive and spin, so this short memoir should be treated with the utmost caution. And yet, written in Moscow after his defection, it is a declaration of faith by a true believer and not a clever self-justification. He was no longer leading a double life and was free to say what he really thought. He is like an Elizabethan English Jesuit, who is a loyal Englishman and a true Catholic, but unable to reconcile himself to the new religion. This is one of the clever young men at Cambridge whose wealth and connections do not totally insulate them from the economic failures and misery of the Great Depression, who see the new Soviet Union as the city on the hill. This is the middle-aged man whose fellow believers, one by one, lost their faith as the true nature of Stalin's system is exposed. He keeps his faith despite these revelations; the Church can be reformed. A footnote says that Hugh Gaitskell, who knew him slightly before the war, described him as a "rather altruistic left-winger, mixed up and Byronic in outlook".

SECOND WORLD WAR: Apart from an anecdote about his time as a war correspondent in the Spanish Civil War, attached to the Franco side, and a mention of his time as a correspondent in France in 1940, this book really starts with his recruitment later in the same year into the Special Intelligence Service (SIS) now also known as MI6. This is wartime. He details his various jobs and how he assesses these jobs for the usefulness of the information available, but he never mentions how this information is passed on. He starts as an instructor for the Political Warfare Executive then moves to SIS Section V, in charge of counter-espionage in the Iberian Peninsula (Spain and Portugal). He discusses the office politics and divisional rivalries and the lack of funding. His section works with the domestic MI5 and he cultivates contacts there as well as throughout SIS. This is a young man finding his way to rise within the organisation.

TOWARDS THE END OF THE WAR responsibility for North Africa and Italy were added to Philly's portfolio. Before the war the focus had been on the Soviet Union; during the war it as on Germany and after the war the focus was expected to return to the Soviet Union. The pre-war secret sevice had been haphazardly organised and the war had shown-up these deficiences. With the coming peace the usefulness of the organisation was recognised and a new structure was devised to make it more effective. Also, the end of the war would mean a great downsizing of the security services. In preparation an interim manager was put into the Soviet section in preparation for its future merger with Section V. Then a new manager would be appointed, probably Philby's boss. Here Philby is explicit again, mentioning "discussions with my Soviet contact". The Soviets asked him to enter office politics to try and get this job himself. He dutifully did so, setting up his boss by rallying discreetly and indirectly other departmental heads against him. He was successful and Philby found himself in charge of the collection and interpretation of information concerning Soviet and Communist espionage and subversion around the world.

AFTER THE WAR: Early in 1947 Philby was transferred to Istanbul. Turkey was a useful place for the Balkans. More importantly, in the east it had borders with the Soviet Union and faced it across the Black Sea. In 1947 he was offered the job of liason officer between the SIS and the CIA and FBI, a job so useful that he "did not even think it worth waiting for confirmation from my Soviet colleagues" before accepting the job.

THE FALL: In 1950 Guy Burgess, Soviet agent and friend of Philby, arrived in Washington to work at the British Embassy. He stayed with Philby. At the same time Donald Maclean, a Soviet agent, who was working in the Foreign Office, was being investigated as a possible spy. In 1951 Burgess and Maclean defected to the Soviet Union. Philby was summoned to London and questioned. Nothing could be proved but there was a lot of circumstantial evidence against him. He was asked to resign from the SIS. A few years later his name was leaked to the press but they could not name him for fear of a libel action, but then an MP named him as the "Third Man" in the House of Commons using Parliamentary privilege. This allowed the newspapers to name him too. There was a debate in the Commons at the end of which the Prime Minister said that "there was no evidence that Philby had betrayed the interests of the country". The next day Philby gave a press conference. The MP who had named him apologised. In 1956 Philby went to Beirut as a press correspondent. In 1962 the Soviet agent George Blake was arrested and Philby was proved to be a Soviet agent. In 1963 Kim Philby defected.

THE BOOK is relatively short, at 170 pages of text, plus a 3-page Introduction by Graham Greene, a 3 page Chronology and an Index. Who wrote this book? In the introduction to his book Guy Burgess Michael Holtzman describes methods of writing about secret intelligence matters and mentions this book. The writing can be scholarly or operational. "The distinction is marked by the accessibility of the references and, to some extent, provenance. For example, that entertaining book My Silent War, published under the name of Kim Philby, is unsourced and has a Soviet secret intelligence provenance."
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Engagingly thoughtful and honest, 18 Aug 2013
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This review is from: My Silent War: The Autobiography of a Spy (Kindle Edition)
Philby's own account of his exploits and Soviet-spying activities, including his betrayals and methods of 'playing the system', is surprisingly engaging and thoughtful. I found the writing style a little irksome at times, too many short sentences, but this is a first-hand account and should be accepted in its format; overall, a great read, very informative and a true mirror into a lost world of intrigue and deception.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Classic to fill gaps in my history knowledge, 15 Jun 2013
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Answered some knowledge gaps I had. Wished it was a little more in depth though that may be hard on this subject
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Propaganda, 8 Sep 2010
You have to read this with one eye or ear open to what Philby's masters in Moscow would allow him to say. In the context of the spy scandal of Philby, Burgess and Mclean, this is as close as you are going to get to the 'truth' as seen from their perspective.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating, 5 Nov 2008
This review is from: My Silent War (Paperback)
Of all the entertaining spy stories written, this is the original and true version. Clearly an educated writer it also reads well. He presents his case well and will add value to your understanding of the Cold War- whatever you personally may think of Philby.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars promises much and delivers little, 12 Mar 2008
This review is from: My Silent War (Paperback)
Kim Philby, arguably the most famous of the cold war spies, writes his memoirs in this volume. Unfortunately, as the foreword indicates, these memoirs were written from Moscow following his escape to Russia, and as such were subject to censorship by the Soviet authorities.

The result, for the most part, is a rather boring account of Philby's movement within the civil service. There is precious little of his activities as a Soviet spy, and I would presume that this is due to the censors. There is much beaurocratic detail, which I personally find uninteresting and unnecessary (unless it's function was as book-filler), although I am aware that some readers might thrive on such.

The book warms up towards the last few chapters, as he discusses his relationship and dealings with fellow Cambridge communist compatriots, Burgess and Maclean. There is an engaging account of how their position in the West became untenable and how this endangered his own position, and Philby briefly describes his own life under suspicion.

For such an intriguing character, Philby's auto-biography promises much and delivers little, although I'm rapidly developing the impression that factual accounts of secret services seem to share this common pattern.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting in what wasn't revealed, 22 May 2014
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This review is from: My Silent War: The Autobiography of a Spy (Kindle Edition)
an explanation of aspects of his life and a piece of propaganda but still revealing of attitudes at the time
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