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Agent Molière

The Life of John Cairncross, the Fifth Man of the Cambridge Spy Circle

Geoff Andrews



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30 November 2023
The Cambridge Spies continue to fascinate - but one of them, John Cairncross, has always been more of an enigma than the others. He worked alone and was driven by his hostility to Fascism rather than to the promotion of Communism. During his war-time work at Bletchley Park, he passed documents to the Soviets which went on to influence the Battle of Kursk. Geoff Andrews gained exclusive access to the Cairncross papers and secrets, and has spoken to friends, relatives and former colleagues. In his portrait, a complex individual emerges – a scholar as well as a spy – whose motivations have often been misunderstood. After his resignation from the Civil Service, Cairncross moved to Italy and there he rebuilt his life as a foreign correspondent, editor and university professor. This gave him new circles and friendships – which included the writer Graham Greene – while he always lived with the fear that his earlier espionage would come to light.

The full account of Cairncross's spying, his confession and his dramatic public exposure as the ‘fifth man’ is told here for the first time, unveiling the story of his post-espionage life.

Imprint:   I B TAURIS
Country of Publication:   United Kingdom
Dimensions:   Height: 216mm,  Width: 138mm, 
ISBN:   9781350384866
ISBN 10:   1350384860
Pages:   312
Publication Date:  
Audience:   General/trade ,  ELT Advanced
Format:   Paperback
Publisher's Status:   Active
Prologue: 'The Chase' Chapter 1: A Scottish Education Chapter 2: From Glasgow to Germany Chapter 3: A Political Awakening Chapter 4: Cambridge Chapter 5: The Foreign Office Chapter 6: Agent Moliere Chapter 7: Appeasement Chapter 8: A Political Career Begins Chapter 9: Bletchley Park Chapter 10: Enter Graham Greene Chapter 11: Cold War and Resignation Chapter 12: An Italian Escape Chapter 13: Professor Cairncross Chapter 14: Confession and Exile (Again) Chapter 15: Hot Autumn Chapter 16: The ‘Fifth Man’ Chapter 17: The Human Factor Epilogue: 'Fact and Fiction in the Life of John Cairncross'

Geoff Andrews is an historian and biographer who has written widely on the history of political ideas and movements and twentieth century British and Italian politics. He is Senior Lecturer in Politics at The Open University and author of The Shadow Man: At the Heart of the Cambridge Spy Circle (2015) and Not a Normal Country: Italy After Berlusconi (2005).

Reviews for Agent Molière: The Life of John Cairncross, the Fifth Man of the Cambridge Spy Circle

Extremely well-researched ... Both fascinating and exciting in equal measure. * The Wee Review * Compelling... Geoff Andrews's research is extensive and exemplary. * Morning Star * [Cairncross] lived in a sort of self-imposed exile on the Continent, eking out an existence as a jobbing writer and translator. When he was finally unmasked as the Fifth Man, nobody really seemed to care. [Andrews] has set out to remedy this. * Mail on Sunday * Andrews rightly emphasizes the range of Cairncross's literary talents. He would have made a successful, though highly argumentative, full-time academic, and was a formidable linguist. * Times Literary Supplement * In Agent Moliere, respected historian Geoff Andrews provides a well-researched and absorbing account of Cairncross's life from his passing on of secret documents to the Russians during World War II to his later life as a university professor in Italy and his eventual unveiling as the 'fifth man'. A must for all armchair spies. -- Jeff Popple * Canberra Weekly * Geoff Andrews, an Open University politics lecturer, throws new light on this mystery [of how John Cairncross found himself in the pay of Moscow's spy masters]. * The New European * Geoff Andrews brilliantly captures the essence of the unlikely fifth man in the notorious Cambridge spy ring, exploding the myths surrounding John Cairncross. His meticulous research paints a picture of an exceptional scholar from a humble background uncomfortable in the corridors of the Whitehall establishment. As Andrews astutely comments, Cairncross was incapable of subscribing to any kind of orthodoxy . Agent Moliere is a refreshing and most welcome biography which blows away the cobwebs left by traditional spy writers. * Richard Norton-Taylor, author of The State of Secrecy * A thorough and thoughtful exploration of the complex life and personality of John Cairncross. This is the book we have been waiting for that rounds off the epic story of the Cambridge Spies. * Roland Philipps, Author of A Spy Named Orphan: The Enigma of Donald Maclean *

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