‘To betray, you must first belong…‘
Edith and Kim
[ About the Book ]
In June 1934, Kim Philby met his Soviet handler, the spy Arnold Deutsch.
The woman who introduced them was called Edith Tudor-Hart. She changed the course of 20th century history.
Then she was written out of it.
Drawing on the Secret Intelligence Files on Edith Tudor-Hart, along with the private archive letters of Kim Philby, this finely worked, evocative and beautifully tense novel – by the granddaughter of Kim Philby – tells the story of the woman behind the Third Man.
[ My Review ]
Edith and Kim by Charlotte Philby was just published March 31st with The Borough Press and has been described by The Times as ‘a fine achievement’. As granddaughter of the renowned double agent Kim Philby, Charlotte Philby has a personal history that reads like a John Le Carré novel. Kim Philby was an Officer of the Order of the British Empire and a high ranking member of the British Intelligence until his final defection to the Soviet Union in 1963.
‘Philby was also a journalist but joined SIS (also known as MI6) in 1940. Just before the war ended, he was appointed head of SIS’s anti-Soviet section. Thus the man charged with running operations against the Soviets was a KGB agent. He later became chief British intelligence officer in the United States. In 1963, he defected to the Soviet Union, and died there. ‘ – Source: BBC
Known as The Third Man in the Cambridge Five spy ring, Kim Philby was recommended as a possible Soviet spy by Edith Tudor-Hart. Born in Vienna and from a working class background, Edith Tudor-Hart (née Suschitzky) studied in the UK under Maria Montessori and later went to the Bauhaus where she studied photography. Edith always had a strong commitment to the communist cause and it was at the Bauhaus that she met like-minded individuals which further encouraged and nurtured her beliefs in the Soviet system.
Edith was an activist and a very strong believer in the communist cause, working for the NKVD (which later became known as the KGB) but never receiving any formal recognition or recompense for her services. Through marriage she came to London and with her photography she documented anything of note, passing and receiving relevant information via established routes. Kim Philby crossed paths with Edith in the early 1930s in Austria and, from the beginning, Edith recognised a like-minded soul. Kim Philby had a very unorthodox upbringing, describing his father as ‘a free man’. He followed the educational path of someone of his position but he was never committed to the life society expected of him.
“Which leads me to answer your real question: how such an apparently upper-class creature such as myself might betray his roots by coming here to slum it in the process of helping others? In order to understand that, you must understand one thing. To betray you must first belong. And believe me, Alexander, I never belonged” – Kim Philby
Over the years Edith’s activities in London did not go unnoticed and, throughout the book, Charlotte Philby has included snippets from original Secret Intelligence Files which demonstrate the covert observations that were taking place at the time. Edith Tudor-Hart was under surveillance for many years. Her husband was a doctor also with communist sympathies. He supported the International Brigade in Spain during the Civil War and offered his medical services, leaving Edith alone, struggling to make ends meet for herself and her young son, Tommy. She had always known Tommy was different from other boys but she was adamant that he had been emotionally damaged by the war and from being in the midst of the fractious relationship between his parents. Edith harboured a permanent guilt that his mental state was her fault. Tommy was eventually moved to a sanatorium for his own personal safety and the safety of others, including Edith.
The surveillance on Edith was obvious to her. She did her best to continue with her day job as a photographer and her furtive assignments but it all was taking its toll on her. She eventually was left with no choice but to leave London and go to Brighton where one can only assume her life was difficult.
“Though no link was ever proven, Edith was prevented from working as a photographer and, at the age of 44, she fled to Brighton where she opened an antique shop in the North Laine. She died 20 years later in a pauper’s hospice, her only child incarcerated in an asylum, her ashes scattered by an employee of the home, in the absence of family or friends. Meanwhile she was effectively shunned by the Soviet regime to which she gave her life, without ever accepting a penny for her work.” – Charlotte Philby
Edith and Kim provides a fascinating insight into Edith Tudor-Hart, highlighting her early years in Vienna and the high price she paid for an ideology that she truly believed in. Charlotte Philby came upon her purely by accident during research and was immediately intrigued by this woman, this unknown individual who was very strongly connected to her grandfather. Using a blend of fact and fiction, Charlotte Philby has created a compelling piece of writing that is also so very difficult to fully comprehend. This is real. Most of the main players are real. This is a true-life story of espionage but at its centre is Edith Tudor-Hart, a mother, a woman considered a subversive, a woman passionate about what she believed in. This is her story and that of her connection to Kim Philby, The Third Man.
[ Bio ]
Charlotte Philby worked for the Independent for eight years, as a columnist, editor and reporter, and was shortlisted for the Cudlipp Prize at the 2013 Press Awards for her investigative journalism. Founder of the online platform Motherland.net, she regularly contributes to the Guardian and iNews, as well as the BBC World Service, Channel 4 and Woman’s Hour. She has three children and lives in London. Charlotte is the granddaughter of Kim Philby, Britain’s most famous communist double-agent.
Twitter ~ @PhilbyWrites