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4.0018115942029 out of 54.0018115942029 out of 54.0018115942029 out of 54.0018115942029 out of 54.0018115942029 out of 5 4.00 (552 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Whittaker Chambers Narrator: John MacDonald Publisher: Blackstone Audio Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: October 2008 ISBN: 9781455169436
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Published in 1952 at a time when America was very much concerned with espionage coming from the Soviet Union, The Witness is an autobiography that details in depth what was once dubbed America's "trial of the century."

In this book, American writer Whittaker Chambers delves into the case of Alger Hiss, a politician whom Chambers accused of being a spy for Russia. He also tells of his own role as a Communist agent in the United States and the evolution of his own odyssey with Communism, how he eventually came to renounce it and his eventual conversion to Christianity.

Chambers' experience within the American Communist Party during and within the Soviet underground during the 1920s and early 1930s enabled him to gain insider information, eventually leading to knowledge concerning political rings within America's top political and governmental ranks.

Risking his own life, he broke with the Communist party and began exposing crimes and perpetrators of those crimes in American government.

"The Witness" covers both Chambers' own involvement and that of other prominent figures, helping bring about political change, including a growing movement toward American conservatism.

What makes this audiobook such a runaway bestseller is Chambers' talent as a writer. He is able to incorporate all those things that make a classic Russian novel with a flair for writing that has captivated audiences around the world.

Whittaker Chambers was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1901 and grew up in Lynbrook, New York. He attended Columbia University and bought into the teachings of Communism, eventually becoming a communist and joining the Soviet underground. He rose up the ranks and became a senior editor at Time Magazine. He was instrumental in naming, indicting, trying and convicting former Federal official Alger Hiss of espionage.

His renunciation of Communism and participation in bringing charges against corrupt officials led to his being awarded the Medal of Freedom in 1984 by President Ronald Reagan. He has been called a "hero for any age" as a result of standing up for what he perceived as his public responsibilities despite tremendous risk to his personal life.

Whittaker Chambers’ harrowing account of his journey to hell and back—through espionage, treason, and terror—is, ultimately, a story of faith.

First published in 1952, Witness came on the heels 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.

Witness is part spiritual autobiography, part spy thriller, and part trial drama, told in a compellingly eloquent, deeply moving voice of Dostoyevskian power.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “As long as humanity speaks of virtue and dreams of freedom, the life and writings of Whittaker Chambers will ennoble and inspire.”

    Ronald Reagan

  • “Whittaker Chambers has written one of the really significant American autobiographies…penetrating and terrible insights into America in the early twentieth century.”

    Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.

  • “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

  • “Chambers had a gift for language…To call Chambers an activist or Witness a political event is to say Dostoevsky was a criminologist or Crime and Punishment a morality tract.”

    Washington Post

  • “Written with extraordinary intensity and power.”

    Yale Review

  • “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 Criterion

  • “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

  • A #1 New York Times Bestseller
  • National Review’s 100 Best Nonfiction Books of the Century

Listener Opinions

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Bur | 5/11/2016

    " I have read other books about the Alger Hiss case. It seems to me that many authors take the story as an article of faith. One chooses whom one will believe. As a "jury member", I wanted to hear the story from the man himself. Detailed and clear in presentation and in narration. A student of the case should make this a must read. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Kathleenob | 1/28/2014

    " I am absolutely enthralled with Chambers story. He basically walks you through his entire life from his childhood, to his joining the American Communist underground, escaping the party and the Alger Hiss trial. I cried in the first ten pages, which is a letter to his Children. So far so good. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Sean | 1/3/2014

    " This is book alternates between being incredibly fascinating and unspeakably boring. I think Chambers take on the conflict between the west and Communism as between faith in God and faith in man's perfectibility is very compelling and an intriguing analysis but his swings into self-pity were a little too much for me at some points. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Chris Hunt | 10/10/2013

    " May be the best book I've ever read. Beautiful prose. Excellent, touching biography of a tortured man who dedicated himself to eradicating the communism he witnessed in the highest echelons of the U.S. government. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Heather | 9/26/2013

    " My husband and I read this book together the first year we were married - every page was enthralling. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Kevin | 8/25/2013

    " Probably the best book I've ever read. Highly recommended. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 D.E. | 8/15/2013

    " Have delayed finishing this deep, deep and very dark autobiography of a man who in the depression era, in self-described despair about his family and the world, became a member of the Communist underground in the U.S., carried on their clandestine programs for many years, and then finally realized, as Stalin was murdering millions of people in the USSR, including loyal Communists, how very wrong what they were doing was, and decided to leave the party. He then realized he had to risk everything, including his life, to try to stop what they were doing. He testified against his former compatriots in the Communist party during the infamous Alger Hiss trial. I could only resume reading it intermittently because it is a depressing and depressed book that is, however, eloquently and beautiful written and self-aware. Its descriptions of the workings of the Communist underground in America are both fascinating and horrifying. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Suzanne Jones | 7/20/2013

    " This book took me a long time to read, but it is my husband's favorite so I had to complete it. It is hard to understand at times, and the plot really doesn't pick up until the middle, as I recall having only read it once in 2009. But, it is a great story of courage and faith and doing what is right no matter the cost. For those that know us - yes, this is where our son's name came from. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Matt B. | 6/20/2013

    " I read this book every year. At least once. Reads like a novel and is written exceptionally well. As a matter of fact, I know of no autobiography which is such an enjoyable read. Works on you like a novel and turns in your head like philosophy married to poetry. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Lauren | 3/24/2013

    " Whittaker Chambers is the most phenomenal writer, and he eloquently shares his life as a Communist in the United States, including the infamous Hiss trials, of which Chambers was an integral part. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Jerry | 10/15/2012

    " From atheist to Orthodox Christian, from Communist to true Democrat, Chamber's story will give you pause. He is in fact a Witness to history and to his own transformation. This is one of the greatest books written in the last half of the 20th century. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Mike | 8/12/2012

    " this one will take a long time to read. about as well written of a book as i can imagine. i would put this in a top three book which says alot "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Daniel Burton | 8/3/2011

    " if you want a great on the ground history of a common man's view of the communist movement in America in the 1920s and 1930s, start here...I couldn't make it through it, though. Beautiful writing, but just don't have the patience at this juncture. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Maggie Stewart-Grant | 12/9/2010

    " Another college read. This was for a class on Russia and communism in the early 20th Century. We were studying Chambers himself, then each took a book that had to do with him. I got this one. I really thought it was good. I should re-read. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Jane Burkett | 12/5/2010

    " One of the best books I've ever read. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Hubby/ Cullin | 3/5/2010

    " An eyeopening experience. Totally blows the revisionist history of the "red scare" out of the water. And the best part, it is a first hand account from the time. A true communist infiltraitor who turned on his comrades and fought for freedom. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Douglas | 4/20/2009

    " While one need not dwell unnecessarily on the dark side, this book is very revealing. It's the auto-biography of a man who joined the American Communist party, and then left and survived! Compelling, gripping, but not always so cheerful. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Sheila | 2/3/2009

    " We owe so much to Whittaker Chambers - a brave man who explains why he joined the Communist party, why he left and what he did to save the nation. I hope his descendants know that some of us are extremely grateful for his huge sacrifice. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Aaron Finestone | 12/27/2008

    " One of the best books ever written. His life in the Communist Party and in the underground are great reading. He would have improved his book had he omitted all the preachiness. "

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About the Author
Author Whittaker Chambers

Whittaker Chambers (1901–1961) was an American writer, editor, Communist Party member and spy for the Soviet Union who defected and became an outspoken opponent of Communism. He is best known for his testimony about the perjury and espionage of Alger Hiss.

About the Narrator

John MacDonald (1952–2008) was a narrator, director, producer, and founder of the Washington Stage Guild in Washington, DC.