Kim Philby                        Oleg Gordievsky


A Spy Among Friends (2014) y The Spy and the Traitor: The Greatest Espionage Story of the Cold War (2018), del escritor e historiador inglés Ben Macintyre (Reino Unido, 1963), se leen como thrillers, pero salvo la recreación de los diálogos, pensamientos y reflexiones de los protagonistas, están basados en historias reales: la del doble agente inglés Kim Philby espiando para los rusos, y la del doble agente ruso Oleg Gordievsky espiando para los ingleses.  El contexto es la llamada Guerra Fría.  Macintyre describe la intensa y complicada interacción en ese momento, entre dos posiciones ideológicas no solo contrarias, sino excluyentes, la del Reino Unido (y por consiguiente, Occidente) y la de la Unión de República Soviéticas Socialistas.

Como en sus otros libros, Macintyre estimula la lectura ofreciendo abrumadora información de Rusia, Inglaterra y Estados Unidos; las vicisitudes de la Guerra Fría; la relacionada con el mundo de los espías, del espionaje y del contraespionaje; las peculiaridades de las diferentes oficinas de gobierno encargadas del sistema de inteligencia de una nación.  Y sobre lo anterior las reflexiones y cuestionamientos de los espías en sus entornos.

Lecciones de historia enmarcadas por el elemento “suspenso” que hace que no obstante tanta información, el lector no puede, literalmente, soltar sus libros.


A Spy among Friends

Reseña escrita por Malcolm Petrook

The life of Kim Philby, as chronicled by Ben Macintyre in “A Spy Among Friends,” has all the elements of a John Le Carre thriller except that it’s a true story.   Born into the British governing class, Philby spent 30 years in anti-communist operations with MI6, rising to become chief of  the country’s most storied intelligence agency.   At the same time, however, he was a double agent providing the Soviet Union with British secrets, sending many men to their deaths.

Recruited at Cambridge University in 1934, Philby was the senior member of what became known as The Cambridge Five Soviet Spy Ring which functioned successfully in World War ll and the Cold War until 1951.   Over those years, Philby’s influence in the secret service was unchallenged.   And his close relations with the CIA’s James Angleton and colleagues at MI6, positioned him as the quintessential English patriot.

Philby, even 50 years later, is still remembered as Moscow’s most successful spy in Britain and, in Britain, as the nation’s most notorious traitor.   His gift for making friends at every level of society provided him with numerous sources of useful information and intelligence contacts.   And, while projecting a good-natured demeanor, his sole focus was on the destruction of the very people he epitomized.

At MI6 Philby was renowned for his generosity of spirit, his unfailing sense of humor and his unshakable integrity.

Indeed, his gift for friendship, compounded by his meticulous tailoring, elegant manners and taste for fine dining, drew many people to seek his company in London’s prestigious clubs  and watering holes.   Such was his popularity that some colleagues and friends imitated his style, even down to carrying the same style walking cane.

Although MI6 frequently suspected that a mole was operating in the service, Philby was never suspected or accused.   On one occasion Philby commented that he often left the office with a briefcase full of secrets and nobody questioned him because he was “upper class.”   Certainly his schooldays at the thousand year old Westminster School, followed by Cambridge had stamped his demeanor with gentlemanly privelige.

Throughout the book, Macintyre cites anecdotes of Philby’s shrewdness and cunning in recruiting other spies in Britain, Europe and Asia, as well as his adroitness in avoiding detection by Britain’s own agents in Russia and beyond.   Moreover, it was Philby who tipped off his fellow communist spies from Cambridge, Guy Burgess and Donald McClean, enabling them to escape to Moscow before being caught by MI6.

The Cambridge Five, true believers in the Marxist communist ideology, as a bulwark against Fascism, did not betray Britain for financial gain.  Like Philby, they were patrician Old Etonians who were totally bent on subverting western values; close friends bound by the crucible of wartime intelligence work.   Philby’s closest friend at MI6, Nicholas Elliot, was the most intimate  and claimed to know him best.  His disclosures to Moscow helped sink most of the important Anglo-American spy operations over a twenty year period.

Macintyre’s thoroughly researched espionage skullduggery is reminiscent of tales by Graham Greene, Ian Fleming and their ilk.  His description of Philby’s last intelligence posting to Beirut turns out to be the greatest folly of his friend Nicholas Elliott who, when Philby is finally unmasked by MI6, in 1979, is distracted by fresh powder for skiing the slopes instead of keeping an eye on Philby who slips away to Moscow for the rest of his life.

Ben Macintyre. A Spy Among Friends. USA: Crown Publishers. 2014. 368 pages. Kindle Edition.



The Spy and the Traitor: The Greatest Espionage Story of the Cold War

“William Shakespeare has an answer for most of life’s questions. In Hamlet, the greatest writer in the English language pondered the overwhelming. “When sorrows come, they come not single spies, but in battalions” On Monday, July 15, 1985, Oleg Gordievsky reached for his copy of Shakespeare’s Sonnets.” 

En The Spy and the Traitor: The Greatest Espionage Story of the Cold War (2018) Ben Macintyre cuenta la historia del doble agente, espía y traidor, Oleg Antonyevich Gordievsky.  Nacido en Moscú en 1938,  vive actualmente en algún lugar de Inglaterra. Su padre y su hermano mayor pertenecieron a la KGB, “Komitet Gosudarstvennoy Bezopasnosti”, el Comité de Seguridad del Estado que controlaba todos los aspectos de la vida soviética. Oleg estudió y se entrenó como espía, en la escuela de élite de la KGB, “Bandera Roja”.

“Here Gordievsky and 120 other trainee KGB officers would be inducted into the deepest secrets of Soviet spycraft: intelligence and counterintelligence, recruiting and running spies, legals and illegal , agents and double agents, weapons, unarmed combat and surveillance, the arcane arts and language of this strange trade.”

Al salir de la escuela Gordievsky trabajó en la siniestra Lubianka, la sede de la KGB en Moscú. Su primer puesto fuera de Rusia fue en la embajada soviética en la ciudad de Copenhagen, Dinamarca.

“Of the twenty officials in the Soviet embassy, just six were genuine diplomats, while the rest worked for the KGB or the GRU, Soviet military intelligence…”

En Copenhaguen Gordievsky pudo disfrutar de la libertad de leer libros y acudir a museos y conciertos, al mismo tiempo que realizaba su trabajo de contactar y cultivar contactos, reclutar informantes e identificar posibles agentes dobles. Además, inició su acercamiento con el MI6.

“‘You’re KGB. We know you have worked in Line N of the First Chief Directorate, the most secret of all your departments, which is running illegals all over the world” …Gordievsky did not hide his surprise. “Would you be prepared to talk to us about what you know?… “Would you be prepared to meet me, in private, in a safe place?”

Gordievsky empezó a pasar información estratégica a los ingleses por convicciones ideológicas, una especie de cruzada personal contra las prácticas soviéticas, específicamente las de la KGB, y un intento de atemperar las relaciones entre los dos países.

“…In 1982 the Cold War was heating up again to the point where nuclear war seemed a genuine possibility. Gordievsky revealed that the Kremlin believed, wrongly but completely seriously, that the West was about to press the nuclear button… Piece by piece, Gordievsky was cracking open the secrets of the KGB and passing them on to MI6.”

El muy interesante capítulo 10, “Mr. Collins and Mrs. Thactcher”, trata sobre cómo “The spy opened up a window into Kremlin”

“The Iron Lady had developed a soft spot for her Russian spy. Margaret Thatcher had never met Oleg Gordievsky. She did not know his name, and referred to him, inexplicably and insistently, as “Mr . Collins…  Gordievsky’s despatches … conveyed to her, as no other information had done, how the Soviet leadership reacted to Western phenomena and , indeed, to her…”

Cuando en 1985 es nombrado jefe de la estación de la KGB en Londres, la “rezidentura”, Gordievsky tenía ya once años de pasar información a los ingleses en unas muy complejas reuniones. Pocos meses después Moscú lo llama, sus “handlers” le ofrecen desertar y permanecer en Inglaterra con su esposa y sus dos hijas pequeñas.  Gordievsky decide regresar.  Porque un espía norteamericano, Aldrich Ames, “…committed one of the most spectacular acts of treason in the history of espionage: he named no fewer than twenty – five individuals…”

Los capítulos finales, además de interesantes, son excitantes. En ellos se narra el regreso a Moscú, las semanas esperando su aprehensión y su escape según el plan de emergencia que recibió el nombre/código PIMLICO.


Ben Macintyre ha escrito otros libros sobre espías: sobre Kim Philby, “…the Cambridge-educated Englishman who made the same journey but in the opposite direction, as an MI6 officer secretly working for the KGB”. Kim Philby: The Unknown Story of the KGB’s Master Spy, 2014. Sobre Eddie Chapman, “..the wartime crook and double agent known as Agent ZIGZAG, considered himself a patriotic hero (which he was), but he was also greedy, opportunistic, and fickle, hence his code name. Agent Zigzag: A True Story of Nazi Espionage, Love, and Betrayal, 2007.

Benedict Richard Pierce Macintyre. Reino Unido, 1963.


Ben Macintyre. The Spy and the Traitor: The Greatest Espionage Story of the Cold War. London: Crown/Archetype. 2018. 384 pages. Kindle Edition.