Stealing Fire by Boria Sax PDF"Boria Sax is both biographer and son. And, as both, he has produced a brilliant, scholarly history of a society nearly paralyzed by an unrelenting fear of Russia and The Bomb; at the same time, he writes a poignant memoir of a dysfunctional immigrant family whose head, Boria’s father, passed atomic secrets to America’s enemy. What is most amazing about Stealing Fire is the author’s ability to balance the objectivity demanded of the biographer and the sensitivity and compassion required of the son.
Saville (Savy) Sax and his close friend and former Harvard classmate, physicist Ted Hall, entered the shadowy world of Cold War espionage together, with Savy encouraging Ted to share with Russia his work on the atomic bomb, and then serving as his courier. Whether Klaus Fuch’s treachery or that of Hall and Savy was of greater value to the Russians matters little. All three were responsible for delivering to America’s ultimate enemy at the time what was believed to be the key to Doomsday. The reasons for their treachery were those shared by many young Americans at the time, when communism seemed an answer to fascism, poverty, injustice, and an America where Blacks were treated as inferior beings. Boria, through the magnified lens of a son, sees Savy’s motivation as something “even grander than communism, a belief in the nearly unlimited powers of humankind.” Boria notes as well that the former college chums were 'infatuated with their own cleverness,' a failing common to spies.
That both Hall and Savy escaped the fate of the Rosenbergs’ was a defining factor not only in their lives but also in the life of Savy’s son. Boria finds himself 'fortunate that my father was never charged with espionage,' speculating that he might never have recovered from the trauma of seeing his father behind bars. However, the reader is left to wonder whether Boria, or any child of a spy, completely recovers from the trauma of having a parent who was a traitor. Indeed, in expressing his feelings toward his father, he delivers to the reader a hefty measure of unresolved hatred and, in the end, of love and longing for a life that never was and never could be. It seems clear that Savy, a Promethean character in this drama, was haunted by his own 'good fortune' after theft of the great atomic fire, despite unsuccessful efforts to live a normal life.
There are lessons to be learned in this excellent work, mainly about the greater and lesser possibilities of human existence. Boria Sax delivers those lessons masterfully."
—Marcia Mitchell, author, The Spy Who Tried to Stop a War
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