Archive for the ‘Wall Street Journal’ Category

I migliori 5 libri di spionaggio: Wall Street Journal

9 dicembre 2010

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)

In Stalin's Secret Service by W. G. Krivitsky (2000,...

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.

Anthony Blunt: His Lives, By Miranda Carter (2001)

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.”



I migliori scrittori inglesi secondo il Wall Street Journal II

17 novembre 2010

Chi sono i migliori scrittori inglesi?

Libon pubblica l’articolo di Cynthia Crossen apparso su Wall Street il 12 Novembre 2010.

Who are your favorite British authors? I have just finished reading “The Scapegoat” by Daphne du Maurier. Any others you could recommend?

—Debbie Minter, Overland Park, Kan.

“The Scapegoat” has been sadly overshadowed by “Rebecca,” Ms. du Maurier’s best-known novel, but I remember it being every bit as spooky. It was certainly the first time I had read about identity theft, though in this case, the victim decides to assume his thief’s identity, too.

After I acknowledged in an earlier column that I have Anglophilic literary tastes, several readers asked which British writers I liked best. I enjoy most of the usual suspects—Martin Amis, Ian McEwan, Zadie Smith—but I also follow some who haven’t managed to straddle the Atlantic so successfully. I’d put the following novelists (with my favorite of their books in parentheses) in this category, although all of them have devoted readers in the U.S.: Jonathan Coe (“The Rotters’ Club”); Patrick McGrath (“Asylum”); Geoff Nicholson (“Bleeding London”); Sarah Waters (“Fingersmith”); and Hanif Kureishi (“The Buddha of Suburbia”).

Two years ago, when the Times of London ranked the top 50 post-war British writers, I was taken aback that I was entirely unfamiliar with several of them. At No. 18 was Mervyn Peake, a name I don’t believe I had ever heard. His Gormenghast trilogy, a Gothic fantasy set in an enormous castle with sinister towers and a Hall of Spiders, won prizes in England but received mixed reviews in the U.S. (one critic called it “pretentiously tedious”). At No. 24 on the list was Philippa Pearce, another name that drew a blank. She is best known for her children’s books, especially “Tom’s Midnight Garden.”

Meanwhile, where was David Lodge (“Small World”; “Nice Work”; “Changing Places”)? What about J.G. Farrell (the Empire trilogy) or William Boyd (“The New Confessions,” “Restless”) or Rose Tremain (“Restoration,” “Sacred Country”) or Barry Unsworth (“Land of Marvels,” “Sacred Hunger”)?

I’m keeping my eye on some other British novelists, including Salley Vickers, who trained as a psychoanalyst before becoming a writer and whose first novel, “Miss Garnet’s Angel,” was a surprise best seller in England; Maria McCann, a historical novelist whose “As Meat Loves Salt” is glorious; and David Peace, author of the Red Riding quartet, described by Publishers Weekly as “grim whodunit noir.”

—Send your questions about books and reading to Cynthia Crossen at

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I migliori scrittori inglesi secondo il Wall Street Journal I

17 novembre 2010

Chi sono i migliori scrittori inglesi?

La risposta di Libon:   i grandi sono senza dubbio Martin Amis, Ian McEwan e Zadie Smith. Consulta la bibliografia completa:   Martin AmisIan McEwanZadie Smith.

Ma attenzione anche a Jonathan Coe con The rotters’ club; Patrick McGrath con Asylum; Geoff Nicholson autore di Bleeding London; Sarah Waters con Fingersmith; Hanif Kureishi con The Buddha of Suburbia.

E come non citare David Lodge, con la sua trilogia: Small World; Nice Work; Changing Places o J. G. Farrell con The Empire Trilogy: The TroublesThe siege of Krishnapur: a novelSingapore grip o William Boyd con The New Confessions e Restless oppure Rose Tremain con Restoration e Sacred Country o ancora Barry Unsworth con Land of Marvels e Sacred Hunger.

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