Books in Brief

Stalin’s Englishman: Guy Burgess, the Cold War, and the Cambridge Spy Ring, by Andrew Lownie (New York: St. Martin’s Press; 433 pp., $29.99).  This book, the first full biography of the most important of the Cambridge spies, is also a first-rate work of social and intellectual history and a highly successful character study of a man who lived, Andrew Lownie concludes, various parallel lives, not a double one.  A descendant of Huguenot immigrants and the son of an officer in the British navy who failed to make flag rank, Burgess—also a graduate of Eton and Cambridge and a London clubman who moved in the highest social and intellectual circles and positioned himself critically in the Foreign Office—seemed the quintessential product of the British establishment.  Though his work as a spy for the Soviet Union appears not to have been terribly damaging, his betrayal of his country delivered a psychological shock that lingers today.  Why did he do what he did?  A personal friend remarked that “The very existence of a secret service was for Guy a challenge to curiosity.”  Yet Burgess knew little about the Soviet Union, while, according to Harold Nicolson (one of his innumerable lovers), “He publicly announced his sympathies with communism and yet he heartily disliked the Russians.”  In exile in Moscow after his flight from...

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