Whittaker Chambers: A Biography

Whittaker Chambers: A Biography

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by Sam Tanenhaus
     
 

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Whittaker Chambers is the first biography of this complex and enigmatic figure. Drawing on dozens of interviews and on materials from forty archives in the United States and abroad--including still-classified KGB dossiers--Tanenhaus traces the remarkable journey that led Chambers from a sleepy Long Island village to center stage in America's greatest politicalSee more details below

Overview

Whittaker Chambers is the first biography of this complex and enigmatic figure. Drawing on dozens of interviews and on materials from forty archives in the United States and abroad--including still-classified KGB dossiers--Tanenhaus traces the remarkable journey that led Chambers from a sleepy Long Island village to center stage in America's greatest political trial and then, in his last years, to a unique role as the godfather of post-war conservatism. This biography is rich in startling new information about Chambers's days as New York's "hottest literary Bolshevik"; his years as a Communist agent and then defector, hunted by the KGB; his conversion to Quakerism; his secret sexual turmoil; his turbulent decade at Time magazine, where he rose from the obscurity of the book-review page to transform the magazine into an oracle of apocalyptic anti-Communism. But all this was a prelude to the memorable events that began in August 1948, when Chambers testified against Alger Hiss in the spy case that changed America. Whittaker Chambers goes far beyond all previous accounts of the Hiss case, re-creating its improbably twists and turns, and disentangling the motives that propelled a vivid cast of characters in unpredictable directions.

A rare conjunction of exacting scholarship and narrative art, Whittaker Chambers is a vivid tapestry of 20th century history.


From the Trade Paperback edition.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
A life of the man who brought down Alger Hiss, from his years as a Soviet agent to his anti-Communist crusade after defection.
Kirkus Reviews
A sympathetic full-length portrait of a man best known for making Alger Hiss and Richard Nixon famous. In 1948, Whittaker Chambers was a self-confessed spy for the Soviet Union turned rabid anti-Communist. Called to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee, he named names, leading two years later to the sensational perjury conviction of Hiss, an esteemed diplomat. Hiss died still protesting his innocence, and with his defenders and detractors still accusing Chambers of perfidy or defending him as a hero of the Cold War. For all the rich nuances of this biography, Tanenhaus belongs to the latter camp, matter-of-factly declaring Hiss guilty in a footnote early in this chronicle. Tanenhaus depicts Chambers as a deeply flawed but brilliant and tragic figure, who proved to be a more steadfast idealist than most of the people around him—including Senator Joseph McCarthy and young congressman Nixon, both of whom shamelessly exploited the Hiss case to advance their careers. Tanenhaus seeks the logic in Chambers's odyssey from accomplice to accuser, from his troubled home on Long Island to his star turns in the Communist Party, at Time magazine, on the witness stand, and, finally, as a guru in the 1950s to the then-fledgling neoconservative movement. To Tanenhaus, the ironic—but still logical—denouement to Chambers' life was his 1959 resignation from the staff of William F. Buckley's National Review, in disagreement over the magazine's hard-line stance against Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev. Tanenhaus writes well and sometimes brilliantly in arguing that Chambers was far more than a supporting actor to McCarthyism and the Cold War. However, theauthor introduces no new evidence likely to change minds and, by attempting to put Chambers on a pedestal, has inevitably exposed himself and his subject as targets.Expect this book to stoke fires already burning for nearly half a century.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780307789266
Publisher:
Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
04/20/2011
Sold by:
Random House
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
656
Sales rank:
150,362
File size:
4 MB

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