Atomic Spy: The Dark Lives of Klaus Fuchs

Nancy Thorndike Greenspan. Viking, $30 (416p) ISBN 978-0-593-08339-0
Biographer Greenspan (The End of the Certain World) reconsiders Soviet spy Klaus Fuchs (1911–1988) in this richly detailed work. Born in Germany, Fuchs became a member of the Communist party as a university student in 1932, left the country after the 1933 Reichstag fire, and completed his PhD in theoretical physics in England. Following the outbreak of WWII, Fuchs’s commitment to communism was “reinforced,” Greenspan contends, during his internment at a camp for “enemy aliens” in Canada, where he befriended a Soviet intelligence agent. Released in 1941, Fuchs contributed research to the Manhattan Project and eventually became a division head at Britain’s main nuclear-research facility. At every step of the way, he passed along top-secret information that helped the Soviets build their own atomic bomb faster than expected. Exposed as a spy in the Venona code-breaking project, Fuchs confessed in 1950 and served nine years in prison before immigrating to East Germany. Greenspan portrays Fuchs as a reticent figure motivated by sincere political beliefs and the idea that the free flow of information might prevent a nuclear arms race. Though the book’s prose style is more diligent than dynamic, Greenspan builds tension by interweaving Fuchs’s scientific and espionage pursuits with MI5’s efforts to unmask him. This circumspect account blurs the lines between courage and treachery in thought-provoking ways. (May)
Reviewed on : 02/21/2020
Release date: 05/12/2020
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 416 pages - 978-0-593-08340-6
Book - 1 pages - 978-0-593-08341-3
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Audio book sample courtesy of Penguin Random House Audio
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