Skip to content
Paperback My Silent War: The Autobiography of a Spy Book

ISBN: 0375759832

ISBN13: 9780375759833

My Silent War: The Autobiography of a Spy

Select Format

Select Condition ThriftBooks Help Icon


Format: Paperback

Condition: Very Good

Save $9.51!
List Price $17.00

1 Available

Book Overview

In the annals of espionage, one name towers above all others: that of H.A.R. "Kim" Philby, the ringleader of the legendary Cambridge spies. A member of the British establishment, Philby joined the Secret Intelligence Service in 1940, rose to the head of Soviet counterintelligence, and, as MI6's liaison with the CIA and the FBI, betrayed every secret of Allied operations to the Russians, fatally compromising covert actions to roll back the Iron Curtain...

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

Dry humour, no BS

I just love his humour, the book is straightforward, without any political bull.... The guy only once and very shortly explains his motivation behind "converting" and then goes on to tell it all (or sort of). In this business it is quite impossible to tell it all of course. As a homo sovieticus myself, I was quite impressed about the information in this book. I would have betted for more censorship, after all it was written in Soviet Union!


Treason tends to get rather an unflattering press, however successful and elegant-minded the traitor. The basic question of loyalty goes back, I guess, to time immemorial. Moral philosophers have flailed at it incessantly, all to no purpose whatsoever in my own view. The issue comes down to this - each and every one of us recognises different, and often conflicting, loyalties. Socrates let himself be framed in court on a nonsensical charge and accepted the death penalty in the name of upholding the Law. More fool Socrates, I can only reflect, for all my general enthusiasm for the Rule of Law. Under what circumstances would any of us denounce others for what we would agree was wrongdoing? That would vary, I guess, but I never heard of anyone whose answer was `under any and all circumstances'. In particular, where national laws are involved, they are all in the last resort, as Britain's eminent late Lord Chancellor Quintin Hogg Lord Hailsham observed, `a con'. Nations are not some be-all nor yet any end-all unless we decide for ourselves that they shall be so. The case of Philby is one where I find the opinions of the Great and the Good more enlightening and useful than I usually find them. Graham Greene goes straight to the main point - Philby has a chilling and unshakable certainty in his adopted communist faith. He offers no apologia for Stalin's atrocities, he just presents the faith to himself as more important and lasting; and that, as Greene says, is what Catholics have done for centuries. What did Philby have against his native land? Frankly, little or nothing that I can see. He is the English of the English. He despises Baldwin and Chamberlain, but so did many without giving their main loyalty to the Soviet Union as Philby did. John le Carre is too outraged to talk sense or fact (?Philby had `no women'? Apart from his being married four times, just read Muggeridge on Philby's proclivities as a womaniser. ?Philby had `no faith'? Well done Philby, if I understand that). Le Carre acknowledges some primacy of patriotism, whereas Greene does not. Nigel West has a different slant, and one that I find interesting. Philby, says West, was fundamentally an ego-tripper, embracing communism by way of exercising his superiority complex. That could be right, but I wouldn't bet much on it. I simply cannot assess the `sincerity' of Philby's communist convictions: indeed I would not claim to know what I mean by that term. What I do say is that I find the personality put across in Philby's way of expressing himself to be enormously attractive and engaging. In another context, this might be the absolute exemplar of the English public-school product - articulate, elegant, witty, showing a sense of proportion and a delightful sense of the ridiculous. About his private life there is absolutely nothing in this book. He was widowed on one occasion, for all you could tell from this narrative - I found this fact out from the brief curriculum vitae at the back -

Kim Philby's Autobiography: a Must for Spy-Buffs

"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 "C", or head of British Intelligence (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 (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 confirms 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 Carre (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 Carre writes: "In ten year's time [Philby] may be stopping British tourists in the Moscow streets. Imagine that leaky-eye and whisky-voice, that hesitant, soft-footed charm [.]" Now THAT is vitriol! Demonizing only impedes historical truth, as far as it can ever be discerned. Yes, Philby wrote in Moscow under the noses of the KGB, and was therefore selective in his reminiscences, but "My Silent War," written in lucid prose, never ceases to fascinate. Raising as many questions as it answers, the book never sinks to Communist Propaganda-- Philby is too clever by far, and too competent a writer. An absorbing read, Kim Philby' s autobiography fully deserves its niche in the "Modern Library" series.


Sure it's not a tell- all book, but Philby wrote it in the middle of the cold war. I still found it fascinating because I am new to his story.I especially enjoyed the cat and mouse game when Maclean and Burgess disappear.I'd rather hear it from Philby than any biographer.I understand he probably held back alot of juicy details,and attacked people he didn't agree with politically or personally, but it's still a really enjoyable read.

Who cares if this book influenced Hansson?

The autobiography of Kim Philby, minus the last years (25) he spent in the Soviet Union, after his defection in 1963, is STILL a great read, his influncing US spy Hanssen, or not, notwithstanding. Mind you, a great deal of what he states is misinformation, based on fact, but that in itself makes for an even better read, for it is precisely at that game, that of misinforming, that Philby had no peer in the world of intelligence, ever. Moreover, his crafty use of the English language should also provide readers with a clue, or two, about the use of it, as should his former MI6 colleage and friend Graham Greene's brilliant prologue. Philby's unremorsefulness, disdain for his Queen and Country, and true allegiance to the communist cause ( which had already lasted nearly 35 years by the time the book was written), is not really the point here. After his defection, he knew what sort of people would buy his memoirs, and that was for the most part the MI6, MI5, FBI and CIA crowd he'd worked so hard to penetrate, and desinform, through the long years. And, in 1967, he wanted to inflict an even bigger damage on them. In this regard, he only partly succeeded. For a complete overview in the life of this, the most intriguing of all British traitors, interested readers should turn, first and foremost, to "Treason in the blood" ( tracing both Kim's and his famous father St John's lives). In addition, American readers could explore "The Cambridge Spies: The untold story of McLean, Philby and Burgess in America", for a detailed, and harrowing account of how much did Philby and their cohorts achieve, in as little as a seven-year period at the dawn of the Cold War (from McLean's arrival in Washington, in 1944, to Philby's departure from the US, in 1951, and including Burgess' short, but deadly D.C. stay, at the start of the Korean War in 1950), in the penetration of the US intelligence establishment, on Moscow's orders.
Copyright © 2023 Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Do Not Sell My Personal Information | Cookie Preferences | Accessibility Statement
ThriftBooks® and the ThriftBooks® logo are registered trademarks of Thrift Books Global, LLC
GoDaddy Verified and Secured