ANTHONY BLUNT: His Lives

Miranda Carter, Author . Farrar, Straus & Giroux $30 (592p) ISBN 978-0-374-10531-0

This engaging and important biography examines the many masks of the infamous Anthony Blunt (1907–1983), the Cambridge art historian turned spy who worked simultaneously for British Intelligence and the Soviet Union during WWII. Why did he betray his country? Carter provides an exhaustive psychological study of Blunt's early life. His brutalizing public school (where he was unhappy and unpopular), Carter argues, "inadvertently fostered a questioning and subversive attitude and a profound distrust of authority." When the Depression hit England in the 1930s and the specter of fascism threatened Europe, communism became fashionable among left-leaning intellectuals like Blunt and his Cambridge friend Guy Burgess. Blunt's homosexuality, like Burgess's, also appears to have alienated him from the establishment. During WWII, Blunt was assigned to British intelligence, giving him easy access to military secrets, which he smuggled to the Soviets. After his Cambridge spy friends—Burgess, Donald MacLean and Kim Philby—defected to the Soviet Union after the war, British Intelligence began investigating Blunt. In 1964, he was granted immunity in exchange for his confession and full cooperation. British intelligence worked hard to keep "the Blunt affair" a secret. He wasn't publicly exposed until 1979, when Margaret Thatcher denounced him. The biggest challenge any Blunt biographer faces is Blunt himself, a man of almost legendary emotional detachment. Blunt revealed little about his personal life, yet Carter has managed to bring readers as close to this enigmatic man as humanly possible. Thoroughly researched and carefully crafted, this is sure to be the definitive biography. 16 pages of photos not seen by PW. (Jan.)

Forecast:Blunt's story isn't quite the sensation here that it is in England; devotees of spy tales and contemporary British history will read this.

Reviewed on: 11/05/2001
Release date: 01/01/2002
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 608 pages - 978-0-312-42146-5
Paperback - 590 pages - 978-0-330-36766-0
Show other formats
FORMATS
Discover what to read next
TIP SHEET
MORE BOOKS YOU'D LIKE
X
X