Finks: How the C.I.A. Tricked the World's Best Writers

Brand: OR Books
UPC: 9781944869526
Author: Joel Whitney
Out of stock
  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: OR Books; Reprint edition (February 13, 2018)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1944869522
  • ISBN-13: 978-1944869526
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 1 x 8 inches

When news broke that the CIA had colluded with literary magazines to produce cultural propaganda throughout the Cold War, a debate began that has never been resolved. The story continues to unfold, with the reputations of some of America's best-loved literary figures—including Peter Matthiessen, George Plimpton, and Richard Wright—tarnished as their work for the intelligence agency has come to light.Finks is a tale of two CIAs, and how they blurred the line between propaganda and literature. One CIA created literary magazines that promoted American and European writers and cultural freedom, while the other toppled governments, using assassination and censorship as political tools. Defenders of the "cultural" CIA argue that it should have been lauded for boosting interest in the arts and freedom of thought, but the two CIAs had the same undercover goals, and shared many of the same methods: deception, subterfuge and intimidation.

Finks demonstrates how the good-versus-bad CIA is a false divide, and that the cultural Cold Warriors again and again used anti-Communism as a lever to spy relentlessly on leftists, and indeed writers of all political inclinations, and thereby pushed U.S. democracy a little closer to the Soviet model of the surveillance state.


Praise for Finks 

"Another odd episode steps out from the Cold War's shadows. Riveting." ―Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"Listen to this book, because it talks in a very clear way about what has been silenced." ―John Berger, author of Ways of Seeing and winner of the Man Booker Prize

"With Finks, Joel Whitney vividly brings to life the early days of the Cold War, when key American literary figures were willing to secretly do the bidding of the nation's spymasters." ―James Risen, author of Pay Any Price: Greed, Power and Endless War

"A deep look at that scoundrel time when America's most sophisticated and enlightened literati eagerly collaborated with our growing national security state. Finks is a timely moral reckoning." ―David Talbot, founder of Salon and author of The Devil's Chessboard: Allen Dulles, the CIA and the Rise of America's Secret Government

"An illuminating read and a cautionary tale about the potential costs―political and artistic―of accommodating power."―Ben Wizner, ACLU Director of Speech, Privacy and Technology Project

About the Author

JOEL WHITNEY's writing has appeared in The New York TimesThe New RepublicThe San Francisco ChronicleThe BafflerNew York Magazine, and The Sun, among others. His essays have twice been designated as Notable in Best American Essays, and he received a 2017 PEN/Nora Magid Award for Editing for his work on Guernica, which he co-founded. For his poetry, which has appeared in The Paris ReviewThe Nation, and Agni, he is a recipient of the Discovery Prize awarded by the 92nd Street Y and The Nation. He lives in Brooklyn, where he is at work on a novel.