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His Little Game

Andrew Boyle, 27 July 1989

The Blake Escape: How we freed George Blake – and why 
by Michael Randle and Pat Pottle.
Harrap, 298 pp., £12.95, April 1989, 0 245 54781 9
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... Blake’s father was Albert Behar, whose Sephardic Jewish family cut him off with less than the proverbial shilling because of his marriage to a Dutch Christian woman called Catherine Beijdedvellen. Behar Senior then became a British citizen, having served in the French Foreign Legion and the British Army. On his death in 1936 – a bad period not only in England but throughout Europe – he left a widow and the young George in somewhat reduced circumstances ...

So what if he was

Paul Foot, 25 October 1990

No Other Choice 
by George Blake.
Cape, 288 pp., £12.99, September 1990, 0 224 03067 1
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Inside Intelligence 
by Anthony Cavendish.
Collins, 181 pp., £12.95, October 1990, 9780002157421
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... Here are two more spy books from authors who worked long ago for British Intelligence. George Blake was very left-wing, and is now slightly less so. Anthony Cavendish has always been very right-wing. Both authors write of their profound respect for one of their former bosses, George...

Blake at work

David Bindman, 2 April 1981

William Blake, printmaker 
by Robert Essick.
Princeton, 304 pp., £27.50, August 1980, 0 691 03954 2
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... them the taint of eccentricity and religious enthusiasm. Among the London engravers of his time, Blake was not alone in believing that the last Judgment was nigh, and that the French Revolution was the fulfilment of the prophecy of Revelation. One example is William Sharp, known alike for his skill as an engraver and his extreme credulity. Even ...

Whitehall Farce

Paul Foot, 12 October 1989

The Intelligence Game: Illusions and Delusions of International Espionage 
by James Rusbridger.
Bodley Head, 320 pp., £12.95, August 1989, 0 370 31242 2
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The Truth about Hollis 
by W.J. West.
Duckworth, 230 pp., £14.95, September 1989, 0 7156 2286 2
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... that the secretary of the committee which planned it was the British MI6 officer and Russian spy, George Blake, who passed details of the entire operation to the Russians two years before the tunnel was completed. Here, too, is the story of MI6’s courageous decision to order Commander Lionel Crabb to swim under a Russian warship in Portsmouth to take ...

Elegy for George Barker

Anthony Thwaite, 21 November 1991

... the poet lay, Grease smeared on cheek-bones, a fallen god Who rose to greet me, seventeen, with Blake And Langland in the triptych. Stay Yet a little longer, genius of the place, Fitting my footprints in the prints you trod, Letting me see those lineaments, that face. It was apotheosis. It was epiphany. Already there were elegies at hand, Mellifluous and ...

Well done, Ian McEwan

Michael Wood, 10 May 1990

The Innocent 
by Ian McEwan.
Cape, 231 pp., £12.95, May 1990, 0 224 02783 2
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... spies, ‘between five and ten thousand’, if a report quoted in the novel is to be believed. George Blake, sentenced in 1961 to 42 years in prison for spying, makes a few brief appearances and plays an interesting part in the plot. Intelligence, we learn, is a matter of levels of clearance. One set of persons believes they are building a ...

How was it for you?

David Blackbourn, 30 October 1997

Man Without a Face: The Memoirs of a Spymaster 
by Markus Wolf and Anne McElvoy.
Cape, 367 pp., £17.99, June 1997, 0 224 04498 2
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The File: A Personal History 
by Timothy Garton Ash.
HarperCollins, 227 pp., £12.99, July 1997, 0 00 255823 8
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... everybody else. What does ring true is Wolf’s evident admiration for the work of spies such as George Blake, Fuchs and Guillaume, and his belief that espionage helped to keep the peace by reducing the element of surprise. By contrast, his line on the use of the GDR as a base for active (Carlos the Jackal) and semi-retired (Red Army Faction) terrorists ...

From Old Adam to New Eve

Peter Pulzer, 6 June 1985

The Conservative Party from Peel to Thatcher 
by Robert Blake.
Methuen/Fontana, 401 pp., £19.95, May 1985, 0 413 58140 3
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Westminster Blues 
by Julian Critchley.
Hamish Hamilton, 134 pp., £7.95, May 1985, 0 241 11387 3
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... Pitt and Charles James Fox, or with the battle over Parliamentary Reform in the 1830s – Lord Blake prefers the second of these – it is evident that the two parties arose simultaneously. They have not shown equal powers of survival. Whiggery has long disappeared, though 20th-century Conservatives have included a few Whiggish eccentrics. The Liberal ...

The Hollis Launch

John Vincent, 7 May 1981

Their trade is treachery 
by Chapman Pincher.
Sidgwick, 240 pp., £7.95, March 1981, 0 283 98781 2
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... committed suicide in reaction to bereavement, is too confidently named as a possible guilty man. George Blake is said to have given away the secret tunnel built by the West in Berlin to tap Russian telephones, and to have done so even before it was built, so that in 1954-7 Western Intelligence was groaning under a misinformation mountain. A named senior ...

The Koreans and their Enemies

Jon Halliday, 17 December 1992

Korea Old and New: A History 
by Carter Eckert, Ki-baik Lee, Young Ick Lew, Michael Robinson and Edward Wagner.
Harvard, 454 pp., £11.95, September 1991, 0 9627713 0 9
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The Wilder Shores of Marx: Journeys in a Vanishing World 
by Anthony Daniels.
Hutchinson, 202 pp., £16.99, April 1991, 9780091741532
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... if it is about to bear one away from North Korea. No harsher judgment could be passed than that by George Blake, who told me: ‘I would rather go back to Wormwood Scrubs than North Korea.’ Korean reunification will undoubtedly come about more slowly than German reunification has done. The Russians have stopped their aid and started to demand payment in ...

Diary

Tom Carver: Philby in Beirut, 11 October 2012

... which stands on top of the hill of Ras Beirut and looks out over the sparkling lights of St George Bay, is full of handsome limestone buildings that wouldn’t look out of place in the 16th arrondissement. Most are now abandoned shells, the balustrades and architraves still spattered with bullet holes from the civil war, the windows missing their ...

The Ballad of the Yorkshire Ripper

Blake Morrison, 4 July 1985

... Pete, e killed er anyway An now e were front page noos. They appointed a Special Detective, George Oldfield e were called. E looked like a country-bumpkin, Puffin, red, alf-bald. E fixed up a Ripper Freefone, Leeds 5050, An asked Joe Soap to ring im up An ‘Tell us what you know.’ An folks, they giv im names all ...

Edward and Tilly and George

Robert Melville, 15 March 1984

Swans Reflecting Elephants: My Early Years 
by Edward James, edited by George Melly.
Weidenfeld, 178 pp., £8.95, July 1982, 0 297 77988 5
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... last of the 11 tapes which recorded Edward’s recollections of the first 27 years of his life. George Melly handled the tapes and later pruned and rearranged their contents. The book didn’t appear until five years later, but the recording had been a rush job for George, occupying four days between two singing dates ...

Customising Biography

Iain Sinclair, 22 February 1996

Blake 
by Peter Ackroyd.
Sinclair-Stevenson, 399 pp., £20, September 1995, 1 85619 278 4
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Collected Edition of William Blake’s Illuminated Books: Vol I: Jerusalem 
editor David Bindman, edited by Morton D. Paley.
Tate Gallery, 304 pp., £48, August 1991, 1 85437 066 9
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Collected Edition of William Blake’s Illuminated Books: Vol. II: Songs of Innocence and Experience 
series editor David Bindman, edited by Andrew Lincoln.
Tate Gallery, 210 pp., £39.50, August 1991, 1 85437 068 5
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Collected Edition of William Blake’s Illuminated Books: Vol III: The Early Illuminated Books 
series editor David Bindman, edited by Morris Eaves, Robert Essick and Joseph Viscomi.
Tate Gallery, 288 pp., £48, August 1993, 1 85437 119 3
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Collected Edition of William Blake’s Illuminated Books: Vol. IV: The Continental Prophecies: America, Europe, The Song of Los 
editor David Bindman, edited by D.W. Dörbecker.
Tate Gallery, 368 pp., £50, May 1995, 1 85437 154 1
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Collected Edition of William Blake’s Illuminated Books: Vol. V: Milton, a Poem 
series editor David Bindman, edited by Robert Essick and Joseph Viscomi.
Tate Gallery, 224 pp., £48, November 1993, 1 85437 121 5
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Collected Edition of William Blake’s Illuminated Books: Vol. VI: The Urizen Books 
 editor David Bindman, edited by David Worrall.
Tate Gallery, 232 pp., £39.50, May 1995, 9781854371553
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... to display. Alan Bennett’s Diaries and, of course, Peter Ackroyd’s gold-brick biography of Blake. Bennett, Ackroyd and Jonathan Miller – these were the figures who mattered most. The Christmas parcels of English literature. Enough of threadbare bohemia, paranoid narcissism, chemical tourism through the Third World. Enough of ill-disciplined prose and ...

Ambitions

Robert Blake, 18 December 1980

Harold Nicolson: A Biography: Vol. 1, 1886-1929 
by James Lees-Milne.
Chatto, 429 pp., £15, November 1980, 0 7011 2520 9
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Harold Nicolson Diaries 1930-1964 
by Stanley Olson.
Collins, 436 pp., £9.50, October 1980, 0 00 216304 7
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... but few of his forty-odd books have lasted, apart from his study of Curzon, his lives of King George V and of Tennyson, and his Byron, The Last Phase. A word, too, should be said for his life of his father, Lord Carnock, which he regarded as his best achievement. He wrote with care and in an elegant, limpid style: but there are times when one is reminded ...

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