Anthony Blunt was a man capable of extreme compartmentalization. Well bred, homosexual, an aesthete, like many youthful and intelligent British men he was drawn to socialism during the 1930s, if mainly to stop the threat of Hitler. So he gave (not sold) British and American secrets to the Soviet Union, mostly before and during the Second World War. Later, he became a respected art historian and even worked for the Queen of England as curator of the royal art collections. In her meticulous if not terribly lively biography, Miranda Carter shows that much of Blunt's "treason" concerned what the Allies secretly learned of Nazi troop movements, that no deaths appeared to have resulted from his trade in secrets, and that in any case the Soviets didn't even bother to read much of what he gave them. At the same time, British Intelligence must be faulted for its sloth in catching him, and its attempts to cover up what it knew of his activities before Thatcher exposed him in 1979. Thereafter, he was pilloried by the press (Blunt basically lost any legal claim to privacy or reputation -- people could say ANYTHING about him in public, and did) and abandoned by many colleagues and friends. It's a very sad and depressing tale all around.
This report prepared by David Loftus
ANTHONY BLUNT HIS LIVES
FSG, Dec 2001, 30.00, 590 pp.
This superb biography reveals in depth the many “lives” led by art historian spy Anthony Blunt who worked concurrently for British and Soviet espionage agencies during WW II, but actually betrayed his homeland. Miranda Carter deeply researches her subject going into the notorious Blunt's salad days as a disconsolate, lonely, and abused student. The author follows her subject into Great Depression England when communism turns appealing to the leftist intellects especially homosexuals like Blunt that distrusted and often felt paranoid about English authority. During WW II, Blunt served in British intelligence, enabling him to supply secrets to the Soviets. When his friends defected to the Soviet Union, Blunt and other Cambridge intellectual playmates were investigated. In 1964, he received immunity in exchange for his cooperation. The embarrassed British intelligence community kept his secret for fifteen years until Prime minister Margaret Thatcher exposed Blunt in 1979.
Miranda Carter provides an incredible insight into the life of one of the strangest enigmatic individuals of the past century. The author paints the complete picture so that fans of true life espionage stories and biographies in general will simultaneously be stunned yet bluntly fascinated by this spy, almost two decades after his death. ANTHONY BLUNT HIS LIVES is an intelligent and engaging true-life account of the infamous art historian counterspy worth reading.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner