25 yrs after death, British double agent’s memoirs released

A quarter century after his death, Anthony Blunt – a British spy secretly working for the Russians – reveals some of the details of his clandestine life in a 30,000-word manuscript, which he penned after his very public exposure as a Russian mole by ex-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

When Blunt died in 1983, his memoir was donated anonymously to the British Library with the caveat that it would not be made public for 25 years. The Library honored the condition, but it seems that all the waiting may have been for naught – Blunt’s manuscript is not nearly so juicy as one would have hoped.

Anthony BluntHis public unmasking came in 1979, 15 years after the once Cambridge professor and well regarded art historian confessed to operating in a four-person Russian ring along with another notorious Cold War traitor, Kim Philby. Blunt was granted immunity in exchange for information, but after his secret double life was made known to the British public, he thought about killing himself.

His memoirs offer a brief account of his life, from birth through to the moment his spy life was publicly revealed. People have been disappointed that Blunt more or less skips over his busy spy years in the 40s and 50s, but he does explain how he was recruited and finally discovered for the Russian spy he was.

It was his friend and agent Guy Burgess who first got him involved in the spying life. Both men were gay, and they met when Blunt was teaching at Cambridge in the 30s. Burgess introduced Blunt to left-wing politics, and when Blunt was all set to join the Communist party, Burgess suggested he would be of better use doing undercover work for the KGB.

Blunt also worked on recruiting (indeed in the end it was one of the agents he had helped to recruit that out-ed him), and was then dormant until WWII. During the war, he worked for MI5 as a military intelligence agent, which of course gave him access to all sorts of classified information, which, one can assume, he dutifully passed on to the Soviets.

After the war he went back to being the royal surveyor of art. He was knighted in 1956 and exposed in 1963. He says in his memoirs that getting involved with espionage was “the biggest mistake of [his] life.”

pics courtesy of opsroom.org and newstatesman.com


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