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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 ...
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. GeorgeBlake 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 K. Young. Young ...

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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... While engravers in the 18th century were not regarded as quite as mad as hatters, they carried with 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 ...
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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... monitored’. The plan was called Operation Gold. There was really nothing wrong with it, except that the secretary of the committee which planned it was the British MI6 officer and Russian spy, GeorgeBlake, 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 ...
21 November 1991
... And there, beneath a bull-nosed Buick Inert in Kensington, 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 ...
10 May 1990
The Innocent 
by Ian McEwan.
Cape, 231 pp., £12.95, May 1990, 0 224 02783 2
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... This is Berlin before the Wall, torn by memories, littered with ruins, and even more littered with spies, ‘between five and ten thousand’, if a report quoted in the novel is to be believed. GeorgeBlake, 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 ...

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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... worth. In this game of universal cockups, the CIA’s activities provide the usual aid and comfort for everybody else. What does ring true is Wolf’s evident admiration for the work of spies such as GeorgeBlake, 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 ...
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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... to exclude the Catholic James from the succession to Charles II, with the rivalry between the Younger 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 ...
22 February 1996
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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... aligned stacks of books. This was Carolyn’s current reading matter, the titles she was happy 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 ...


Tom Carver: Philby in Beirut

11 October 2012
... I went to the rue Kantari in Beirut to try to find Kim Philby’s flat. The street, 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 ...
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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... Office and Home Office, but gives little supporting evidence. A respected Labour Parliamentarian, who committed suicide in reaction to bereavement, is too confidently named as a possible guilty man. GeorgeBlake 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 ...
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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... at the sight of a plane bearing the lettering of the world’s most misanthropic airline, Aeroflot, if it is about to bear one away from North Korea. No harsher judgment could be passed than that by GeorgeBlake, 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 ...

At the British Museum

Peter Campbell: Samuel Palmer’s dream landscapes

17 November 2005
... by those who wish to find proof that his poetic vision hadn’t faded. They are worth attention, but the strangeness which made the Shoreham pictures so striking was not to come again. In a letter to George Richmond in 1834, Palmer wrote: I believe in my very heart … that all the very finest original pictures and topping things in nature have a certain quaintness by which they partially affect us ...

I am a false alarm

Robert Irwin: Khalil Gibran

3 September 1998
Kahlil Gibran: Man and Poet 
by Suheil Bushrui and Joe Jenkins.
One World, 372 pp., £18.99, August 1998, 1 85168 177 9
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Prophet: The Life and Times of Kahlil Gibran 
by Robin Waterfield.
Allen Lane, 366 pp., £20, August 1998, 0 7139 9209 3
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... of his enemies did the family emigrate to Boston. There, Gibran grew up to become a major artistic and political figure. In Paris he knew Debussy, while Rodin went so far as to acclaim him as ‘the Blake of the 20th century’. As it happened, Gibran could remember not only his previous reincarnation as William Blake, but also a subsequent incarnation as Dante Gabriel Rossetti. During the First World ...
4 July 1985
... Split-splat, split-splat, split-splat. But Jayne MacDonald were a shopgirl Sellin nobbut shoes. 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 ...

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