Wolf, Markus, with Anne McElvoy. Man Without a Face: The Autobiography of Communism's Greatest Spymaster. New York: Times Books, 1997. Toronto: Random House, 1997.
Markus Wolf died on 9 November 2006 at the age of 83. See Adam Bernstein, "Markus Wolf, 83, East German Espionage Chief: Spymaster Riddled the West with Agents," Washington Post, 10 Nov. 2006, B6.
David E. Murphy, IJI&C 11.1, faults Wolf more for what he does not say as for what he does: "Missing from his memoir are the insights Wolf could have given us into Soviet-East German relations, particularly in the fields of intelligence and state security, by virtue of his Soviet background.... Many details concerning the Soviet environment in Berlin, with which Wolf was continuously associated, are either absent or factually inaccurate." For example, Wolf's version of the Otto John affair "is nonsense."
Liqueur, Washington Post Book World, 29 Jun. 1997, and Washington Post National Weekly Edition, 14 Jul. 1997, notes that Wolf's book "has no sensational revelations," but "there are many interesting insights.... Compared with other such autobiographies, this book is not only well-written but almost revealing." Similarly, Friedman, Parameters, Autumn 1997, comments that "the author's consistent discretion ... ensures there will be no surprises or startling disclosures" in his discussion of espionage cases that once made world headlines.
For Cohen, FA 76.6 (Nov.-Dec. 1997), Wolf "tells an intriguing tale" that is marred by his "selective memory, continual attempts at self-exculpation, and specious resort to the argument that the West behaved as badly as the communists." Peake, History 26.1, believes that Wolf has made "a valuable contribution to the literature both for the professional insights [he] offers and the picture [he] draws of a complex, cultured, sophisticated lifelong communist whose career in intelligence has no peer."
Sarotte, I&NS 12.4, is surprised to find "numerous differences" between the English and German-language versions of Wolf's memoirs. The English edition is shorter but also contains material not present in the German version. In any event, this is "an intriguing and readable book illuminating many previously unknown anecdotes and particulars from the darker side of postwar German politics.... Whether or not Wolf's renditions of these events are reliable must, however, await archival confirmation."
To Tusa, New Statesman, 18 Jul. 1997, this autobiography is charming and disarming, but he also notes that Wolf "alters the more repugnant details in outsiders' pictures, sets incontrovertible facts in a more becoming perspective, then varnishes with the best available gloss on his life." Powers, NYRB (23 Oct. 1997) and Intelligence Wars (2004), 141-158, notes that "this is an important work, but its usefulness is undermined by the difficulty of knowing when the language is really Wolf's and when it is that of his co-author.... There are many small errors about dates and facts certainly known to Wolf, and occasional misuse of intelligence concepts and terms."
See also, essay by Roger Draper, "The Man in the Mask," New Leader, 11-25 Aug. 1997, 13-14; and Nina Planck, "The Spy Who Loved It," Time, 9 Jun. 1997.
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