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Diary

Tom Carver: Philby in Beirut

11 October 2012
... freelance agent. Since diplomatic cover was not an option, his schoolfriend and fellow MI6 officer Nicholas Elliott got him a job as a stringer for the Observer and the Economist. Beirut made good sense as a posting: his father, St John Philby, a well-known Arabist, was living there at the time, and the Middle East was an area of growing interest to ...
23 April 1987
Molehunt: The Full Story of the Soviet Mole in MI5 
by Nigel West.
Weidenfeld, 208 pp., £10.95, March 1987, 0 297 79150 8
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... time) at the beginning of this latest book on the subject. In January 1963, a former SIS officer, Nicholas Elliott, was sent to Beirut to denounce Kim Philby to his face as a Russian agent. As soon as he did so, Philby confessed, and gave Elliott an extensive though not complete account of his work for the ...
7 February 1980
The Climate of Treason 
by Andrew Boyle.
Hutchinson, 504 pp., £8.95, November 1980, 9780091393403
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... But The Climate of Treason is not one of these hagiograms. They really talked: David Footman, Nicholas Elliott, Sir Robert Mackenzie, George Carey-Foster, Sir Frederick Warner, agents and diplomats on the security side, and a large anonymous group of Intelligence men from both branches of the service, retired and active. The reason can be guessed ...
23 September 1993
Tiny Rowland: A Rebel Tycoon 
by Tom Bower.
Heinemann, 659 pp., £16.99, May 1993, 0 434 07339 3
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... Gerald Percy, a direct descendant of Hotspur (he had a free house too); the former MI5 officer Nicholas Elliott, whose finest hour in the British secret service was to denounce Kim Philby in time for the spy to run to Moscow; and Paul Spicer, Rowland’s devoted bagman, who is well known to every journalist who ever asked a question about Lonrho and ...

Secrets are like sex

Neal Ascherson: Whitehall Spookery

2 April 2020
The State of Secrecy: Spies and the Media in Britain 
by Richard Norton-Taylor.
I.B. Tauris, 352 pp., £20, March 2019, 978 1 78831 218 9
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... but doesn’t reveal much that is new about their cases or about official secrecy in general. (Did Nicholas Elliott, sent to Beirut to confront Kim Philby with the evidence, urge his old MI6 friend to save everyone embarrassment by escaping to Moscow while he could? The reader gets no further on that one.) It was worth repeating, though again it’s not ...

Lucky Kim

Christopher Hitchens

23 February 1995
The Philby Files. The Secret Life of the Master Spy: KGB Archives Revealed 
by Genrikh Borovik, edited by Phillip Knightley.
Little, Brown, 382 pp., £18.99, September 1994, 0 316 91015 5
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The Fifth Man 
by Roland Perry.
Sidgwick, 486 pp., £16.99, October 1994, 0 283 06216 9
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Treason in the Blood: H. St John Philby, Kim Philby and the Spy Case of the Century 
by Anthony Cave Brown.
Hale, 640 pp., £25, January 1995, 9780709055822
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My Five Cambridge Friends 
by Yuri Modin.
Headline, 328 pp., £17.99, October 1994, 0 7472 1280 5
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Looking for Mr Nobody: The Secret Life of Goronwy Rees 
by Jenny Rees.
Weidenfeld, 291 pp., £18.99, October 1994, 0 297 81430 3
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... Philby’s funeral in Moscow: In London, Philby’s old comrade from the days of War Station XB, Nicholas Elliott, was in his club at St James’s at about this time, giving thought to a scheme to disrupt any attempt by the KGB leadership to iconise Philby posthumously, as indeed was their intention. The idea that formed in ...

Chemical Wonders

Joost Hiltermann: The Iran-Iraq War

4 February 2016
The Iran-Iraq War 
by Pierre Razoux, translated by Nicholas Elliott.
Harvard, 640 pp., £29.95, November 2015, 978 0 674 08863 4
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... Predicting what​ will start a war, and when, is an unrewarding business. Long-term trends (‘causes’) are often clear enough, but not the proximate causes, or triggers. We can assess the comparative significance of competition for resources, hunger for power, the nature of political systems, the psychology of leaders. What precipitates a conflict, though, may be a sudden, unforeseen event: an accident, misreading or miscalculation, or a temperamental leader’s flash of hubris ...

Yuk’s Last Laugh

Tim Parks: Flaubert

15 December 2016
Flaubert 
by Michel Winock, translated by Nicholas Elliott.
Harvard, 528 pp., £25, October 2016, 978 0 674 73795 2
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... The good man’s​ home is a mask,’ Gustave Flaubert wrote when he was 16. Every ideal was a cover for vanity. How could it be otherwise, when our bodies were ‘composed of mud and shit and equipped with instincts lower than those of the pig, or the crab-louse’? Born in 1821 to a wealthy family and growing up in the cautious conservatism of provincial post-Napoleonic France, Flaubert saw only hypocrisy and intellectual dullness all around him ...

Sunflower

Peter Burke

20 March 1986
Velazquez: Painter and Courtier 
by Jonathan Brown.
Yale, 322 pp., £35, March 1986, 0 300 03466 0
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El Greco and his Patrons: Three Major Projects 
by Richard Mann.
Cambridge, 164 pp., £35, February 1986, 0 521 30392 3
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... next book, A Palace for a King (1980), written in collaboration with a ‘plain’ historian, John Elliott, studied the court of Philip IV and the building of the Palace of the Buen Retiro on the outskirts of Madrid. Behind the enterprise loomed the massive figure of Philip’s first minister, the Count-Duke of Olivares. Olivares took it seriously enough to ...

After Egypt

Adam Shatz

19 February 2011
... be averted. Pundits on both right and left in America have also tried to lay claim to the revolt. Elliott Abrams in the Washington Post reported that Bush had it right, conveniently forgetting that the administration he served abandoned the cause of Egyptian political reform after the Muslim Brotherhood’s strong showing in the 2005 parliamentary ...

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