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Publisher's Summary

First published in 1952, Witness came on the heals of America's trial of the century, in which Whittaker Chambers accused Alger Hiss, a full-standing member of the political establishment, of spying for the Soviet Union.

In this penetrating philosophical memoir, Chambers recounts the famous case as well as his own experiences as a Communist agent in the United States, his later renunciation of communism, and his conversion to Christianity. Chambers' worldview - "man without mysticism is a monster" - helped to make political conservatism a national force. Witness packs the emotional wallop and the literary power of a classic Russian novel and has gained Chambers recognition by critics on both sides of the spectrum as a truly gifted writer.

©1952 Whittaker Chambers (P)2007 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

Critic Reviews

"One of the few indispensable autobiographies ever written by an American - and one of the best written too.... It deserves to be recognized as a first class achievement." ( New Centurion)
"Confession, history, potboiler - by a man who writes like the literary giant we would know him as, had not Communism got him first." ( Christopher Caldwell, National Review, 100 Best Non-Fiction Books of the Century)
"This many-dimensioned apologia, which is also a spy drama, a Quaker testament, and a spiritual autobiography, telescopes the major political and religious conflicts of the century." ( Booklist)

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What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Susan
  • Benicia, CA, USA
  • 03-04-10

Great history about Communism

I paid attention in history class, but Whitaker Chambers was never mentioned in my education. I knew about Alger Hiss and Senator McCarthy's pursuit of communists, but I didn't know about Chambers until I heard a Princeton professor discussing him on a C-Span book review show. I have never read a non fiction work with such a soul searching narrative of how a man becomes a communist, what it means to be a communist, how the communist party operated in the US in the 1930s and 40s, and how difficult, lonely and terrifying it is to leave the communist party and be persecuted by the liberal media, the government and public opinion. Whitaker Chambers is a great writer and a very courageous man, and in the end his allegations against Hiss triumph but not without a great personal sacrifice. I was deeply moved by his story and his courage.

20 of 20 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Eunice
  • Harrodsburg, KY, United States
  • 08-04-10

I concur - One of the best on Audible!

One of the reviews which sold me on this listen stated that this was perhaps the best book on Audible. I totally concur. Whittaker Chambers is an amazing writer with a compelling story to tell. The narration is excellent. The history of the Communist Party in the US explains some things about the political landscape today. Chambers is an engaging unassuming individual with insights one can only gain through personal turmoil. Pure excellence!

15 of 15 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Compelling!

If you could sum up Witness in three words, what would they be?

Compelling, religious, political.

Who was your favorite character and why?

Whittaker Chambers, the author, is a very complicated man. We hear how his basic principles lead him first to become a Communist, then to reject it, and later to become a Quaker.

What about John MacDonald’s performance did you like?

I liked the reading. However, there were times when I heard faint noises in the background and this was a bit distracting.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

It made me want to continue listening when I should be doing something else. This was even in the part when the testimony of Alger Hiss repeated whose "to the best of my recollection" statements were tedious and maddening. I learned of the importance of Richard Nixon and Henry Luce. I wanted to check up on these men in addition to other information on Whittaker Chambers.

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Louis
  • rockledge, FL, USA
  • 10-24-09

Very engaging listen

This is one of the most engaging books I have gotten from Audible. Chambers writes with such skill that you have to envy his mastery of style and wish you could match it. MacDonald does a superb job in reading the book.
Of course, it is an apologia, and towards the end Chambers annoys with his strange reluctance to simply give straight testimony. But his linguistic ability never falters.

10 of 11 people found this review helpful

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  • Walter
  • Wheaton, IL, United States
  • 10-24-11

A spiritual and political American classic

Surely one of the all-time classic American autobiographies, covering a pivotal chapter in American history.

Johnny Cash used to sing a song, written by Shel Silverstein, that told the story about what happened when a boy was named Sue. This book could be regarded as the story about what happened when a boy was named Vivian.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars

Great book and well read

This book tells an amazing story of a historical moment in time. The insight into the communists infiltration of US government is eye opening for someone who did not live in or near that era. The details of Chambers life as he moves into communism and then becomes a witness against communism are captivating and intriguing.

Viewing today's political climate you can see how communism as a system to overthrow the existing government structure can be lost and undetected. We would be mindful to observe speech and behavior of our politicians and political voices. On one side, people are upset with political figures, on the other side people want to fundamentally change politics. The latter is communism and an effort to change our system of government, removing our constitution and replacing it with a centralized democracy. It is becoming bolder every day.

Young people should be reading this book and learning from history, or we may not have a Chambers prepared to defend our nation against domestic threats to our Constitutional Republic.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Randy
  • LANCASTER, CA, United States
  • 10-20-11

The smear has been prefected

When Hiss attacked Chambers and made the seriousness of the charge his weapon, Chambers documented this political method well.

It isn't just a 60 or 70 year-old historybook; you can see the modern smear from calling GWB "shrubb," to the art of the political attack we now see as our Wall Street prosters in vilifying the rich and successful.

This is an ancient war and Chambers makes this a timeless classic you must read.

7 of 8 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Please Listen to This Book!

Once I started this book I could not stop. It is both frightening and hopeful; frightening because of how fragile and gullible we human beings are, and how easily we can lose our sense of right and wrong so that swallowing lock, stock and barrel some infinitely insane philosophy seems like the right thing to do. Hopeful because basically I believe human beings are good and smart and really do know right from wrong, even if it takes them a while to figure it all out. I hope we all figure it out before it is too late. Please please please read this book so you know how to recognize what is happening to America even now. I know you are basically good. Don't lose track of that!

10 of 12 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Stan
  • Hendersonville, NC, United States
  • 09-04-17

Fascinating look is US in 1930s

Any additional comments?

I read and recommend unabridged books 99% of the time. This is the exception. The core of this book is the fascinating story of communism in the American government in the 1930s and its revelation in the 1940s. In the 1930s it was chic for American intellectuals to be socialists or even communists. They were pro Soviet Union and pro Stalin. By the end of the decade, many intellectuals were falling away from this infatuation. I knew this before I read the book. What I did not know was how easily communists penetrated into positions in the US government, sometimes at somewhat high levels. This story of how Chambers helped convict the spy Alger Hiss is really interesting.

But this is an autobiography so there is a lot about growing up, appropriate to such a book, but not interesting to the core story. Additionally when Chambers was a spy we get every detail of every relationship, which historically is correct but not really necessary for the reader. Thus a good abridgment, if one exists, would be best.

BUT THE HIGHLIGHT of the book is the preface written by Chambers as a letter to his children. It is a classic essay. There are two competing points of view in the twentieth century: one puts man at the top of everything and the other puts God there. Chambers is a witness not just in a trial but he says he is a witness to the latter world view.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Very important book for conservatives and history

It's scary to hear this inside account of how far Communist spy's infiltrated government. It's scary to think of the influence they've had and the people they've put in powerful positions.

There are a few parts of the book that you can skip since the author went off on a tangent.
- his childhood up to the part where he joins the Communist party
- after Alger Hiss gets convicted he goes on random storytelling about his family life and starlight?

Everything else is indispensable. His stories of spying in the apparatus was the best part of the book. Definitely read this.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful