Sunday, November 29, 2009

Spy Anthony Blunt's Memoirs Are Released

This past July the British Library released an autobiographical memoir written by Anthony Bunt in the years immediately following his public exposure in 1979 as a long-time spy for the Soviet Union. Blunt died of a heart attack in 1983, at the age of 75. This manuscript had remained hidden away unseen in the library's archives for 25 years, pursuant to the wishes of the anonymous donor. Blunt, a distant relative of the Queen and a member of MI 5 during WWII (and the Surveyor of the Queen's Pictures thereafter), apparently characterizes his spying as a "mistake" in these papers. But even in this unpublished, handwritten memoir he relates what are now known to be lies about how he was initially recruited and about how long his career as a spy carried on after World War II.
After he was publicly exposed in 1979, he claims to have considered suicide but instead turned to "whiskey and concentrated work." The four years thereafter, before his death in 1983, were far from easy, and perhaps rightly so. He was famously jeered by the crowd when he tried to go see a movie at a Notting Hill theater in February 1980. And later that same month his lover of over 25 years, John Gaskin, threw himself from a sixth floor balcony in a suicide attempt (but survived).

Embedded below is a 6 minute piece from the British news program Newsnight about the release of this memoir by the British Library. It includes digitally remastered footage of Blunt himself. Noted espionage historian Christopher Andrew is also interviewed, as his Blunt's biographer Miranda Carter, each of whom comment on the errors and omissions in these memoirs. Andrew calls it a "conspiracy against self-knowledge."

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