“The professional skill of espionage…is the exploitation of human weakness”.
In The Art of Betrayal, Gordon Corera navigates through the complicated history of MI6 (the British equivalent of the CIA) after the Second World War Relying on both first-hand accounts of intelligence officers as well as official government records, Corera examines (in great detail) the strategic role espionage has played throughout the world over the past sixty years; from racing against the Soviets in trying to find and smuggle scientists out of Vienna and into the West immediately after the War, to the execution of Patrice Lumumba in the Congo, the Soviet war in Afghanistan, the 9/11 attacks and subsequent invasion of Iraq, as well as the numerous traitors, double-agents and blown operations found in-between.
The text also intermittently refers to the books of Graham Greene, Ian Fleming and John le Carré (all of whom had worked for the government [in one capacity or another] during the War) and the events that had inspired their work.
For those interested, The Art of Betrayal is more le Carré than Fleming (and more George Smiley than James Bond) in that it reveals a cold, grey world full of shadows and doubt, which operates in a frightfully indifferent and “matter-of-fact” manner that, if nothing else, highlights the moral ambiguity of it all. While it may prove a bit dense for some, readers already familiar with Cold War politics, as well as fans of the spy genre as a whole, should find it both informative and enjoyable.