Xan Smiley, a former correspondent in Moscow and Washington, has been the Political Editor, the Europe Editor, and the Middle East and Africa Editor of The Economist. He is now its Editor at Large.
 (November 2019)


Spy vs. Spy

A surveillance photograph of Oleg Gordievsky taken by the Danish intelligence service during his posting in Copenhagen, circa 1966

The Spy and the Traitor: The Greatest Espionage Story of the Cold War

by Ben Macintyre
“The best true spy story I have ever read,” says John Le Carré of The Spy and the Traitor by Ben Macintyre. The tale of Oleg Gordievsky, a KGB colonel who spied for the British for eleven years and was exfiltrated in 1985 from Russia to Finland in the trunk …

Kim Philby: Still an Enigma

Kim Philby with reporters during the press conference in London, 1955, that cleared him of the charge of tipping off double agents Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean, who had defected to the Soviet Union in 1951

A Spy Among Friends: Kim Philby and the Great Betrayal

by Ben Macintyre
Can there be anything left to say about Kim Philby, arguably the most successful spy of his generation, perhaps of all time? After all, scores of books have been written about him and his circle of fellow Soviet-controlled British spies, who sought before and after World War II to bring …

Mystery Man

The Man Who Changed The World: The Lives of Mikhail S. Gorbachev

by Gail Sheehy

The New Russians

by Hedrick Smith
For all the millions of words consigned to the unwrapping of the Gorbachev enigma, the real man remains a riddle. Indeed, over the past six months—since the two books under review went to press—his performance may have become even more baffling, as the once universally hailed democratic savior of the …

Inside Angola

It was with some trepidation that I flew to the Angolan capital, Luanda, in September. The last time I had visited the country, in early 1976, I had been a journalist traveling with the “wrong” side. I had accompanied UNITA, the movement led by the bearded guerrilla intellectual Dr. Jonas …

Zimbabwe: The Takeover

Before he became prime minister of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe was a Marxist. At least, he insisted he was—not just because he needed arms from the East. His nationalist rival, Joshua Nkomo, got bigger and better weaponry from the USSR without ever affirming a Marxist belief. But Mugabe is master of …

Rhodesia: Can the Bishop Win?

To have lived in Rhodesia is to have experienced a feeling of helplessness. Sensible men gloomily surrender to the inevitability of increasing disharmony and bloodshed. A sterile desire to allocate moral blame gives way to an empty sadness that the two conflicting cultures—of Europe and of black southern Africa—seem unable …

South Africa: What Is Black?

Black Power in South Africa: The Evolution of an Ideology

by Gail M. Gerhart

I Write What I Like

by Steve Biko, edited by Aelred Stubbs C.R.
It is a stark indication of black nationalism’s tortuous crawl toward an independent South Africa that the question of how to regard whites opposed to apartheid still—after thirty years—engenders more rancor within nationalist circles than does the conduct of whites defending the laager itself. The gulf between the multiracial African …

Rhodesia: The Coming Chaos

Here is a guess at the denouement of the Rhodesian saga. Sometime next year, after a scrappy general election with a 10 percent turnout, formal power will fall officially into the hands of Bishop Abel Muzorewa. He will “inherit” what was once Ian Smith’s army, replete with the Selous Scouts, …