Synopses & Reviews
The first full biography of the notorious spy
—and an X-ray of the British ruling class that produced him.
Once an untouchable member of England's establishment—a world-famous art historian and a man knighted by the Queen of England—in a single stroke Anthony Blunt became an object of universal hatred when, in 1979, Margaret Thatcher exposed him as a Soviet spy.
In Anthony Blunt: His Lives, Miranda Carter shows how one man lived out opposing trends of his century—first as a rebel against his class, then as its epitome—and yet embodied a deeper paradox. In the 1920s, Blunt was a member of the Bloomsbury circle; in the 1930s he was a left-wing intellectual; in the 50s and 60s he became a camouflaged member of the Establishment. Until his treachery was made public, Blunt was a world-famous art historian, recognized for his ground-breaking work on Poussin, Italian art, and old master drawings; at the Courtauld Institute he trained a whole generation of academics and curators. And yet even as he ascended from rebellion into outward conformity, he was a homosexual when homosexuality was a crime, and a traitor when the penalty was death.
How could one man contain so many contradictions? The layers of secrecy upon which Blunt's life depended are here stripped away for the first time, using testimony from those who knew Blunt well but have until now kept silent and documents from sealed Russian archives, including a secret autobiography Blunt wrote for his controllers. Miranda Carter's Anthony Blunt is the first full biography of the mythical Cold War warrior, and is at once an astonishing history of one the century's greatest deceits and a deeply nuanced account of fifty years in the British power elite, as experienced by one deep inside who wished to bring it down.
"Because he never spoke candidly about his espionage, because he assumed so many masks, he remains something of a mystery in this book, despite Ms. Carter's best efforts to explicate his life. Still, she has created a fascinating portrait of that most anomalous of career hyphenates: the art scholar-spy, a portrait that should go down as one of the most informative and compelling books yet on the Cambridge spies." Michiko Kakutani, New York Times
"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." Publishers Weekly
"The author's research appears impeccable, and her tone is evenhanded and straightforward....Blunt emerges from this rigorous, compelling biography as a small man driven by big dreams, a man too easily led by people he admired neither a villain nor a patsy, just a follower who wished he were a leader." Booklist, starred review
"[A] massive and meticulously researched study of 'the lives' of Anthony Blunt....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." Library Journal
This brilliant psychological examination of the infamous Cambridge art-historian-turned-spy reveals the multiple masks worn by the Cold Wars most notorious traitor. From young member of the Bloomsbury circle to left-wing intellectual, from closeted homosexual ascending to the Establishment to object of public denunciation by Margaret Thatcher, the arc of Blunts life is at once a deeply nuanced account of fifty years in the British power elite and an astonishing history of one of the centurys greatest deceits.
About the Author
was educated at St Pauls Girls School and Exeter College, Oxford. She worked as a publisher and journalist. She lives in London with her husband and son. This is her first book.