‘The Springing of George Blake’ by Sean Bourke graphically details preparations for the escape of George Blake from Wormwood Scrubs Prison. Blake was a KGB double agent who in 1964 was given a 42-year sentence, each year a symbol of every British spy he betrayed, and led to his or her death. The event was a highly charged event. However, many protested the length of his sentence, the longest ever given under English law and longer sentences than any of those involved in the Great Train Robbery.
Sean Bourke’s take on the event is documented biographically, and provides an in depth insight into the preparations of Blake’s escape which he claims he planned single-handedly, through to their entry into Moscow. For me this text was useful for a couple of reasons; firstly it provided geographical context for the events on a site that I was working on, and secondly it exposed Bourke’s emotional motivation and resentment upon realizing Blake’s manipulative nature.
What makes Bourke’s account of events so convincing is that he details events so specifically geographically and then applies an emotional context to each circumstance. His recollection of differentiating emotional experience throughout a 2-year period is very precise because it communicates with the surrounding landscape, and forms a sort of historical and narrative ‘genius-loci’ of the local area that one wouldn’t experience today.
‘I looked across at the prison wall and at D Hall and then at my small radio nestling in the grass, its chrome aerial glinting in the midday sun, and I smiled at the simplicity of it. How easily I had breached those thick, forbidding walls! … I stood up and looked at the wall again. “My friend,’ I said, patting the radio affectionately, “between us you and I are going to make a little bit of jailbreak history.”’ (Sean Bourke, The Springing of George Blake, The Literary Guild, 1970, pg.46)
The language Bourke uses throughout his book could almost be read as a fictional piece, but it is this literary style that makes Bourke’s experiences emotive rather than analytical. Bourke’s emotions at specific points become comparative to the landscape, and he creates a communication between these two elements.