THE 30'000 word memoir written by the Soviet spy Anthony Blunt before his death in 1983 was released yesterday by the British LIbrary where it had deposited on condition that it would not be made public for 25 years. Hopes that this memoir by a man who had worked for Soviet intelligence since the mid-1930s might help to identify the so-called Fifth Man, who collaborated with Donald Maclean, Guy Burgess, Kim Philby and Blunt himself, are unlikely to be realised. The main purpose of the memoir seems to be to explain why Blunt, a highly respected art historian, made what he calls “the biggest mistake of my life”. Part of the explanation is that he was mesmerised by Guy Burgess his student at Cambridge who had already committed himself to the NKVD, the forerunner of the KGB. Blunt was perturbed by social conditions in Britain and saw the Communist model as an attractive alternative but instead of joining the party openly he was persuaded by Burgess to work under cover. Those who have read the memoir say that Blunt shows no remorse and offers no apology. He gives no indication of what information he gleaned and whether he passed it on to Moscow. He was not a particularly interesting person but the fact that he was Surveyor of the Royal Pictures from 1945 to 1972 - and that Queen Elizabeth knew of his disloyalty - inevitably adds a degree of fascination to his story.


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