In This Review

The Happy Traitor: Spies, Lies, and Exile in Russia; The Extraordinary Story of George Blake
The Happy Traitor: Spies, Lies, and Exile in Russia; The Extraordinary Story of George Blake
By Simon Kuper
Profile Books, 2021, 278 pp

George Blake was a British MI6 agent and a Soviet spy. In the 1950s, he famously informed the Soviet Union of a secret tunnel the Americans and the British had dug under the Soviet sector of Berlin to tap the communications of the Soviet military. By his own account, he revealed the identities of hundreds of British agents operating in communist countries, leading, in some cases, to their executions. Blake was exposed and tried in the United Kingdom in the 1960s, but he fled from jail using a rope ladder and then made a remarkable escape: a former fellow inmate drove Blake huddled under the back seat of a car all the way to East Germany. Blake reached Moscow in 1967 and lived there until his death in 2020 at the age of 98. Kuper, who interviewed the double agent in 2012, claims that Blake felt no remorse for his actions. Besides his own long interview, Kuper draws on numerous published sources, including Blake’s autobiography and his lectures to security service members in East Germany (where Blake always enjoyed a warm welcome). The MI6 has never made public its files on Blake—perhaps because, as Kuper writes, “his case was so embarrassing to the service.”