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My Silent War: The Autobiography of a Spy
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My Silent War: The Autobiography of a Spy

3.51 of 5 stars 3.51  ·  rating details  ·  222 ratings  ·  29 reviews
In the annals of espionage, one name towers above all others: that of H.A.R. “Kim” Philby, the ringleader of the legendary Cambridge spies. A member of the British establishment, Philby joined the Secret Intelligence Service in 1940, rose to the head of Soviet counterintelligence, and, as MI6’s liaison with the CIA and the FBI, betrayed every secret of Allied operations to...more
Paperback, 256 pages
Published September 24th 2002 by Modern Library (first published 1968)
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Andy Walker
Philby. The name alone is enough to provoke a whole raft of visceral feelings about treachery, deceit, double dealing and betrayal. Together with Guy Burgess, Donald Maclean, Anthony Blunt and John Cairncross, Harold 'Kim' Philby was one of the Cambridge Five, the most devastating group of Soviet-controlled double agents in British history. But, of the five, it was Philby who did the most damage. Prior to his flight to Moscow in 1963, Philby had risen to head the Soviet desk at MI6, the UK's Sec...more
This book is worth reading if only to provide a personal perspective on the shadow war during WWII and the early Cold War.

An abundance of official relationships to individuals who are no longer prominent and laying out the organization of early British espionage via acronyms can make reading a little confusing but a guide at the front for the latter does help. Philby begins his espionage career in Spain prior to WWII and the confusion of the war makes it easy for anyone with some connections to...more
I was expecting so much more of this book since Kim Philby was the most notoriously successful spy of the entire Cold War era, and quite possibly the most important secret agent who ever lived. And, it's not that Philby can't write, because he really can, yet his choice of material and his impartial approach seems to render his extraordinary life almost dry and dull. Kim Philby was a secret lifelong Soviet Communist who became the head of the British secret service, MI6, and betrayed or serious...more
Ryan Gough
I wasn't sure what I thought of Philby before I read this book. Its nothing to do with his politics; I've some fairly strong communist sympathies myself. But whilst I couldn't help but admire the chutzpah of anyone who manages to pull off the double agent trick as effectively as he did, I also couldn't forget that this is a man who had to betray people who were apparently close to him, which is something that sits very badly with me.

After reading about a third of the book my dilemma was resolved...more
I hated the first three-quarters if this book and nearly abandoned it. Nothing worse than boring and confusing, with very little to take away. I had heard of Philby before and was expecting a much more interesting story with a lot of intrigue and adventure. I would have probably been better off reading a book about Philby rather than his autobiography

The last 50 pages were more interesting and also the only thing that prevented me from giving this true spy story only one star. I would have like...more
This book would have perhaps been slightly better if I remembered more about Kim than what I got from compendiums of the world's greatest spies that I read as a child, but only marginally so. The book, written 5-10 years after his defection to the USSR, goes heavy on the interoffice politics of the SIS in WW2 as well as brief and uninteresting paragraph long character sketches of his coworkers. Occasionally, he will make a brief nudge-nudge, wink-wink reference to being responsible for the failu...more
"'He betrayed his country' – yes, perhaps he did, but who among us has not committed treason to something or someone more important than a country?" asks Graham Greene in the foreword.

Yes, but not many of us have worked with a government to deprive individuals of their life or liberty. Eighteen young men were parachuted into Eastern Europe and, thanks to Philby, were never heard from again.

It's a cold book and I couldn't help thinking that Philby's greatest crime was taking it all too seriously...more
This is a short, rather bare bones account of Kim Philby's pre-Moscow life, mainly centering on his time spent in the British secret service and abroad. Written by Philby whilst in exile in the Soviet Union, it's not so much an autobiography (Philby avoids talking too much about himself) more an insider's look at a life many of us can never hope, or really want, to lead.

Starting with his Cambridge years and brief stint as a journalist in Franco Spain, it moves on to Philby's early career in the...more
Well,...A mixed bag. Definitely worth reading if for only understanding the twisted and convoluted pathways the mind of a traitor can take. Philby was a loathsome,narcissistic, arrogant and self centered neurotic, who harboured precious little love for anyone or anything other than himself. Throughout his book, he delivers tirades of scathing and disparaging remarks against the likes of J.Edgar Hoover, and Alan Dulles(former directors FBI/CIA respectively) "...the bumbling Dulles" (Philby 2002,...more
Jon Bernstein
The book is interesting and very well written (if you like extremely dry British humor) but it leaves out quite a lot. If you are interested, for example, in how and why Philby first became a Soviet agent, don't bother because he doesn't really explain the beginnings of the whole thing - he assumes his audience already knows, I guess. Mostly this is a history of Philby's career in British intelligence from the perspective of someone infiltrating it and the bulk of it is essentially a summing up...more
A detailed but short account of Philby's career in British intelligence (albeit as a Soviet agent) My Silent War is not 'tell-all' but it is a fascinating read nonetheless. Philby and the other Cambridge spies became Communist agents in the service of the Soviet Union because they believed it was the only way to defeat fascism in Europe. However, Philby was the only one to stick wholeheartedly by the Soviet Union, through the show trials, pogroms, and disappointments, believing that he had betra...more
D. J.
Philby is a fascinating character in World War II and Post WWII history. A master of espionage, he very nearly become director of MI6 before it was discovered that two British agents (Donald Maclean and Guy Burgess) had been double agents for the Soviets. Philby supposedly tipped Maclean and Burgess off, thereby bringing suspicion upon himself.

He was a member of the Cambridge Five, whose intelligence activities for the NKVD and KGB inflicted a great deal of damage on British and American intelli...more
If you enjoyed John Le Carre's books about George Smiley, this is a book that makes them an even richer experience. Also, for those who like untrustworthy narrators of fiction, Philby is the real deal, a truly untrustworthy narrator of non-fiction.

It is hard to describe just how appalling Philby is. He writes an effective, and charming narrative of his life, but the almost complete lack of real feeling for other human beings enables him to essentially gloss over many of the terrible things he d...more
Denis Farley
Read this I guess in Germany around 1968. Having been steeped in TV's 'I Led Three Lives' I suppose I was primed for something like this, especially after probably having read Joe Heller's 'Catch 22'. I was particularly taken with Captain Yossarian's solution to the problem. Perhaps I was influenced by the gaming aspect to the action which may be closer to the bone than the 'logic' behind one's actions. The point being, like Gen Arnold . . . he got away, which in itself is not always the moral h...more
Foreword by Graham Greene, who says it reads better than any spy novel. Philby was a pariah over here after making a run for it to Moscow in 1963. Burgess and Maclean followed later, and Blunt - the fourth man - later still. Philby said he put up with the Stalin years as a Catholic would put up with the Inquisition, remaining true to his beliefs despite the bad times.
Certainly one of the better parts of my class on the Cold War. This book is short, and rather interesting because Kim Philby had no remorse for his actions. As you read his autobiography, you cannot help but be pulled into his world and at once develop a respect and disgust for him and his actions. Philby is one of the most interesting individuals from the Cold War era.
The autobiography of the most infamous "spy" in modern history, it isn't difficult to tell why Philby evaded detection for so long: He doesn't say much of anything about his experience as a Soviet agent.
This is a difficult book to rate because it is so distasteful, in many ways, to read. I've read a half-dozen or so books on Philby/the Cambridge spies. Philby's version discloses a contemptuous and arrogant individual with a crabbed and constipated soul. He does not display even a misguided idealism. Still, it is is fascinating as a case study.
G.T. Almasi
I made myself read this as research for my own writing. It's a bad book, with some interesting factoids for spy-geeks like me. Philby is so full of himself I'm guessing he has to have someone else eat for him. Still, it's a real-life spy story written by the spy in the story. Two stars, but not recommended as a pleasurable read.
Starts off slow and is fairly tedious going for a decent chunk of the book but sparks into life towards the end. The real interest and best discussion regarding this memoir though lies to a great extent outside the book itself. Reactions to Philby can expose a great deal about a persons politics and worldview.
Famlous as the most visible member of the Cambridge Five Soviet spy ring (with Burgess, Caincross, Blunt and McLean), Kim Philby has written about how he became a spy. One of the problems with autobiographies such as these as they quickly become sickly and self-serving, but this isn't like that.
I don't endorse or hero worship Philby in any fashion; but its interesting to know what *they believe* makes them "tick", and also to comprehend the historical spin on matters we too often read only one side of in the news.
Philby comes across as a pompous ass and doesn't do a very good job of explaining the how or the why of being a double agent. Instead he prattles on about the idiocy of all his colleagues. I put it down.
I have a picture of Philby, years after his flight to Moscow living in some dreary flat, doing translations, ignored by all... No one likes an ex-spy.
May 27, 2012 Babs is currently reading it
All about loyalty, and indeed love, even when you know it's a lost cause. He's one of my heroes.

Looking forward to learning a lot more about the Cambridge 5 a subject I am to my shame not well read on , turned out to be a most delightful read !
Not nearly as exciting as I thought it would be. Made me want to read Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy though.
Ramz Artso
It certainly isn't as thrilling as the James Bond novels, but, on the plus side, it's more realisitic.
Debbie Carter
An authentic antihero.
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