Graham Greene And Other Great Authors Were British Spies

author-graham-greene-talking-with-actor-alec-guinness-on-location-for-our-man-in-havana-premium-19372174.jpegAmong the eyebrow-raising tidbits in the first authorized book on the history of the MI6 (Britain’s secret service) is the acknowledgment that the United Kingdom used some of its most celebrated authors as spies, among them Graham Greene and Somerset Maugham. The reason being that they could visit exotic places without suspicion, and write reports filled with pithy witticisms, the Guardian reports:

The authors Graham Greene, Arthur Ransome, Somerset Maugham, Compton Mackenzie and Malcolm Muggeridge, and the philosopher AJ “Freddie” Ayer, all worked for MI6, Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service admitted for the first time today . They are among the many exotic characters who agreed to spy for Britain, mainly during wartime, who appear in a the first authorized history of MI6.

Greene, Mackenzie, Muggeridge and others who have written about their secret work make it clear they were reluctant spies approached by MI6 because of their access and knowledge of exotic parts of the world.

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  • Tchoutoye

    And Aleister Crowley of course.

  • Anonymous

    And Aleister Crowley of course.

  • gemmarama

    i’m sure i heard this about george orwell too… he did work as a policeman in india before he was a writer so it would make sense if he were one of the “reluctant spies approached because of their access and knowledge of exotic parts of the world.”

    • Liam_McGonagle

      Yeah, this is interesting.

      Although my guess is that spies come from any walk of life, and not too much is to be made of the fact that a handfull of writers were spies, it still makes interesting chit-chat.

      Elizabeth Bowen, the Anglo-Irish writer spied on various establishment figures in the Dáil during the ‘Emergency’. Apparently Brendan Bracken (born in Tipperary, ironically enough) couldn’t figure out why a newly freed colony might resent being made bankrupt in the name of defending ‘the mother country’.

      Getting back to Orwell, I heard he worked for the Beeb during the war, and really resented being made to tow the line as far as officially acceptable rhetoric was. He hated Bracken like poison. Far from being a spy himself, I think, MI5 kept pretty close tabs on him as a ‘communist sympathiser’.

      http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/6976576.stm

  • gemmarama

    i’m sure i heard this about george orwell too… he did work as a policeman in india before he was a writer so it would make sense if he were one of the “reluctant spies approached because of their access and knowledge of exotic parts of the world.”

  • Anonymous

    Yeah, this is interesting.

    Although my guess is that spies come from any walk of life, and not too much is to be made of the fact that a handfull of writers were spies, it still makes interesting chit-chat.

    Elizabeth Bowen, the Anglo-Irish writer spied on various establishment figures in the Dáil during the ‘Emergency’. Apparently Brendan Bracken (born in Tipperary, ironically enough) couldn’t figure out why a newly freed colony might resent being made bankrupt in the name of defending ‘the mother country’.

    Getting back to Orwell, I heard he worked for the Beeb during the war, and really resented being made to tow the line as far as officially acceptable rhetoric was. He hated Bracken like poison. Far from being a spy himself, I think, MI5 kept pretty close tabs on him as a ‘communist sympathiser’.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/6976576.stm

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