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My Silent War (Modern Library Classics (Paperback)) Paperback – 14 Aug 2003

3.8 out of 5 stars 34 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Modern Library Inc; 2002 Modern Library Paperback Ed edition (14 Aug. 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375759832
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375759833
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 1.3 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 72,199 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

" 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
" Addictive . . . highly polished . . . written with style and a feline sense of irony, making it a much better read than any of the other Philby literature." -- "The Guardian"
" 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

"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
"Addictive . . . highly polished . . . written with style and a feline sense of irony, making it a much better read than any of the other Philby literature." --"The Guardian"
"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

Book Description

A fascinating insight into the mind and motivations of the notorious British 'Master Spy' and Soviet double agent. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
"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.
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I purchased this book because I have recently begun reading the Le Carre series of novels, and after watching a BBC 4docimentary on Philby. I was intrigued by the man.

The prose style is fine and every chapter is interesting. I felt that too much of Philby's account focused on his early years in WW2, to the detriment of the later years. I did not expect specifics on the day to day, but I had hoped for a rationale on why he chose his path, how he retained his unflinching loyalty, and intriguing existential doubt at key moments of his life. I was disappointed, as none of this is here.

I imagine that Philby did not wish to open up where sympathy and compassion might well be lacking. That is a shame, as anyone's commitment to a cause is well worth reflecting on. I can recommend this book but with the caveats discussed.
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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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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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Kim was a weird bloke. In another life, he would probably have been diagnosed with mental illness. It really is difficult to follow this as a factual account, as he was a professional deceiver, but if you read it as a 'semi-true' story, it is a good read, and very informative on the politics of the day. My real interest is in trying to understand the man - as he betrayed not only his country, but his wife and father as well - and all for a system that in itself wanted to be something else - as history has shown. But I think its worth looking the reviews that are by John Le Carre and the controller of the Cambridge Spy ring, Yuri Modin - who both thought he was nuts, and not to be trusted by anyone. Still, he really was an interesting character, and the legacy that he left on the world still is profound, even if anyone under the age of 40 has never heard of him.
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