Rouge on a Corpse's Lips

"The history of the world is the judge of the world."
—Hermann Ullmann

Two ironies attend the life and career of Whittaker Chambers. The first is that the one-time Communist spy, foreign editor of Time, and witness against Soviet espionage became notable during his life and afterwards only because of the Hiss Case, which brought him such notoriety that his career as a professional journalist came to a quick end. The second is that his legacy as a thinker and writer to a world he believed was dying issued from the Hiss Case itself and from what he had to tell that world about the meaning of the case. Unable to continue the profession he followed after leaving the Soviet underground, Chambers evolved into a prophetic figure, an almost Dostoyevskian character, whose brooding vision of a decadent West engaged in a desperate death struggle with communism and with its own poisons has haunted those few Westerners who have perceived the unfulfilled greatness of the man.

Terry Teachout's collection of Chambers's miscellaneous writings, from the Marxist fiction of his early days to his last mordant syllables in National Review, is in part intended to correct the view we have had of Chambers as either (on the left) a "messianic anticommunist" or (to much of the right) a bottomless pit of often lachrymose horror stories about the god that...

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