When Kim Philby fled to Moscow in 1963, he became the most notorious double agent in the history of espionage. Recruited into His Majestys Secret Intelligence Service at the beginning of World War II, he rose rapidly in the ranks to become the chief liaison officer with the CIA in Washington after the war. The exposure of other members of the group of British double agents known as the Cambridge Five led to the revelation that Philby had begun spying for the Soviet Union years before he joined the British intelligence service. He eventually fled to Moscow one jump ahead of British agents who had come to arrest him, and spent the last twenty-five years of his life in Russia. In Young Philby, Robert Littell recounts the little-known story of the spys early years. Through the words of Philbys friends and lovers, as well as his Soviet and English handlers, we follow the evolution of a mysteriously beguiling man who kept his masters on both sides of the Iron Curtain guessing about his ultimate loyalties. As each layer of ambiguity is exposed, questions surface: What made this infamous double (or should that be triple?) agent tick? And, in the end, who was the real Kim Philby?
Littell (The Company) offers an episodic, multifaceted look at the making of one of the world's most notorious double agents, Harold Adrian Russell Philby, better known as "Kim" (after the hero of Kipling's famous novel). After a prologue set in 1938 Moscow, the novel proper opens in 1933 Vienna, where Philby plans to aid refugees from Nazi Germany, but is really looking "for adventure, a cause to believe in, comradeship, affection, love, sex." He finds all of them, neatly bound up in Hungarian-born Communist activist Litzi Friedman, who eventually becomes his wife and introduces him to the Communist Party. As "one of the last romantics," Philby is an easy convert, but the inevitable question is what motivated him to betray his country. Littell provides no easy answers, though in a coda he suggests a tantalizing rationale for Philby's actions. Readers should be prepared for an overwhelming amount of period detail that robs the narrative of any substantial momentum. Agent: Ed Victor, Ed Victor Ltd. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
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Thomas Dunne Books
November 13, 2012
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