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Anthony Blunt: His Lives


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Miranda Carter was educated at St Paul's Girls' School and Exeter College, Oxford. She worked as a publisher and journalist before beginning research on her biography of Anthony Blunt in 1994. She lives in London with her husband and son. This is her first book.


This engaging and important biography examines the many masks of the infamous Anthony Blunt (1907-1983), the Cambridge art historian turned spy who worked simultaneously for British Intelligence and the Soviet Union during WWII. Why did he betray his country? Carter provides an exhaustive psychological study of Blunt's early life. His brutalizing public school (where he was unhappy and unpopular), Carter argues, "inadvertently fostered a questioning and subversive attitude and a profound distrust of authority." When the Depression hit England in the 1930s and the specter of fascism threatened Europe, communism became fashionable among left-leaning intellectuals like Blunt and his Cambridge friend Guy Burgess. Blunt's homosexuality, like Burgess's, also appears to have alienated him from the establishment. During WWII, Blunt was assigned to British intelligence, giving him easy access to military secrets, which he smuggled to the Soviets. After his Cambridge spy friends Burgess, Donald MacLean and Kim Philby defected to the Soviet Union after the war, British Intelligence began investigating Blunt. In 1964, he was granted immunity in exchange for his confession and full cooperation. British intelligence worked hard to keep "the Blunt affair" a secret. He wasn't publicly exposed until 1979, when Margaret Thatcher denounced him. The biggest challenge any Blunt biographer faces is Blunt himself, a man of almost legendary emotional detachment. Blunt revealed little about his personal life, yet Carter has managed to bring readers as close to this enigmatic man as humanly possible. Thoroughly researched and carefully crafted, this is sure to be the definitive biography. 16 pages of photos not seen by PW. (Jan.) Forecast: Blunt's story isn't quite the sensation here that it is in England; devotees of spy tales and contemporary British history will read this. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

Astonishingly good * Daily Telegraph *
Highly impressive... sensitive and compelling... Miranda Carter has written a richly informative biography which, in the end, does not fall into the trap of tout comprendre, c'est tout pardonner - not only because she is not seeking to pardon him, but also because there is something here that is still quite impossible to comprehend * Noel Malcolm, Sunday Telegraph *
A compelling biography... Miranda Carter's skill at scouring the different compartments of Blunt's life is deeply impressive * Julian Barnes, New Yorker *

Publisher and journalist Carter's first book is a massive and meticulously researched study of "the lives" of Anthony Blunt arguably the most enigmatic of the Cambridge-educated spies associated with Burgess, Maclean, and Philby. Before his exposure in 1979, Blunt was known primarily as an art historian and director of the Courtauld Institute. Carter's 18-chapter biography begins with "Son" and closes predictably with "Traitor." The way stations in between present not only a multifaceted portrait of the man but also a panorama of 50 years of British intellectual life. Carter presents vivid accounts (enlivened by the recollections from scores of interviews with Blunt's friends and colleagues) of Blunt's public school experiences at Marlborough College, his companions and escapades at Cambridge, and his transformation from left-wing intellectual rebel and homosexual into an outwardly conforming member of the establishment. However, even this flow of information fails to explain Blunt's acts and motives. Not surprisingly, many of those interviewed have markedly different recollections of crucial events. Indeed, if this biography has a fault, it is that the writer presents the reader with too many versions of the elusive Blunt's remarkable lives. For large public libraries and academic libraries with an interest in espionage. Robert C. Jones, Central Missouri State Univ., Warrensburg Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

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