Cold Friday – Kirkus


October 5, 1964

By Whittaker Chambers

Chambers, the ex-Communist, the ex-Time editor whose testimony sent Alger Hiss to jail in the most famous spy trial of the century, died in 1961. Cold Friday is his last testament, undertaken after several heart attacks, finding himself “permanently unemployable,” and after his son had just gone into the army. He also, apparently, wrote much of it in his basement, with monumental solemnity and monotonous introspection. He also had, and it’s a relief, a nice hand for lyric descriptions and for an occasionally striking image as, for instance, when he questions the very value of this book: “I have a sense of leaving my son, that chapter by chapter puts us farther apart as if he were a figure compelled to watch from a shore another receding in a little boat.” In these notes, clippings, essays, letters, much of which was found in cartons in this cellar, Chambers almost unrelentingly ruminates about history, and he finds the cows on his farm “ahistorically tranquilizing.” Cold Friday itself is the northernmost field on his farm and, metaphorically, the last height from which he reviews his life. His central feeling, repeated in hundreds of statements and similies, is that the West is going into its Spenglerian twilight, a breaking down in which Communism is more a symptom than an agent. He ends, literally, cultivating his garden!


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