The Explanation
(for those who require one)

And, of course, that is what all of this is -- all of this: the one song, ever changing, ever reincarnated, that speaks somehow from and to and for that which is ineffable within us and without us, that is both prayer and deliverance, folly and wisdom, that inspires us to dance or smile or simply to go on, senselessly, incomprehensibly, beatifically, in the face of mortality and the truth that our lives are more ill-writ, ill-rhymed and fleeting than any song, except perhaps those songs -- that song, endlesly reincarnated -- born of that truth, be it the moon and June of that truth, or the wordless blue moan, or the rotgut or the elegant poetry of it. That nameless black-hulled ship of Ulysses, that long black train, that Terraplane, that mystery train, that Rocket '88', that Buick 6 -- same journey, same miracle, same end and endlessness."
-- Nick Tosches, Where Dead Voices Gather

A Who's Who of the Cold War #7


Kim Philby

12 comments :

Vanwall said...

So brilliantly a liar and fake, and all for nothing, as his brilliance was in the execution, and not seeing the final act was a kind of deliberate blindness - it was a game that became all too real; stuck in Soviet Russia at the end, like living drunken in a dirty toilet inches away from shit, while your handlers poked and prodded you into a semblance of life. They didn't flush his ass away, they didn't have to: he had placed his fingers on the handle himself by his actions. It was all nothing more than a power trip for Philby and a lot of spooks out there - control means more than other people's lives for them. No sympathy from me for his end or his journey.

Gerard Saylor said...

Filthy scumbag.

I had a book jobber come by yesterday. Included in his lot was a bio by his Russian wife that talks about his hard drinking, Russian handlers, and general misery. My first thought was, "Good!"

Kreisler said...

I think you're too hard on him - Philby was a believer not just a player of the Great Game. They're reviled now but for good or ill they wanted social justice. Interestingly his KGB handler, Yuri Modin, always felt that Guy Burgess was the real leader of the Cambridge spies not Philby.

Vanwall said...

I'm not so sure social justice was any sort of incentive - he was a manipulator grande who got off on secretive behavior, and let's face it, Philby, more than anyone probably, knew how bad things were in Soviet Russia, including the disconnect between social justice and what kind of psychotic totalitarianism was really going on there, especially under Stalin. I think his "beliefs" were situational as to whether he wanted something - a drink, or sex, or just the satisfaction of lying well. No excuses suffice.

Kreisler said...

No, I don't agree. He was working for the Soviets from a very early stage, principally to fight the Nazis. Loyalty overtook him. It's oversimplifying just to render him as a decadent manipulator.

Vanwall said...

A lot of people fought against fascism, in different ways, some even kept their honor and lives, some lost all, but few stooped as low as Philby. He had his chances to change, but it was not in that scorpion's nature. I don't condemn all people who worked for social equality and a good, fair life, but working for the Soviets under Stalin and his ilk was far from socialism, much less social justice - their agenda was not far from the fascist's, sadly. Philby was too smart, too much in the spy loop to not know what was going on, loyalty be damned. I cannot in good conscience excuse anyone who worked more than few years for the KGB or NKVD, didn't quit, and pretended to retain anything even approaching any sort of social conscience, least of all Philby and many others, who were in deep enough to know how bad things really were.

Kreisler said...

You've got a very black and white view of honour - I don't accept the moral equivalence of Stalin and Hitler as if it didn't matter who won at Stalingrad. Philby saw Britain in the 30s and knew it was bankrupt. He worked for the Russians during the war against the Germans and against the British. He stayed loyal to the Soviets after the war long after he should have done as did many others.

Vanwall said...

I'm not as black & white as you imply, and at Stalingrad the lesser of two evils won out, is my take on it, and I'm not alone in that view by far - ask the Poles and the former satellite states, if you need any references. I'm fairly left-leaning in my political views, which is obvious if you've read any of my postings here over time, and yes, Britain, among many other societies was a broken wheel, but I have no sympathy for those who work to promote totalitarianism in any form, especially when they are well cognizant of the circumstances. Social justice was not ever going to happen under the Soviets, period - "in the West man exploits man, under Soviets it is other way around" was a Russian joke that was sadly true. I'm very unhappy with the semi-fascists running my country now, but I wouldn't wish the Soviets on anybody. Philby had a history of gamesmanship, and he loved himself and his games more than anything else - he went beyond the pale to harm others.

R.H. said...

A common silliness is to ignore ability in someone because their ideology isn't nice. Philby was always a hard drinker, he could get drunk -blind drunk to the stage of delerium, yet never give out a hint of what he was up to. That's fine control by golly. And dedication (if you please).

javier said...

Western World (mainly USA and UK)can't pardon Kim. He undressed the world of lies and hypocrisy from capitalist stablishment (Oh! Why can you supose that a aristocrat come from Trinity College, with a patriot familiar tradition and awarded by General Franco can spy for the reds? come on, baby! Look for the strange and homosexual mercenaries...).

Tommy O'C said...

Good for you, Vanwall. Philby supported Stalinist Russia. His treachery led to the capture, torture, and assassination of hundreds of western agents across Europe. He should have been shot. As it is, it's comforting to know that he lived a hellish existence for the remainder of his life-before he went to the real Hell.

jthyen said...

Amazing string of comments. It's refreshing to see a blog with real, rational arguments for and against. So many people are just out to provoke one another and I'm truly impressed with the way these two debated based on their own view of the facts but didn't get into name calling or take shortcuts with standard talking points. Nice.