Thursday, March 15, 2007

Soft idiot softly

And now, your moment of highbrow high concept for the week:

WH Auden may have helped Guy Burgess flee Britain for the Soviet Union back in 1951.

It doesn't look like it was intentional. Burgess, looking for cover for his escape, tried to get himself invited to Auden's new home in Ichia, Naples. (Burgess and Auden were both gay, and had a passing acquaintance.) When he called the friends Auden was staying with, Auden was too drunk to answer. Somehow, the phone calls became public knowledge, and MI6 wound up interrogating Auden.

Just imagine: one of England's most famous poets gets questioned about his role in helping one of England's most notorious spies flee the country. How nerve-wracking would that be for a closeted gay man in the 1950s?

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