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I just picked up a copy of an 800+ page book by Whitaker Chambers titled Witness. I searched "all books" on PBS, but they never heard of it. I am aware of the main characters, but not the book. Does anyone here know anything about it?
First published in 1952, Witness was at once a literary effort, a philosophical treatise, and a bestseller. Whittaker Chambers had just participated in America's trial of the century in which Chambers claimed that Alger Hiss, a full-standing member of the political establishment, was a spy for the Soviet Union. This poetic autobiography recounts the famous case, but also reveals much more. Chambers' worldview--e.g. "man without mysticism is a monster"--went on to help make political conservatism a national force.
Whittaker Chambers (1901-1961) was a controversial literary and political figure of the 20th Century.
Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Chambers grew up in Lynbrook, NY, and studied at Columbia University. In 1925, he became a communist, editing the _Daily Worker_ newspaper and _New Masses_ magazine. He joined the Soviet underground (1932), defected during the Great Purge (1938), and hid with his family for a year. He joined _TIME_ magazine, where he rose to become a senior editor (1939-1948). In August 1948 under subpoena before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), he named former Federal officials as part of a Washington-based network. By September 1948, only Alger Hiss continued to deny those allegations. During legal proceedings, Chambers brought forth evidence (e.g., the "Pumpkin Papers") that led to Hiss's indictment, trial, and conviction (1948-1950). After the Hiss Case, he joined the editorial board of nascent _National Review_ (1957-1959).
Chambers's memoir _Witness_ (1952) was a best-seller, serialized in the _Saturday Evening Post_ and _Readers Digest_ and read aloud by the author on NBC radio. His wife published further essays as _Cold Friday_ (1964). Others have published his writings and articles: _Odyssey of a Friend_ (1969), _Ghosts on the Roof_ (1989), and _Notes from the Underground_ (1997). To support himself while both communist and defector, the polyglot Chambers translated more than a dozen books from German and French (1928-1939), including _Bambi_ (1928).
President Ronald Reagan awarded Chambers the Medal of Freedom (1984) and added the Whittaker Chambers Farm to the National Register (1988).
More information (including video, audio, and articles) is online: http://www.whittakerchambers.org/