A new year and time to catch up with some literary achievements —
Ralph Mcallister says THE SPY AND THE TRAITOR by Ben McIntyre is a story, all the more appealing as it reads like fiction but is factual, through and through.
And he points out that Oleg Gordievsky was the eighties answer to Philby and the Cambridge spies.
After being a loyal member of the KGB for many years Gordievsky was turned by MI6 and became their main double agent for years.
His conscience, not money, drove him to risk death not only for himself but also his Moscow family.
After years of detailed duplicity he was recalled from London by the Russian hierarchy, including a young officer called Putin, and after prolonged investigation, it was decided by MI6 to execute an escape plan.
That escape forms the latter part of this brilliant book and really does prove that truth is stranger than fiction.
Gordievsky still lives in secrecy somewhere in the Home Counties.
You have to remind yourself that Macintyre was given access to classified information, that this is not an episode of TVs superb THE AMERICANS, and is probably the best factual spy story of the last fifty years.
John Le Carre thinks so .
Who am I to argue?
With MIDDLE ENGLAND, by Jonathon Coe, we remain in the Home Counties, this time eight years before Brexit where we meet an eclectic range of people who debate and argue, are often bewildered and pompous, who vacillate and are obstinate, as they long for yesterday and the simpler life.
Often very funny, this novel helps us understand some of the social complexities of present-day Britain.
And it is another example of fiction blurring the lines.
Coe at the top of his form.
Finally, back to fact and the 700 pages which make up Matthew Sturgis’ monumental OSCAR, the first major biography of Oscar Wilde since Richard Ellman’s, 25 years ago.
So much new detail has been added to our considerable knowledge of Wilde’s life that this new work is a must for, not only for Wilde lovers but also for those fans of the biography genre.
If 700 pages puts you off, there is a new film of Wilde’s life after prison, THE HAPPY PRINCE, which might get you started on understanding one of the most talented infuriating and puzzling of all literary giants.
Or you could look at Colm Toibin’s new essays MAD,BAD, DANGEROUS TO KNOW,
Short outlines of the lives of the fathers of Wilde, Yeats and Joyce.
Like fathers ,like sons?