Kingsley Amis was spied on – but he’s in the best literary company

MI5 kept tabs on Amis, who joins Byron, Wordsworth, Orwell and Iris Murdoch as having been suspected of espionage

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The National Archives revealed this week that MI5 kept a file on Kingsley Amis after learning in the 1940s that he was a student communist. Amis was then called up and his commanding officer, responding reassuringly to an inquiry by MI5’s gloriously named Lt Col John Baskervyle-Glegg, perceptively foreshadowed his ensuing career by saying that he voiced outrageous views “to compensate for a nebulous personality by making extreme and controversial statements in the hope it will make an impression”. This put the subsequently reactionary author of Lucky Jim in rather distinguished company, since British writers who have been spied on are often classier, in literary terms, than those who have been spies (including John Buchan, Graham Greene, Ian Fleming ...