"a real-life James Bond. His boozy amours, his tough postures, his intelligence expertise..."
August 23, 2009 11:55 AM   Subscribe

Philby's memoir My Silent War is an extremely odd book, since his actual spying and meeting with Russian contacts come up so infrequently. Most of it is just Philby relating his CV in the SIS and his position on intelligence service politics vis-a-vis MI5. And then suddenly the game is up and he has to escape. You could almost bracket out the spying (and Philby never makes any explicit mention of intentionally bungling British operations in the Eastern Bloc). I don't think he mentions family or romances much at all, either.
posted by Gnatcho at 12:06 PM on August 23, 2009

his position on intelligence service politics vis-a-vis MI5

That should be "positions" "and the FBI and CIA".
posted by Gnatcho at 12:07 PM on August 23, 2009

John Philby's daughter, Charlotte, wrote about her grandfather in the Independent last month.

As much as I love the Telegraph's obits (they are the best in the business, hands down), reading anything about Kim Philby in their pages does remind one how the Torygraph got its name.
posted by grounded at 12:10 PM on August 23, 2009

I just re-read Spycatcher. This was an interesting look from the other side of the Great Game.

Of course, with the passage of the Official Secrets Bill prohibiting intelligence officer memoirs, we will only get looks from the "other" side.
posted by infinitewindow at 12:37 PM on August 23, 2009

This is a really interesting article, thanks!
posted by nonmerci at 12:37 PM on August 23, 2009

What a boring life.
posted by sswiller at 12:52 PM on August 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

How utterly weird. Yet again, file under "I had no idea." Thanks, Whelk!
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 1:31 PM on August 23, 2009

I'm a bit puzzled by the concern over John and his family sharing a flight with the British diplomat? What's the problem? Was the UK government not to know that John visited his father?
posted by chrchr at 2:22 PM on August 23, 2009

This looks to be the 1998 interview mentioned and quoted in the obit.
posted by Abiezer at 2:27 PM on August 23, 2009

Kim Philby really liked the intrigue.

1936 Marries Alice "Litzi" Friedman, Jewish Communist, in marriage of convenience.
1943 John Philby born under a kitchen table during an air raid. His mother Aileen described as Kim's "mistress"
1946 Marries Aileen Furse
1957 Aileen dies.
1959 Marries Eleanor Brewer in Beirut.
1965 Leaves Eleanor for Maclean's wife, Melinda Marling.
1972 Marries Russian Rufina Ivanova.

He leaves his 3rd wife for the wife of his best friend. Add this to the spying, drinking and the defecting and you've got one hell of eventful life.

John only got three wives in amid the drinking,

Love a good obit. Thanks!
posted by readery at 5:32 PM on August 23, 2009

Was the UK government not to know that John visited his father?

The government officially turned a blind eye to it, but it would be hard to sustain the illusion if Philby and the ambassador were on the same flight.
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:48 PM on August 23, 2009

Tim Powers has a rather neat fantastical take on the life of Kim Philby in his novel Declare - I'd recommend it if you're at all into that sort of thing.
posted by Artw at 7:45 PM on August 23, 2009

Oooh, I also came to the thread to mention Declare, a mind-boggling book that seamlessly combines cold war history and a rich, dark, fantasy undercurrent. Really, a weird, fun read.
posted by mecran01 at 8:42 PM on August 23, 2009

And I also came in to mention Declare. Awesome book. Now everybody must go read it.
posted by ashbury at 10:01 PM on August 23, 2009

they're just jealous, that's all.
posted by Philby at 11:40 PM on August 23, 2009

Yes. Declare. That book sent me on a several month long binge of looking up Kim Philby, reading about his father's exploits in the Empty Quarter of Saudi Arabia, etc. It is a great read.
posted by Kikkoman at 1:10 AM on August 24, 2009

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