I migliori 5 libri di spionaggio -del XX secolo e dell’inizio del XXI- secondo il Wall Street Journal, Books and Ideas.
In Stalin’s Secret Service, By W.G. Krivitsky (1939)
Soviet agent Walter Krivitsky defected to America on the eve of World War II and began publishing insights into Stalin’s secret strategies, scams and purges. Krivitsky’s appraisal and confession, “In Stalin’s Secret Service,” is fast-paced and packed with privileged information. When Krivitsky was found shot dead in a Washington hotel room in 1941, the official verdict was suicide. But Stalin’s NKVD agents, Krivitsky’s likely assassins, were known to boast that any fool can commit murder—it takes an artist to make it look like suicide. The book begins by describing deadly Soviet political machinations, then turns to the murder of the author’s high-ranking colleague, Ignace Reiss, and Krivitsky’s own tense and temporary escape from Stalin’s revenge.
A heroic attempt to sort the man from myth, misinformation and self-serving memoirs. Miranda Carter ably comprehends the complexity of the person behind Anthony Blunt’s masks: scholar, aesthete, Soviet spy. Exploring characteristics that bedevil many high-flying traitors—self-absorption or the bored intellectual’s capacity to become intoxicated by the challenge of deception—”Anthony Blunt: His Lives” is a biography in the fullest sense of the word. Spy fans might question the attention Carter devotes to Blunt’s work as an art historian, but this is an important element in the excoriation of the lives of a double-dealer who penetrated to the Royal heartlands of the British establishment. The book demonstrates that the warmth of Blunt’s aesthetic enthusiasms and sexual excesses proved unable to thaw his glacial, traitorous nature.
The Second Oldest Profession, By Phillip Knightley (1986)
With its impressive scope, “The Second Oldest Profession” elucidates some of the absurdities of the whole spy rigmarole, from the backbiting of competing agencies to the histrionics of mole-hunting. Phillip Knightley writes with gusto about the paradoxes of the “great game,” such as the perverse mutual dependence of rival secret services. Focusing on Britain, France, Germany, Russia and the United States, Knightley occasionally damns intelligence agencies for their sheer inconsequence. He also awes the reader with the outrageous illegalities perpetrated in the name of national security. The book’s 2003 edition, which reads with the flow and grace of a good story, offers an updated and comprehensive history of 20th-century espionage.
A Perfect Spy, By John le Carré (1986)
Although a novel, “A Perfect Spy” reveals some deep truths about espionage and betrayal. The book has some basis in the author’s own experience—indeed, le Carré has described the writing of it as an act of self-psychotherapy. In passages devoted to the childhood of the book’s hero, Magnus Pym, we witness the shaping of a future agent as the boy’s loyalties are pulled between a flashy father and a victimized mother. Studying his father’s skills as a con man, while eavesdropping on abuse and dereliction, the young Pym becomes the apparently perfect—yet tragically imperfect—spy. In his split narrative, le Carré gives us a gripping manhunt even as he offers a work of penetrating psychology in which the soul of the hero is the contested territory.
The Sword and the Shield, By Christopher Andrew and
Vasili Mitrokhin (1999)
In 1992, a disgruntledRussian archivist named Vasili Mitrokhin entered the British Embassy in Riga, Latvia. The Americans—drowning in defectors—had already refused what he offered. The British were more interested. Resettled in England, Mitrokhin gave the West the benefit of years spent smuggling secrets out of the KGB’s First Chief Directorate, the agency’s foreign-intelligence headquarters in Moscow. In a dangerous, painstaking process, Mitrokhin hand-copied thousands of classified files covering the period from the Bolshevik Revolution to the 1980s. Collectively they chronicle Soviet disinformation and smear campaigns, as well as the Russian penetration of Western intelligence. In “The Sword and the Shield,” written with intelligence expert Christopher Andrew, Mitrokhin demonstrates how Stalin’s Terror favored “the survival of the most morally unfit.” The book is remarkable in the scope of its revelations, but Mitrokhin’s motives and methods have been questioned—was the enterprise an intelligence ploy designed to celebrate Soviet-era triumphs, or an attempt to muddy what Western agencies thought they knew? However, the book’s offerings appear more credible than some of the Russian disclosures published since the “secrets of the KGB archives” genre began in the early 1990s, a period during which Russian largess seemed—to say the least—suspiciously generous.
—Dr. Miles is the author, most recently, of “The Dangerous Otto Katz: The Many Lives of a Soviet Spy.”