THE PHILBY FILES by Genrikh Borovik

THE PHILBY FILES

The Secret Life of Master Spy Kim Philby
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 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.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1994
ISBN: 0-316-10284-9
Page count: 408pp
Publisher: Little, Brown
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 1994




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